Want to celebrate Easter with coloured eggs and a game of "egg knocking"? Here's how to boil eggs and make them beautiful with simple marbelizing techniques and natural dyes.
By CINDA CHAVICH
When Easter rolls around, I can't resist colouring a batch of hard-boiled eggs, whether delicious organic eggs or tiny quail eggs.
We always had a basket of hard cooked eggs on Easter Sunday for a family game of "egg tapping" (a.k.a. knocking, pacqueing, chucking, jarping), a tradition rooted in Europe that dates to medieval times.
Everyone chooses their favourite egg from the basket, then the friendly egg wars begin — knocking your egg against your sister's egg, or your mom's or your grandfather's, to determine who will be the winner.
Start by tapping the round ends together, then the pointy ends. Inevitably, one will smash, leaving the victor with an intact egg, or at least one intact end.
And the last egg that emerges unscathed is the good egg, and the winner!
But you need to boil and colour your eggs first, so here's a primer to get your party started!
HOW TO PERFECTLY BOIL AN EGG
If you can boil water, you can boil and egg, but there are some tricks to learn to ensure they’re cooked properly and easy to peel.
I’m a big fan of using the pressure cooker to hard-cook eggs. It’s the way they’re done in the egg pickling business, because the pressure magically makes the cooked eggs peel perfectly.
Just place your large eggs in a steamer in the pressure cooker with a couple of inches of water, bring up to high pressure over high heat, then reduce heat and steam 5-6 minutes, release pressure quickly and place the eggs into cold water until cool, then refrigerate.
For smaller quail eggs — lovely for mini devilled egg appetizers or mini scotch eggs — steam for just 2 minutes jammy yolks.
Otherwise, you can bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil, gently lower the eggs into the boiling water, boil 30 seconds, then cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave until your eggs are cooked — 5 minutes for soft boiled, 10-15 minutes for hard boiled (2-3 minutes for quail eggs).
Either way, when the time’s up, transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water to quickly chill. This shock is essential to stop the cooking process and make the eggs easy to peel.
Some also recommend using older eggs (close to their Best Before date) for easier peeling, or adding a tablespoon of vinegar (or half a teaspoon of baking soda) to the cooking water, but I find the pressure cooker is the only sure fire solution to the peeling problem. Start at the round end and crack the egg all over to peel – peeling while running under water can help ease off the shell, too.
If you want your eggs with a set but softish "jammy" centre, get the water boiling well first, then lower the room temp eggs carefully into the pot and start the timing (5 minutes for a large hen's egg, 2 minutes for quail eggs.)
Don’t panic if your boiled eggs have a dark or greenish tinge around the yolk. It just means they were boiled too long and is purely aesthetic.
You can also store your boiled eggs in the shell — just dry, pop back in the carton, and dot with a marker to identify them as boiled vs raw. They’ll keep in the refrigerator for a week.
COLOURING YOUR EGGS
Colouring eggs is part of my Easter preparations, whether using white hen's eggs (brown eggs don't produce clear colours) or pretty speckled quail eggs.
The easiest way to colour eggs is with food colouring.
There are special kits sold at this time of year — with fizzy little tablets that you dissolve in water with a little vinegar, or you can use liquid food colourings in the same way.
I like to set out some wide mouth jam jars that are big enough to dip an egg (or use small, heat proof Pyrex bowls) to mix the dyes for dipping eggs. Cover your work surface with lots of layers of newspaper (this can be messy and can also dye your table tops).
For each colour, mix 1/2 cup boiling water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 10 to 20 drops food color in a cup to achieve desired colors. Repeat for each color.
Dip your hard-cooked eggs in dye for about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon, wire egg holder or tongs to add and remove eggs from dye. Set them on a rack to dry.
It’s so easy (and you can even get fancy by marbelizing your eggs in several colours by simply adding a spoonful of cooking oil to your second colour dip).
Or, if you like, head to the craft store for a kit to make marbelized eggs.
There are several vegetables and spices that release natural colours that you can use for dying anything, from wool and fabric to eggs.
Victoria’s Zero Waste Emporium offers these tips about dying your hard cooked eggs, using natural dyes — which is a brilliant way to learn about reducing food waste. The colours won't be as intense with natural dyes but it's inspiring to see the colours emerge from food scraps.
Natural Dye Colors
Yellow: Two teaspoons ground turmeric to turn eggs yellow.
Pink: One cup shredded beets to turn eggs pink. (Shred on a box grater.)
Blue: One cup chopped purple or red cabbage to turn eggs blue.
Blue: One cup blueberries to turn eggs blue.
Purple: One cup red onion skins to turn eggs red or purple.
Brown: One bag of black tea to turn eggs brown.
Orange: One cup of chopped yellow onion skins to turn eggs orange.
How to Make Natural Dyes
First, your eggs need to be at room temperature. (Take hard-boiled eggs out of refrigerator about 20 minutes before you need them.)
For every egg color, you’ll want these same ingredients:
1 cup water
1–2 teaspoons white vinegar
Desired dye (turmeric, blueberries, beets, purple cabbage, etc.)
Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons salt,
Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons light brown sugar (or regular sugar if you don’t have brown)
For example, if you’re selecting 4 egg colors, then you’ll need (at least) 4 teaspoons white vinegar, 4 tablespoons salt, and 4 tablespoons sugar.
A dozen eggs requires about 4 cups of solution.
Bring the water, salt, sugar, and dye ingredient to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer the ingredients for about 30 minutes.
Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to help the egg shell absorb the dye.
Dip the eggs into the lukewarm solution. The longer they are saturated in the dyed water, the more vivid the color. We prefer to let the eggs sit overnight in the liquid bath to steep, but you can brine from 8 hours up to 3 days.
Let the eggs dry. We like to massage in a little vegetable oil to each one and polish with a towel.
Now, you can hide the colored eggs, eat the eggs, or use them as pretty decorations and a game of egg knocking on Easter Sunday.
Just remember to keep boiled eggs chilled in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve them — or pass them around for a game to find out who's the "good egg" this year!