When McCormick, the spices and flavors company, sent ideas for dyeing eggs, it reminded me of how my mother-in-law would prepare Easter eggs with my children. She would use the old Cajun techniques she had learned from her mother and grandmother.

She raised chickens so there were always plenty of both white and brown eggs to experiment with. She had the children cut strips of non-colorfast cloth, such as madras cloth, and wrap them around the eggs. To create a pattern on the eggs they would put leaves, sprigs of fresh herbs, onion skins or tiny twigs on the eggs before wrapping them in the cloth.

When it became impossible to find colored cloth that would run when wet, she just put dark outer onion skins into boiling water to create a natural, golden brown dye, a particular favorite of the grandchildren. And, of course, she always made sure she had lots of food coloring or commercial egg dye on hand.

I’m not sure who enjoyed the process more, her or the kids.

McCormick suggests a decorating idea that sounds similar to what my mother-in-law had the children do. “Before dyeing, place rubber bands, stickers or paper reinforcements on the eggs to create the design of choice. Once dry, remove the rubber bands, etc. to view the design,” a company news release says. Another idea is to draw or write on the egg with a white or light-colored crayon before dyeing.

To hard-cook eggs for dyeing, place in a single layer in a large saucepan and add enough cold water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the pan and bring the water just to boil on high heat. Remove from heat and allow to stand 15 minutes. Add three more minutes if the eggs are extra large. Then pour off the water and cool the eggs by putting them under cold water. Refrigerate and use within a week.

Food safety

The March 21 Bites of History column included a chef’s recipe for leg of lamb that called for using a heavy duty trash bag as a brining container.

Because many trash bags contain chemicals that may leach into the food, the Food and Drug Administration says not to use garbage bags to hold food. It recommends using food-grade plastic such as Ziploc Big Bags or a turkey roasting bag.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.