Easter is right around the corner and will be here before we know it. Last year I posted this closer to the holiday and some people told me that they could have used my directions but had already made their eggs and didn’t have the time to make their own natural dyes. This time around I want to give you more time to get everything you want gathered and ready. 🙂
Many Americans celebrate Easter by hiding colorful eggs either in the house or outside in the yard and having an egg hunt, and then everyone sits down to a large family dinner. The meal varies depending on our heritage and family traditions, but once dinner is over we have to figure out what to do with all those hard cooked eggs! Of course you can simply peel and eat them, but my two favorite ways to use them are in egg salad and deviled eggs.
Egg salad is simply a blend of mashed hard cooked eggs with a little mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and if you like a bit of crunch, some minced celery. Deviled eggs are similar, but it is only the yolks that are blended with a little mustard and mayonnaise and then placed back into the center of the whites. What I never realized growing up was that hard cooked eggs didn’t have to be hard and rubbery with a green ring around the yolk. They can actually be tender and moist!
The biggest mistake people make when boiling eggs, is actually boiling them. Contrary to popular belief you don’t boil hard-boiled eggs, you simmer them! There are two problems with boiling eggs. First, they bang into each other and crack the shells and second, the whites get tough and rubbery and the yolks dry out. Egg whites solidify at 180°F and water boils at 212°F. Keeping the water just below the boil and letting the eggs finish cooking covered and off the heat allows them to come to temperature without overcooking.
For safety reasons and to help shrink the egg away from the shell, which makes them easier to peel, it is important to chill the eggs as soon as they are done. Place them in a bowl of water with ice cubes and leave them there until completely cool, adding more ice as needed. Then store the eggs, unpeeled, in the refrigerator. When you are serving hard-boiled or deviled eggs, always keep them chilled until just before serving. And if you are outside, place the plate of eggs on top of a bed of ice to keep them as cool as possible.
If you want to learn more about options and other information, there is a website dedicated just to deviled eggs! And if you are the kind of person who learns best by seeing things demonstrated, here is a video showing how to properly boil eggs.
Traditional deviled eggs are quite simple, but there are many variations if you want a change. I have listed quite a few, but if you want, get creative and come up with your own combinations. My grandmother always made her deviled eggs with softened butter, but mayonnaise is more common. I use a blend of half butter and half mayonnaise in mine. They are extra rich and creamy. But if you want to make them with only mayonnaise, that is fine. And I always use “light” mayonnaise. None of us need the extra fat and I promise you won’t miss it.
Whenever you are serving food, garnishes on the plates should be edible and have something to do with the recipe. This is often a sprig of the same herb used or a complementary item. In the case of deviled eggs, placing something on the top will let your guests know what you have added. For example, if you mix chopped shrimp into the yolks, top the egg with a small bay shrimp. If you use dill, place a small sprig of dill on the top. If you are making several different styles on one tray, this helps your guests identify which is which.
When I was young, my mother would boil a couple dozen eggs for Easter and my brothers and I all got to dye a few. Each of us had our own style of dipping them. Mine were always light pastels and only one color per egg. One brother specialized in 50/50 eggs (two colors on one egg), and one liked to get creative. Somehow his eggs always came out ugly grey or brown because he mixed too many of the colors together. But it didn’t matter what they looked like, we were each proud of our creations and all of us were praised for our efforts.
Bless my mother, but she usually forgot to count how many eggs she was hiding – I mean helping the Easter Bunny hide. 😉 We never knew when we had found them all and sometimes we unknowingly would miss one. Eventually the aroma would alert us to the location of the missing egg, LOL!
Every grocery store at this time of the year has displays full of Easter egg coloring kits. These are little tablets of concentrated coloring that we dissolve in a blend of water and vinegar. I always associate the smell of vinegar with dying eggs, but it is always fun to experiment with dyes made with items from nature. The Artist loves this method because he has done similar studies in art school, utilizing the same materials that artists have used for centuries to create paints. Check out the chart below and see how many colors you can create out of ordinary items.
