by Margaret Cabaniss
I used to love dyeing Easter eggs as a kid — but somewhere along the way, it started losing its appeal. It might have had something to do with the fact that, after hours of careful dipping and dyeing, in the end you still had… well, a pile of hardboiled eggs. No matter how pretty they turn out, you can’t do much with them: They have to be refrigerated if you still want to eat them (which, after a week of choking down hardboiled eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you usually didn’t). All that work, and somehow you didn’t have much to show for it.
For a while I gave up on dyed eggs, choosing instead to focus on perfecting deviled eggs. But this year I decided I’d try my hand at a couple of projects that promised easy, gorgeous eggs — and ones that can be used for more than simply decorating the inside of your fridge.
The first step, of course, was finding the right dye process. I’ve always been disappointed by those little dye packets that crop up in the grocery store this time of year, which is why I was thrilled to stumble on Megan of notmartha.org’s recipe for the most vivid food-color dyes I’ve ever seen.
The trick is in combining both regular and neon food coloring: It may seem like overkill at first (and more expensive than the one-time use options), but a little dye goes a long way, and the rest will keep for subsequent Easters. The result is lovely, true color that you can adjust until you get just the shade you like.
That alone will put your Easter eggs over the top — but if, like me, you’re looking to do something a little different than hardboiled eggs this year, consider two other options:
Easter Surprise Eggs
Megan goes on to give a fantastic tutorial for “Easter surprise eggs” — hollowed-out eggshells filled with candy and other little trinkets, which you then smash to release the treats inside. Best eggs ever!
Her instructions are thorough and easy to follow, so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just add a couple of observations from trying them out myself:
- Don’t be put off by the length of the tutorial! It sounds complicated, but in fact emptying and sterilizing the eggs takes no more time than hard-boiling them. After that, you dye the eggs and fill them in separate stages, neither of which takes all that long.
- I don’t have a dremel tool or an egg topper, but a knife blade (wielded carefully!) works just as well for opening up the eggs. Start a small hole in one end with the tip of the blade, then peel away little bits of the shell until you have a quarter-sized opening. If you’re careful, you can still use the contents for omelets when you’re finished.
- Wooden skewers really do make it easier to transfer the eggs in and out of the dye, as well as to dry them. I stood my eggs on end in a glass vase set in a baking pan lined with paper towels to catch drips. Even with the skewers, though, I highly recommend wearing gloves while dyeing. That stuff doesn’t come off easily.
- If you run out of glue halfway through sealing your eggs, like I did, Mod Podge works just as well. Instead of mini baking cups, you could also use small squares of tissue paper (doubled up for extra strength).
- Fill the eggs with whatever treats you like: chocolate, jellybeans, small toys… Or you could make cascarones — Mexican confetti-filled eggs traditionally broken over someone’s head for good luck — and instead of an Easter Egg Hunt, host an Easter Egg Fight:
The possibilities are endless, so make more than you think you’ll need — I guarantee you’ll find a use for them.
Growing up, my family had an Easter tree — really, just painted branches set in a pot on which we hung little ornaments. It’s apparently a common European tradition, though I think we just preferred it to decorating with plastic Easter bunnies.
In addition to the candy-filled eggs, I thought it would be fun to make my own Easter tree this year, complete with dyed-egg ornaments. The trickiest part of the whole process is blowing out the eggs — but with a little practice, it goes quickly.
- Eggs — preferably ones past their prime, as you don’t want to eat the contents of these once you’re done
- A small nail (though a thumbtack and a knife will do in a pinch)
- An egg blower (you can buy these at a craft store, or just use a rubber ear syringe or a drinking straw)
- Ribbon (something thin and flexible — I used 1/8 in. craft ribbon)
- A beading needle (or floral wire to make your own)
Holding the egg over a bowl, start by gently punching a small hole in each end of the egg with the nail. Carefully widen the hole until it’s large enough for a toothpick to pass through. Use the toothpick to break up the yolk inside, which will make it easier to empty.
Set the syringe or straw against one hole, and then use even pressure (or blow) to force the contents out the other end. If you squeeze too hard, or if the hole is too small, you can crack the egg (er, not that I’m speaking from experience), so go slowly and stop to widen the hole if necessary.
Once the egg is empty, run it under water a few times, using the syringe to flush it clean. Quickly dry all the shells by popping them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.
The hollow eggs will want to float in the dye, so unless they fill up as you submerge them, you’ll need to weigh them down (without crushing the egg). I used a high-tech setup involving beaters with a weight on top:
Let the eggs dry completely (overnight is best — the inside will take longer than the outside). If the holes are large enough, standing them on a wooden skewer stuck in a vase works well.
Once the eggs are dry, thread a 14 in. piece of ribbon on the needle, with the ends hanging evenly on either side. If you don’t have a needle long enough to pass through the egg, simply bend a hook in one end of a piece of floral wire, making sure the opening is still small enough to pass through the holes in the egg.
Feed the needle through the bottom hole of the egg and out the top. Pro tip: If you lose the needle point halfway through the egg and can’t find the other hole, stop and let the egg hang free on the needle. The egg will balance itself around the tip inside, so you’ll know just where it is and how to readjust to find the other hole.
Tie an overhand knot in the free end of the ribbon. (If the hole in the egg is larger than your knot, thread a bead on the end and then tie it off.)
Use a vase filled with floral rocks to support some crooked branches, pussy willow, etc., and then hang your ornaments.
Easter is looking more festive already.
Images: Margaret Cabaniss