Friday, March 11, 2016

How we like our eggs

An engaging Easter experiment with natural dyes. BY INA AMOR MEJIA
WE'VE HAD A LOT TO DO WITH CHICKENS LATELY. One day, Gabby and the crazies came home from a school fair with a baby chicken in their hands. The kids were in tears. The chicken was acting hysterical---sopping wet from an accident in the car. It seemed like everyone was yelling, me most of all. We're not allowed to have dogs in our apartment. Poultry is out of the question. I gave my husband the stink eye. You enabler how could you do this. You know what's going to happen next. 

My son had named her Chica. We were not sure if that was even appropriate over something like "Jake", but Chica it was. We warmed her up under a lamp, gave her water, fed her, built her a makeshift coop in the roof deck, tolerated her incessant chirping, held her, cuddled her, promised her a free-range life. We fell in love with her, all within 24 hours.

But we couldn't keep her. Thankfully, our amazing massage therapist Anna volunteered to adopt her. It felt right, but also, not. Certainly not for the kids, who cried so much.

To cheer us all up I decided to try an Easter egg experiment with natural dyes. Basically the colors from common food. I wanted a blue and tan motif this year and used dyes made from coffee and blueberry juice (other color ideas below). The project was great fun and really easy. The coffee I used was super strong. "This is super strong," I told the kids. And when I submerged the eggs into it they both said, "Bye eggs."

I had to remind them that the eggs we eat are not future chickens, just eggs. Because of Chica I learned that hens regularly produce these eggs even without a mate. Cool no? And these eggs. I love them. The natural dyes produce such beautiful shades filled with flecks and nuances that look amazing. This is how we like our eggs.
For grey to stone blue and beige to deep-tan colored eggs. MAKES ABOUT 7 EGGS.

You will need

White eggs, hard boiled
5 Tablespoons instant coffee powder
3 cups hot water
3 cups blueberry juice
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
Mason jars or long glass containers
2 long spoons or tongs
Paper towels

* You can also use emptied egg shells, if you don't find that laborious. That way, the dyed eggs will last indefinitely. Hard-boiled eggs will last for about a week.


Make the dyes

In a mason jar or glass container, mix the coffee with the hot water, then add one tablespoon of the vinegar. Stir well. In a separate mason jar, add the blueberry juice plus the remaining tablespoon of the vinegar. Mix well.


Dye the eggs

Place about 3-4 eggs in each container, making sure the dye covers the eggs. If the eggs float, hold them down gently by placing a large spoon on top of them. Take the eggs out of the dye at varying times, the longer the eggs stay in the dye, the darker the color. Remove the eggs carefully from the dye using the spoons or tongs and let them dry completely on paper towels.
Using more or less the same method, you can use other natural dyes for different colors. Some ingredients like vegetables, require you to boil them in water first (with some vinegar) to extract the colors: Turmeric - Makes a vibrant yellow. Beets - Make a bright pink. Tea - Tan and Brown. Red and purple cabbage - Make a vibrant blue (!!!). Red onion - Maroon. Grape juice - Purple. 

It helps to place the eggs in the dyes while they are still warm. They seem to absorb more color that way. Also, pay attention to how long you keep the eggs in the dyes. It took just 15 minutes to get a beige color from the coffee dye. We removed the other eggs after an hour to 3 hours after. You can even experiment and leave the eggs in the dye overnight. 

The natural dyes are safe and will probably seep in a little into the egg whites if you're using hard-boiled eggs. But if you've kept the dyed eggs at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and especially if you use them for an egg hunt outdoors they are not safe to eat.

About the golden egg...

I took one of the coffee eggs, and colored it gold using my almost dried up gold metallic marker. Sometimes pushing the marker tip into the egg to get more ink out, thus the dots.

I have good memories of finding The Golden Egg as a child. And also not so good ones of not finding it haha. I made this one in honor of one adorable, unforgettable, curious little chicken.

This one's for you Chica. 

And thanks for reading.

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