A Rainbow of Pretty Pastel-Colored Hens’ Eggs
We took a new – natural and healthy – approach to Easter eggs this year, instead of the usual sugar-laden confections. The centerpiece of this year’s family brunch was a rainbow of hard-boiled eggs in pastel colors, not dyed but just as they came from the hen.
Chicken Eggs for Easter?
Sure, there’s something just plain delightful about naturally colored eggs that come from the hens all ready for Easter.
The pink, blue, green, and cinnamon-brown plain and speckled eggs of various heritage chicken breeds are a beautiful addition to the breakfast or brunch table, or for a healthy protein snack, and the shells themselves are decorative.
Where can you find colored chicken eggs?
Check around for “Easter eggers” breeds among friends who keep backyard chickens, vendors at farmers markets, ads in rural weeklies and online classifieds, as well as any groups in your community who are dedicated to promoting natural, organic and/or local foods.
Friends with backyard chickens and a couple of local small mixed farms were the source of my own naturally colored eggs.
Araucana vs. Ameraucana vs. Easter Egger
Now, I don’t keep chickens myself, so depend on my memory of what the producers have told me about their chickens, but as far as I recall…
Here, the olive-green eggs came from Araucana hens, the blue-ish ones were laid by Ameraucana hens, and the beautiful orangey-brown eggs were laid by, well, various heritage breeds whose names I don’t remember, even though my chicken-keeping friends must have told me a dozen times! Others of the pastel pretties come from the so-called “Easter egger” hens, with tones of pink, very light green, and pale blue.
If you want to learn more about keeping your own exotic or heritage birds, there are lots of good resources online as the interest in backyard chickens has boomed over the past few years.
To begin with, check out this useful chart of chicken breeds and the informative Community Chickens website, or talk to your local feather-fancier if you’re prepared for a good long conversation. These folks really love their birds!
How to Use Colored Chicken Eggs: 3 Ideas
Eggs are Good Eatin’
All of these fancy colored eggs have the same high-quality protein-rich nutrition of the regular ones, and they taste very much the same.
The only difference in taste I’ve ever noticed is sometimes in the yolk. Depending on what the hens have been eating, and whether they’re allowed to free-range to supplement their feed with foraging, the yolks can be a beautiful deep yellow or even towards an orange hue, with a somewhat richer flavor – wonderful for cooking in cheesecakes and custards!
To make the most of the pretty pastel appearance of your rainbow eggs, however, I suggest boiling them right in the shell.
Place your eggs in a pot of cold water, leaving lots of space between them – a medium-sized pot is about right for a half-dozen (6) eggs – and making sure to have at least an inch of water on top of the eggs. Bring the water quickly up to the boiling point over high heat. When the water boils with lots of bubbles, reduce the heat to minimum (just enough to keep the water simmering) or take the pot off the burner completely, and cover the pot. The eggs will keep cooking in the hot water. Start your kitchen timer…
Hard-boiled eggs will take about 18-20 minutes to cook, while soft-boiled take about 2-5 minutes depending on how gushy you like them.
As soon as they’re done, serve your soft-boiled eggs in an egg cup with salt and pepper, a well-buttered army of “toast soldiers” on the side to dip into the soft warm yolk. For hard-boiled eggs, immediately get them out of the hot pot and under very cold running water – the faster you can cool them down, the easier it will be to remove the shell when the time comes to eat them. Devilled eggs, anyone?
Have you ever blown an egg?
The result is an empty whole egg shell, with small holes at each end that are easily disguised with a bit of putty and paint or a decorative sequin, bead, or ribbon for hanging up. It’s a bit tricky, but the effect is well worth the effort to remove the yolk and white without breaking the egg!
When I was a kid, we always used to do this to make Christmas ornaments, sometimes just decorating the outside and sometimes making a larger hole in the side and creating a miniature scene inside with cotton wool and tiny pictures cut from old holiday cards.
Carefully make a small hole at each end of the raw egg (a pin works quite well to get it started) and blow the innards out of the whole egg shell. Rinse well with clear water and allow the egg shells to dry.
Display the emptied-out whole eggshells in a pretty dish.
I think they look especially fine in a cut-glass bowl, displayed where the crystal facets will catch the light and make tiny rainbows across the pastel eggs inside. For a more country-chic look, a shallow wooden trencher or a rustic basket would be a great choice of container.
You can melt a plain white utility candle or use the kind of wax used in canning to seal jars of jams and preserves. Pour a couple tablespoons of melted wax into the empty, clean, dry shell and tilt it around to spread all over the inside, then pour out any extra that’s left over.
You just want a fairly thin layer of wax inside, but it should be enough to give good coverage over all the surface, so don’t be too skimpy – better too much wax than too little.
The wax will help to strengthen the egg shell and helps to prevent it from drying out and crumbling away over time. It will still be breakable, mind you, but the egg’s fragility is part of its charm.
Mosaic Arts & Crafts
Broken egg shells? Turn them into an original work of art!
I like to decorate a simple store-bought picture frame in this way, but I’ve also had success in covering a small wooden trinket box from the hardware store with an abstract pattern of egg shell fragments.
- Rinse the pieces of broken egg shell, let them dry, and create a mosaic from the fragments.
- Make a picture (pencil in an outline to follow before you begin) or go for an abstract pattern.
- Spread a moderate layer of ordinary household white glue, such as Elmer’s School Glue, onto a flat surface.
- Place the shell pieces onto the sticky surface in a pleasing pattern. (You may find, as I do, that a pair of tweezers come in handy for this part.) For best results, start with the larger pieces first, then fill in with smaller ones.
- Allow the glue to dry. Don’t be tempted to hurry it along with a hair dryer – just let your work air-dry naturally.
- Finish off with a protective acrylic clear-coat, readily found at your local hardware and craft supply stores, to protect the work and keep it looking good for years.
This is a fun craft project for kids about elementary school age or older. Younger children may find it frustrating to handle the tiny pieces, as digital dexterity and patience both take time to develop, but you know your own kids best – some little ones do quite well with the larger shell pieces and a bit of help from a grown-up.
Alternative: Natural Dyes
If you can’t find a local supply of naturally-colored Easter eggs, you can still have fun with natural dyes to create your own pretty pastel eggs.
Making your own safe natural dyes from stuff you’ve already got in the kitchen is another great activity for kids – and your Easter eggs get fancied up with gorgeous colors that are chemical-free and inexpensive to produce.
Beet-root juice, for example, makes a delicious rosy-pink color. Blueberries will give a range of hues from pale blue to deep purple, depending on how long you leave the eggs in a bowl of mashed-up berries to absorb their juice. And don’t forget to raid the spice cabinet for other colors – turmeric or curry powder, mixed into a paste with a bit of water, will dye your eggs yellow, and so on.
If you’re starting out with the naturally-colored eggs from “Easter egger” hens, instead of commercial white eggs from the grocery store, make the most of that background color by using an old paintbrush or cotton swab to paint on a design, instead of dipping the whole egg.
Rainbow Chicken Eggs are Nutritious and Fun
Kids and adults alike can benefit from cutting back on our intake of the low-cost, low-quality holiday treats. Too often the cute chocolate eggs and bunnies of Easter are made from unhealthy oils and trans fats, loaded with sugar and empty calories.
And when the sweets are gone, what’s leftover? That slightly-ill feeling of a sugar-hangover, and a tighter waistband. Ugh!
Instead, why not celebrate the season of rebirth with nature’s own Easter eggs? Good looking and good eating, with the bonus of creative crafts fun!Image credit: All photographs on this page are ©2015 Flycatcher.