Easter Egg Recipe ~1886

Victorian Easter Egg Recipe – 1886

This is a fun excerpt with so many different ways to decorate eggs!

  • Dye tabs (used today)
  • Wrap the egg in patterned fabric and boil
  • Boil with the skin of red onions
  • Rub designs with tallow candles, then boil with dye tabs (used today with crayons)
  • Dye and engrave with a needle
  • Several natural dyes are recommended for different colors

So, why not give it a try?

Egg-DyeWe’ll forgo the dye tabs because that’s so 21st century, and instead focus on the other options, starting with the fabric. A quick trip to the local fabric store produced two of the brightest swatches I could find: blue and red. I have been known to accidentally dye a clothing item or two in the washing machine, so how hard could intentional dying be?

I wrapped the eggs in the blue fabric first, securing with a rubber band, and boiled for 10 minutes with a splash of vinegar. I let the eggs cool before taking them out of the water and unwrapping. Unfortunately, the results were less than stellar and resulted in a very pale blue. Skim milk blue. I didn’t even bother trying the red fabric. Let’s continue with red onion skins.Blue-Easter-Eggs

Did you know that boiled red onion skins smell like armpit?

I realize this is not what you think about when you picture lovely colored eggs, but it was bad. You’ll need air freshener for this one…or some extra-strength solid stick. Ugh! As for the colorant, I used the skins of two onions for a 2 quart pot with 2 eggs (2+2+2). It did transfer the color, but turned it to a muddy lavender-brown. Perhaps the onion skins would have worked if I had added more or them? As it was, the eggs looked exactly like those your youngest child makes when he thinks it’s a great idea to mix all of the colors together. So, moving on…

Purple-eggsShall we continue with turmeric?

Turmeric is amazing on so many levels. Middle Eastern dishes, Indian dishes, pancakes (just kidding) … It also comes in handy when making Easter eggs. I tried using just a little bit (1/4 teaspoon) in boiling water for 10 minutes, concerned that it would turn the eggs brown. They did, in fact, turn out slightly brown, or the palest of pale yellows.

Pale-Yellow-Eggs2Turmeric II

So I went back and tried it again, this time added 1 tablespoon of turmeric, and a splash of vinegar. I boiled the eggs for 10 minutes, then let them soak for a good 1.5 hours as they cooled off.

Finally, we have some beautiful, vibrant Easter eggs!

Lesson Learned

There’s quite a bit of trial and error on this one. All of the water did turn the respective color I was trying to achieve with the eggs (success!), but that didn’t necessarily transfer to the eggs (grumble, grumble). Trial batches of 2 eggs at a time was a good idea.

Also, the red onion skins smell something awful. The whole fridge reeks of onion. Unless there’s a really good reason to go au naturel, opt for commercial dyes – as was clearly stated in sentence 2 of our Easter egg overview written back in 1886. Ms. Corson clearly knew a thing or two about Easter eggs…

For a more modern technique on using natural dyes, check out Abbeycoseattle’s post here.

Have you ever used any other natural egg dyes? How did they turn out?

More Fun Discoveries

Source: Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery and Household Management, 1886.

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