We are 1-1/2 weeks from Easter and it is time to start thinking about food and decorations for the holiday. If you follow these guidelines, you will never have an overcooked rubbery egg again! With the emphasis on healthy eating and avoiding food colors, some people love the idea of using natural fruits and vegetables as the base for dying Easter eggs.
When I was young, my brothers and I enjoyed dying eggs for Easter. Each of us had our own style of dipping them. Mine were always light pastels and only one color per egg. One brother specialized in 50/50 eggs (two colors on one egg), and one liked to get creative. Somehow his eggs always came out ugly grey or brown because he mixed too many of the colors together. But it didn’t matter what they looked like, we were each proud of our creations and all of us were praised for our efforts.
Many Americans celebrate Easter by hiding the colored eggs either in the house or outside in the yard and having an egg hunt, and then everyone sits down to a large family dinner. The meal varies depending on your heritage and family traditions, but once dinner is over we have to figure out what to do with all those eggs! Of course you can simply peel and eat them, but I have two favorite ways to use them, egg salad and deviled eggs.
Egg salad is simply a blend of mashed hard cooked eggs with a little mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and if you like a bit of crunch, some minced celery. Deviled eggs are similar, but it is only the yolks that are blended with a little mustard and mayonnaise and then placed back into the center of the whites. What I never realized growing up was that hard cooked eggs didn’t have to be hard and rubbery with a green ring around the yolk. They can actually be tender and moist!
The biggest mistake people make when boiling eggs, is actually boiling them. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually boil hard-boiled eggs. There are two problems with boiling eggs. First, they bang into each other and crack the shells and second, the whites get tough and rubbery and the yolks dry out. Egg whites solidify at 180°F and water boils at 212°F. Keeping the water just below the boil and letting the eggs finish cooking off the heat allows them to come to temperature without overcooking.
For safety reasons and to help shrink the egg away from the shell, it is important to chill the eggs as soon as they are done. Place them in a bowl of water with ice cubes and leave them there until completely cool. Then store the eggs, unpeeled, in the refrigerator. When you are serving hard-boiled or deviled eggs, always keep them chilled until just before serving. And if you are outside, place the plate of eggs on top of a bed of ice to keep them as cool as possible.
If you want to read all about the scientific reasoning behind this technique, look at this article by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Good Eater Collaborative. For all kinds of options and information, there is a website dedicated just to deviled eggs! And if you are the kind of person who learns best by seeing things demonstrated, here is a video showing how to properly boil eggs.
Traditional deviled eggs are quite simple, but there are many variations if you want a change. I have listed quite a few, but if you want, get creative and come up with your own combinations. My grandmother always made her deviled eggs with softened butter, but mayonnaise is more common. I use a blend of half butter and half mayonnaise in mine with a little mustard. They are extra rich and creamy. And I always use light mayonnaise. None of us need the extra fat and I promise you won’t miss it.
Whenever you are serving food, garnishes on the plates should be edible and have something to do with the recipe. This is often a sprig of the same herb used or a complementary item. In the case of deviled eggs, placing something on the top will let your guests know what you have added. For example, if you mix chopped shrimp into the yolks, top the egg with a small bay shrimp. If you use dill, place a small sprig of dill on the top. If you are making several different styles on one tray, this helps identify them.
Every grocery store at this time of the year has displays full of Easter egg coloring kits. These are little tablets of concentrated coloring that we dissolve in a blend of water and vinegar. But this year I thought it would be fun to experiment with dyes made with items from nature. The Artist was very enthusiastic because he has done similar studies in art school, utilizing the same materials that artists have used for centuries. Ours were a bit different, but just as fun! Check out the chart below and see how many colors you can create out of ordinary items.
Naturally dyed eggs have a matte finish. If you want them to shine, rub each one with a little oil and wipe off the excess. When you do this, they almost look like they are made from marble and have a lovely sheen.
If you have access to a farm or farmer’s market, there are hens that lay beautiful naturally colored eggs. They can come in shades of tan, green, and blue. Filling a basket with those is even lovelier than dyed eggs and totally natural. If you can’t find those, decorating with a mix of white and brown eggs is also an option that I love. Add some brightly colored flowers and the simplicity of the eggs will shine.
