April 19, 2011

Did You Ever Wonder Why People Color Eggs?

The art of coloring eggs actually dates back thousands of years. The egg is widely used as a symbol of the start of new life, just as new life emerges from an egg when the chick hatches. The ancient Zoroastrians painted eggs for Nowrooz, their New Year celebration, which falls on the Spring equinox. The Nowrooz tradition has existed for at least 2,500 years. The mention of eggs left for children in connection with the Germanic goddess Ostara in the supposed Old High German lullaby is considered a literary forgery. And, of course, everyone’s heard of Fabergé eggs – luxurious masterpieces of art. But did you know that their history began when Russian Tsar Alexander III decided to give his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, an “Easter Egg” in 1885?

Over the next few weeks, some of you might be planning on coloring your own eggs. And while you could just go buy a box of vegetable dye, you might want to first look in your pantry or fridge for some natural ways to dye those eggs. For example, want beautiful lavender eggs? Color them with blueberries.  Beet juice will produce a deep pink, though you may have trouble getting anyone to eat them later, while cranberry juice gives you a light pink and will be far more popular. Paprika produces a brick red. Purple grape juice gives a blue-gray color, but we say try red wine. Even if it fails, it may make the coloring process a lot more fun for the adults.

Here’s what you do: wash eggs with soapy water and gently dry. Place in a single layer in a non-metallic pot with the dye source (blueberries, coffee, turmeric, onion skins, etc.) Add two tablespoons of vinegar and one quart of water to the pot, bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 15-20 minutes and then remove the pot from the burner. If you like the egg color, gently remove excess dye with a paper towel and set the eggs on a rack to dry. To deepen the color, leave eggs in the pot to cool. For even richer shades, strain the dye water and leave the eggs submerged in the water overnight.

Interestingly, the process of transferring the natural dye, which uses acid and heat as the catalyst to extract the color from many of the natural compounds we mentioned is very similar to processes monitored by food and beverage manufacturers who rely on pH, conductivity, chlorine and ozone measurements to assure an accurate and repeatable process.

Now, if by chance your food coloring process requires analytical measurement  and will be cleaned in place later (to assure your dyes don’t mix), The Analytical Experts suggest a toroidal conductivity sensor used in combination with the Model 1056 Analyzer. You’d then have an analytical system that can hold up under the toughest conditions.

But more than likely, the only process management going on while you’re coloring your eggs will be from a kid. However you engage in the activity, though, enjoy it and have fun! And until next time, let us know what you think! Post any comments or questions here!