Make Pretty Robin's Eggs With a Simple Cabbage Dye

©. Melissa Breyer

Thanks to my childhood, I have a soft spot for garishly dyed eggs in all their messy glory, achieved through means of commercial Easter egg dying kits and their distinct breed of synthetic color. But as a grown-up, I am head over heels for the magic of natural pigments. There is no shortage of formulas describing methods for coloring eggs using everything from onion skins to beets to turmeric. (Case in point, our very own from last year: How to make all-natural Easter egg dyes.)

And really, it is a wonderful thing to rewind the clock to the days before color had been synthesized, when people dyed things with natural materials. While we've got appliances talking to each other and cars driving themselves, there's a lot to be said for boiling vegetables in a pot and marveling at the alchemy that good ol' fashioned Mother Nature delivers.

For the eggs pictured here, just a few ingredients were involved. Eggs, red cabbage, white vinegar, and water. Plus something to dapple them with. (I used a metallic petal dust from my cake decorating supplies because I had it on hand, but you could use anything, from edible glitter to cocoa powder, for a sufficient speckle effect.)

Cabbage eggs

Melissa Breyer

These really couldn't be easier. First, I coarsely chopped a head of red cabbage, covered it with water in a large pot, and gently boiled it for around 45 minutes. As it was cooling, I hard-boiled white eggs. Once the dye bath was cool, I strained it into a casserole dish, added a few tablespoons of white vinegar, added the eggs, and let them sit. The water looks purple, but the eggs will become blue. (I reserved the cabbage, and while rather insipid after being boiled for so long, it is a gorgeous shade of lilac and will still be delicious in another creation.)

FoodSafety.gov advises not to eat hard-boiled eggs that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours. Since I wanted to avoid food waste and be able to feed these to the egg eaters in my house, I moved the dish to the refrigerator and let them sit in the dye there. (Alternatively, you could blow out the eggs instead of boiling them.)

The eggs need to be stirred every once in a while to keep the color even. Since I wanted varying tones, I took some eggs out after an hour, removing more eggs from the dye bath after another hour, and so on. (Putting the removed eggs on a drying rack or upright in a muffin tin helps avoid pools or dye gathering on the bottom of the shell.) The ones deepest in color stayed in the juice overnight. Once they arrived at their pretty colors and were dry, I flicked some speckles on them with a toothbrush dipped in petal dust mixed with vodka, bristles pulled back, and released with my thumb. Maybe more Jackson Pollock than songbird, but that's just me.

Cabbage eggs

Melissa Breyer

I have always been a fool for robin's eggs, so these appeal to me—even if they do look like the product of a giant, expressionistic disco robin, but a variety is equally fun. Check your produce drawer and spice rack ... and if you've got some beets, and turmeric, and spinach, you are well on your way to a rainbow of eggs. No commercial Easter egg dying kits and their distinct breed of synthetic color required.