Water Glassing: A Cool Way to Preserve Eggs
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When I moved to my home in the mountains of Utah, I decided to put the existing chicken coop to use. We purchased 5 pullets from a local feed store, and within a few days a friend gifted us 5 hens. This is called Chicken Math – a phenomenon that results in doubling the number of birds you set out to get, and it happens each and every time. My boys were living with me at the time, so the eggs we got were consumed quickly.
Now I have about 15 laying hens (I've had as many as 30), and am getting way more eggs than I can eat. During the winter, my birds stop laying, so I started freezing eggs in ice cube trays to last during times when they were taking a break. I wasn't happy with the freezer burn, even though I put the scrambled raw eggs in freezer bags. Using the bags I use for vacuum packing game seemed wasteful, since I only use a couple eggs at a time. Someone asked me about water glassing eggs, so I decided to try it.
What is Water Glassing?
Water glassing is a means by which you can preserve eggs in a solution of water and hydrated lime for some say up to two years. Hydrated lime is natural, and consists of a mixture of bones, oyster shells and limestone that have been burned in a kiln. It is non-toxic and safe to use for food. It is also referred to as "pickling lime." I have friends who have eggs that are a year old and they are perfectly edible. You can't use store-bought eggs for this; you must use eggs that are fresh and have not had the bloom removed. The bloom is a protective layer that coats the eggs and is washed away when sent for sale in grocery stores. The bloom prevents bacteria from entering the egg and seals in the moisture so chicks can develop. You can store eggs with the bloom for several weeks in a cool environment – they don't need to be refrigerated. Keeping the bloom on the eggs, however, wouldn't keep me stocked up over winter, so I decided to try this method.
Start with eggs that are fresh and clean. Since you don't want to remove the bloom, avoid eggs that have any dirt or debris from the coop (poop happens!). Also, some shells are thicker than others, so make sure the thin-shelled eggs don't go in with the others. Even if you add calcium supplements, some hens still lay a thin-shelled egg from time to time. You don't want one of those eggs breaking, as that could ruin the rest.
I had a couple of gallon-sized glass jars at home, so opted to use those; make sure the container you will be using is clean. Some people use food-grade buckets, but I was concerned the weight of the eggs on top could crack the ones on the bottom. Also, I felt that by the time I got to using the ones on the bottom, they might not still be good to use.
For every quart of water (if you are on municipal water, I suggest purchasing distilled), add
one tablespoon of hydrated lime and carefully place the eggs in the solution. I test all eggs for freshness by placing them in water. Any eggs popping to the surface are not fit for consumption. The freshest are those that sink to the bottom. Even though I mix the lime in the water, it will settle, but that will not reduce its effectiveness, so you don't need to agitate the water, as it will only resettle, and you will risk cracking some shells. Once you have filled your container, lightly cover it to keep out dust, bugs, or paws of curious kittens or other critters.
I did notice, when I pulled all the eggs out for processing, that the skin on my hands was very dry, and that is due to the high Ph of the lime. Next time I will wear gloves, even though the dryness was temporary. I did wipe the solution off of the eggs before cracking them open to process.
Where is the Best Place to Store Them?
You don't want to have to move the containers around much, as they can be heavy, and you may crack some shells in the process. I put mine in the pantry, the coolest part of my house. Avoid any area that gets too warm or too cold; I can't keep mine in the garage or other outside storage area as they would freeze, but in some climates that may work. Conversely, you will want to keep them from getting too warm if freezing isn't a concern. It's always something, right?
How Did They Hold Up?
I started my experiment in March, so if I was pleased with the results, I would have time to stock up on more to get me through the winter. A few weeks ago we did a live stream on Facebook where I started cracking open some of the eggs. The yolks on some were a bit runny, as I was told to expect, but there was no odor or discoloration or indication there was anything off about them. Next, I scrambled them and tasted them, and again, they were perfect. I carefully cracked one open and cooked it sunny side up, something I was told would be difficult if the yolks get runny, but we didn't have a problem and it was fine also.
Yesterday (August 28, 2021) I started breaking them open for even LONGER term storage, freeze drying, which I will discuss next. Please follow us on Facebook, my page is The Red Hot Chilly Prepper (@UtahPrepper) and the podcast can be found here.