If you are looking for more unusual ways to color your eggs and having fun projects to do with your kids, check out this article by my friend Amanda Formaro: 7 Cool Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you hard-boil eggs, the yolks are often close to the shell. This makes the white on that side very thin and easy to tear. There is a trick to getting the yolks to stay in the center of the whites. The night before you plan on cooking the eggs, cut the lid off the egg carton and set the eggs on their sides on top of the cups in the bottom half of the carton (instead of on end like normal). The yolks will settle in the center and then if you carefully transfer them to the pan with water, they should be perfectly centered when cooked.
Eggs are naturally gluten-free, but some children are sensitive to food dyes. Be extra careful not to let them come in contact with artificially dyed eggshells or try using natural dyes.
Kitchen Skill: Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs Every Time
Place a single layer of large eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with enough cool tap water to cover by at least one inch and add 1 tsp salt. Bring to just below boiling over high heat. The water will be steaming and small bubbles will regularly break the surface.
Remove pan from burner and keep the eggs in the hot water for about 15 to 20 minutes.
When time is up, place them in a bowl of water with ice cubes in it until completely cooled. Store hard-cooked eggs in their shells in the refrigerator, and eat them within one week.
For the easiest peeling, roll the eggs on the counter under the palm of your hand, cracking them all over. Place them back in the bowl of water and let sit for about 10 minutes. The water will work its way between the shell and egg, loosening it and making it easy to peel.
- 12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
- 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 4 tbsp butter at room temperature (or another 1/4 cup mayonnaise)
- 1 tsp prepared spicy brown mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Paprika for garnish
- Using a very sharp knife, slice each egg in half lengthwise. Wipe or rinse the knife between each cut to keep it clean. The yolks will pop out easily with just a little pressing. Place them in a medium bowl. Place whites on a platter and set to the side.
- Mash yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip or use two spoons to fill the eggs. Pipe the filling into the holes of the egg whites, mounding it well above the edge of the egg.
- Sprinkle with paprika, cover, and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Variables and Additions:
- Mayonnaise and/or softened butter
- Prepared mustard (different types – Dijon, coarse, yellow, spicy brown, dry)
- Finely minced celery, bell peppers, onions, green onions, chives, or shallots
- Finely chopped olives (black or green) or sweet pickle relish
- Hot sauce, paprika, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce or prepared horseradish
- Finely minced cocktail (bay) shrimp or crab meat (canned is OK) with lemon juice
- Fresh herbs such as oregano, dill, parsley, or thyme
- Minced cooked bacon or Deviled Ham
- Black caviar
Natural Easter Egg Dyes
Rub the eggs with white vinegar to help the shell take up the dye. Try both fresh and frozen produce. Canned produce will produce much paler colors. Boiling the colors with vinegar will result in deeper colors. Some materials need to be boiled to impart their color (name followed by ‘boiled’ in the table). Some of the fruits, vegetables, and spices can be used cold. To use a cold material, cover the boiled eggs with water, add dyeing materials, a teaspoon or less of vinegar, and let the eggs remain in the refrigerator until the desired color is achieved. In most cases, the longer you leave Easter eggs in the dye, the more deeply colored they will become.
|Lavender||Small Quantity of Purple Grape Juice
Violet Blossoms plus 2 tsp Lemon Juice
Red Zinger Tea
|Violet or Purple||Violet Blossoms
Small Quantity of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Red Cabbage Leaves (boiled)
Purple Grape Juice
|Green||Spinach Leaves (boiled)
|Greenish Yellow||Yellow Delicious Apple Peels (boiled)|
|Yellow||Orange or Lemon Peels (boiled)
Carrot Tops (boiled)
Celery Seed (boiled)
Ground Cumin (boiled)
Ground Turmeric (boiled)
|Golden Brown||Dill Seeds|
|Brown or Beige||Strong Coffee
Black Walnut Shells (boiled)
|Orange||Yellow Onion Skins (boiled)
Cranberries or Cranberry Juice
Red Grape Juice
Juice from Pickled Beets
|Red||Lots of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Canned Cherries with Juice
Create a New Tradition Today!
Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material on The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. This includes copying and reprinting content and photographs. If you have any questions or would like permission, I can be contacted via email: theheritagecook (at) comcast (dot) net. Feel free to quote me, just give credit where credit is due, link to the recipe, and please send people to my website, www.theheritagecook.com. Please see the Disclaimers page (under the “About” tab above) for additional details.