Oh My. I’ve written about dyeing easter eggs with natural dyes and plant reliefs before (onion skins make a sepia brown egg, lily stamens make bright yellow, beets make purple) and today, Easter Sunday, I received pictures from three friends (!) who made beautiful eggs using this old post. They are so lovely and classic in a way that feels simple and right– like seersucker and fresh cut grass or scratchy old vinyl music and twilight– that I thought I should re-post the instructions to pay it forward:
My mother collects bird-nests. By now she has dozens of them, and each one has a story… ‘this one with the auburn gold hair woven in is from Sally’s Valley, the hair came from Cayman, their Golden Retriever… this tiny one is from the barn at the farmhouse in Toano where you were born… this one with the beads of amber is from two Christmas trees ago, remember when we found it there in the branches?’ Her favorite nest, a delicate little number thatched with horse-hair and poets laurel, sat on a bow-front chest in her bathroom, and held three sepia-colored eggs blown hollow and covered with gossamer photo-negative outlines of tiny ferns, clovers, and gingko leaves.
Spurred into memory by the recent changes in the weather towards the warm and supple breezes of spring (and the sudden appearance of the hollow-chocolate-rabbit Easter tableaux manifesting themselves across New York), I decided to make myself some of these beautiful eggs. Instead of traditional dye, the sepia eggs of my youth are made by boiling the egg alongside yellow onion skins (easily acquired for free, especially in the north-eastern-winter-time-farmers-market glut of root vegetables).
You will need: eggs, onion skins, a small stockpile of interesting leaves (parsley is easy to get in a city as well as the aforementioned), panty-hose or cheesecloth or gauze (I found a bunch of those footies you try on shoes with), rubber bands, some sort of ballast (I used loose change).
-Fill a deep pot with water and bring the onion skins to a boil.
-Hollow out the eggs by piercing a small hole with a pin in either end of the egg, and, positioning the egg over an empty bowl, blow, baby, blow (you can leave the eggs intact, but then the finished product is perishable, and you won’t have the makings of a delicious frittata when it’s all said and done).
-Nestle your egg into the panty-hose (or square of gauze/cheesecloth) and put in a couple of leaves flush with the shell. The leaves resting against the shell creates the relief outline, so use your imagination.
-Tie the egg tightly off with a rubber band, add enough ballast to keep the hollow egg under the water, loop the rubber band around again and drop into the pot.
-Let percolate for as long as you want, until the egg achieves your desired level of greatness.
-Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and place into another bowl full of cold water until the egg is cool enough to handle. Unwrap and marvel at your ingenuity.
Sepia isn’t the only color option, though, there are many variations of natural pigments that can be used to imbue the eggs with sweet, tender, and genuine colors not found in a little tear-drop of McCormick food coloring. For yellow eggs, try stargazer lily stamens (use a non-reactive pot and watch your apron!), for purple-blue use beets, for green eggs (ham, foxes, and boxes not included) try spinach. Have some friends over, experiment, make a delicious “McFadden Ricotta Fritatta” with the egg you have left over, and have a happy spring.