Since we are doing a day of Zombies over at the Scare Me blog celebrating the countdown to Halloween, thought it would be fun to post a red dye recipe here.
Cochineal are little beetles native to Mexico and some parts of Central America. They are used in food by indigenous Mexicans and are a very traditional ingredient in certain types of Molli (Sauces) amongst the Nahua/Mexica (Aztecs). The also are used as a food dye. Starbucks recently got in trouble for using this food coloring in drinks that were supposed to be vegetarian, or worse, vegan. Clearly insects are not plants or fruits! They have been used for dying for a very long time, dating back solidly to Pre-Columbian times. They became an industrial dye in the 19th century.
Cochineal Red Wool Dye
1 lb. wool
3 1/3 oz. cochineal powdered
3 1/3 oz. cream of tartar
1 3/8 oz. concentrated nitric acid
1/4 oz. stannous chloride
1. Soak the cochineal and cream of tartar in some water to dissolve. Meanwhile bring 4 to 41/2 gallons of water to the boil. Add the cochineal mixture and boil for 10 minutes and then strain.
2. Dissolve the nitric acid and the stannous chloride in 1 cup of water (CAUTION: ALWAYS POUR ACID INTO WATER, NEVER POUR WATER INTO ACID!). Add this mixture to the boiled cochineal. Then immerse the wool into this and boil for 1 1/2 hours, stirring almost constantly. Rinse wool and dry.