Here at Circa, Easter marks a very special time of year. The moment we spot the first limey-yellow buds of the forsythia we know it’s time to rub the sleep from our eyes, throw the windows open wide, and breathe in the clean, crisp air of spring. It’s time once again to run outside, sweep off the steps, prune back the roses, drag out the hoses, and rake up the yard. Time to head to the potting shed and scrub out the old clay pots that have been waiting patiently to accept a whole new gathering of cooking herbs and annuals. Time for morning tea on the terrace, a walk in the woods, a long overdue visit to a neighbor.
But amid all the cheerful hustle and bustle of revival, we never loose sight of what the Easter holiday truly represents, and whether it be religious, as it is to certain of our friends, or chocolate bunny oriented, as it is to others, adorning our home with an array of festively colored eggs to celebrate is a yearly tradition we anticipate with relish.
Each year at about this same time we prepare a passel of eggs and stir up a whole new batch of our natural dyes. We adore the way these subtlety colored eggs (primitive, some might say) look tucked in amongst the leather bound novels in our library, placed in a pewter bowl in the parlor, and laid in an old woven basket in the foyer.
Inevitably, visitors ask for our recipe for the natural dyes we use and we’re always happy to share.
If you’d like to compose your own symphony of naturally dyed eggs to celebrate the season, here’s how we do it~
1) First and foremost put some music on. Every project is better with the soothing strains of Beethoven or Jack Johnson or Barbra Streisand in the background.
2) Next, hard boil as many eggs as you’d like. We've found that white eggs from White Leghorn chickens works best, but don't let that stop you from experimenting with brown eggs as well. The depth of color achieved with them can prove marvelous.
3) Allow the eggs to cool, then wash them in warm, soapy water to remove any oily residue and dry them.
4) Place a good handful of dye-stuff in a pan. (You’ll find a listing of some of the materials we’ve used in the past below.) The amount of organic material is up to you. Let trial and error be your guide and all will turn out fine. Remember~ this is not a perfect science. Nothing is a mistake. In point of fact, some of what we've initially believed to be 'mistakes' in the past have turned out to be the most enchanting in the end. Everything in life is a process, and patience is a virtue which we can all use a little more of.
5) Add water to about an inch above the dye-stuff. We figure roughly a cup of water to each handful of dye-stuff is adequate.
6) Bring water just to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low.
7) Allow the fusion to simmer for 15 minutes or more, even up to an hour, until you gain the depth of dye color desired. When the color is to your liking, remove the pan from the heat. The deeper the dye color, the richer the egg color will be. Keep in mind, however, that your eggs will rarely be as dark as your dye.
8) Pour the hot dye liquid into a glass measuring cup, or strain through cheesecloth if necessary.
9) Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of strained dye and stir, then pour your dye into a vessel deep enough to completely cover your eggs. Use whatever is at hand. We've used ceramic bowls if we're dying several eggs at a time, or even coffee mugs and wine glasses for individual eggs.
10) Carefully lower your hard boiled eggs into the warm dye and allow them sit until you’ve achieved a color pleasing to your eye. This may take awhile. Enjoy a cup of tea. Thumb thru a magazine.
(~ Side Note~ Ofttimes, instead of hard boiling the eggs, we'll blow out the insides which helps these little treasures last much longer, often for years. Or until our dear godchildren visit with over-inquisitive hands. Or Elphie, our cat, decides they're loads of fun to roll around the floor.
As eggs will float on top of the dye you must turn them regularly to realize consistent color all around. We've also found that the greatest portion of the color 'takes' when the dye is warm, so if your decorating tendencies lean toward consistency, be attentive at this stage. Us? Not so much. We take great joy in diversity.)
11) After a time, check your eggs. You may wish to remove them after only a few minutes, or you may want to wait. We like to vary the times to create a rainbow of soft colors. Indeed, we've even kept some of ours in dye overnight. The longer each egg soaks, the richer the final color usually is. Have fun. Let your creativity flow.
~ Important to note~ if you're working with hard boiled eggs and intend to eat them, accomplish any long term dying in the refrigerator.
12) When your eggs have achieved their desired richness, lift them out of the dye with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on a rack or egg carton. Handle them carefully for the dye has not 'set' at this stage and may rub off. Then again, if you’d like a textured look on your finished creation, dab them with a sponge or paper towel before they thoroughly dry. You may even wish to scratch friends and family members names in them now and use them as place markers for your next spring dinner party!
As we mentioned earlier, naturally dyed eggs will boast a subtle, matt finish, which we like, but if you prefer a glossier sheen, rub them with mineral oil or cooking oil after they’ve dried.
And that’s all there is to it!
Happy Easter everyone!
Noel & Verge
The Boyz from Circa Home Living
Below is a list of the natural materials we’ve used to varying success.
Red Onion Skins (Boiled. We recommend using a good amount of these.)
Black Cherry Juice (If we're working with juice, we simply heat it and then add the vinegar. No need to dilute with water~ unless you want to, of course.
Beets or the Juice from Pickled Beets
Cranberries or even Cranberry Juice
Red Grape Juice
Blueberries (we've even used canned!)
Boiled Purple Cabbage leaves
Purple Grape Juice
Lavender or Violet
A diluted portion of Purple Grape Juice
A diluted portion of Purple Grape Juice
Boiled Red Onion Skins (again, a goodly amount seems to work better.)
Red Zinger Tea
Turmeric works well.
Boiled Spinach Leaves
Boiled Peels of Yellow Delicious Apples
Boiled Yellow Onion Skins
Boiled Orange Peels or Lemon Peels (use lots for these to produce a very subtle color.)
Boiled Ground Cumin or Ground Turmeric