Naturally dyed eggs have a matte finish. If you want them to shine, rub each one with a little oil and wipe off the excess. When you do this, they almost look like they are made from marble and have a lovely sheen.
If you have access to a farm, there are hens that lay beautiful naturally colored eggs. They can come in shades of tan, green, and blue. Filling a basket with those is even lovelier than dyed eggs and there is no mess from dying. If you can’t find those, decorating with a mix of white and brown eggs is also an option that I love. Add some brightly colored flowers to the baskets and the simplicity of the eggs is charming.
Have a wonderful Easter and enjoy coloring eggs with your children, or with your friends. And if you have friends who raise chickens, they may be willing to share some naturally colored eggs with you!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you hard-boil eggs, the yolks are often close to the edge. This makes the white on that side very thin and easy to tear. There is a trick to getting the yolks to stay in the center of the whites. The night before you plan on cooking them cut the lid off the egg carton and set the eggs on their sides on top of the cups in the bottom half of the carton. The yolks will settle in the center and then if you carefully transfer them to the pan of water, they are more likely to have perfectly centered yolks when cooked.
Hard-boiled eggs and egg salad are naturally gluten-free. Just be careful if you use any pre-mixed seasoning blends. They occasionally may have additives that can cause a reaction. And of course, if you are making egg salad sandwiches, be sure to use gluten-free bread.
Kitchen Skill: Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs Every Time
Place a single layer of large eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with enough cool tap water to cover by at least one inch and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to just below boiling over high heat. The water will be steaming and small bubbles will regularly break the surface. Remove pan from burner, cover, and keep the eggs in the hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. While the eggs are cooking, fill a large bowl 1/3 full with cold tap water and add about 20 ice cubes. If the ice melts before you add the eggs, add more – you need the water to be ice cold. When the time is up, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice water until completely cooled. Add more ice as needed to keep water very cold. Store hard-cooked eggs in their shells in the refrigerator, and eat them within one week.
Freshly laid eggs are harder to peel than those that are a little older. If you are buying your eggs from the grocery store, they will most likely be a bit older and easier to peel. Don’t worry – they are safe to eat! For the easiest peeling, roll the eggs on the counter under the palm of your hand, cracking them all over. Place them in a bowl of water and let sit for about 10 minutes. The water will work its way between the shell and egg, loosening it and making the eggs easier to peel.
Natural Easter Egg Dyes
Prepare the eggs by rubbing with white vinegar to help the shell absorb the dye. Try both fresh and frozen produce. Canned produce will produce much paler colors. Boiling the colors with vinegar will result in deeper colors. Some materials need to be boiled to impart their color (name followed by ‘boiled’ in the table).
Some of the fruits, vegetables, and spices can be used cold. To use a cold material, cover the boiled eggs with water, add dyeing materials, a teaspoon or less of vinegar, and let the eggs remain in the refrigerator until the desired color is achieved. In most cases, the longer you leave Easter eggs in the dye, the more deeply colored they will become.
Small Quantity of Purple Grape Juice Violet Blossoms plus 2 tsp Lemon Juice Red Zinger Tea
Violet or Purple
Violet Blossoms Small Quantity of Red Onions Skins (boiled) Hibiscus Tea Red Wine
Canned Blueberries Red Cabbage Leaves (boiled) Purple Grape Juice
Spinach Leaves (boiled) Liquid Chlorophyll
Yellow Delicious Apple Peels (boiled)
Orange or Lemon Peels (boiled) Carrot Tops (boiled) Celery Seed (boiled) Ground Cumin (boiled) Ground Turmeric (boiled) Chamomile Tea Green Tea
Brown or Beige
Strong Coffee Instant Coffee Black Walnut Shells (boiled) Black Tea
Yellow Onion Skins (boiled) Cooked Carrots Chili Powder Paprika
Red Beets Cranberries or Cranberry Juice Raspberries Red Grape Juice Juice from Pickled Beets
Lots of Red Onions Skins (boiled) Canned Cherries with Juice Pomegranate Juice Raspberries
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