Water glassing eggs. Water glassing to preserve fresh eggs. How to preserve eggs. How do you preserve eggs in lime water?
I’m a history freak. It’s true. If I’m going to binge-watch a TV show, it’s probably going to be something that is historical. Did anyone else get hooked on the Tudors? Or Versaille? No? Ok, well maybe it’s just me.
I like to look through USDA’s old documents. There are some gems in their archives! We’ve lost so much of the old knowledge that our ancestors used to live off of for more modern methods.
Some modern methods of food preservation are great, but some of them are not so great…
I’m all about preserving foods. I mean, I started helping my mom with canning foods when I was about 8 years old. Eventually, I’ll put some more of that information on here. But for today, let’s talk about how to preserve something that many people avoid: eggs.
So, when I was looking through some of the old USDA documents, I ran across one that caught my attention… “Home methods of preserving eggs” from 1944. It’s a quick two-page document that explains how to preserve fresh eggs at home.
It’s totally possible to store FRESH eggs ya’ll. And I don’t mean you have to cook them or dehydrate them… I’m talking put fresh eggs up, get fresh eggs out. No change in flavor, texture… No freezing or dehydrating!
What is water glassing?
Water glassing is a method of storing eggs that’s been around for a looong time. Our ancestors had to come up with ways to keep food for extended periods of time. These methods included a wide range of storing foods: burying them, canning, drying, etc.
Keep in mind that refrigerators and freezers are a very modern concept. People had to come up with ways to keep fresh foods good throughout the year. In most places, the majority of the food was grown and harvested during the spring-fall.
The harvested food had to feed families over the winter months when food wasn’t easily found.
Water glassing is a method of preservation that stems from the need for protein over the winter months.
Think about this:
Let’s say a family of 5 lived in Pennsylvania on a farm 200 years ago. They’d have a garden that was started in early spring and would last through the end of summer. They may have some milk goats or a cow and chickens. Maybe a few pigs.
Many chickens lay really well starting in spring and then laying tends to taper off in the fall as the days get shorter. There would be an abundance of eggs in the warm months and a shortage in the cold months, so families discovered a way to keep eggs fresh over the winter.
Enter the water glassing method.
Should you preserve eggs?
It’s always a good idea to preserve eggs. Eggs are a valuable source of nutrition and a great way to get protein in your body.
Does anyone want to talk about the milk, egg, and meat shortages that happened in the spring/early summer of 2020? It’s always a good idea to have food at home for your family and apparently, eggs are going to be one of the first things to fly off of the shelves if there’s a food shortage!
This is especially true when you are raising your own chickens for eggs. Free-ranged chickens that you raise at home have the best eggs when it comes to nutrition.
Can you really use water glassing to preserve eggs?
Yes, you can really use this method to preserve eggs!
So many people want to preserve eggs, but they don’t want to dehydrate eggs or freeze them. These methods change the flavor and texture of the eggs. Sure, the eggs are preserved and can be added to recipes, but have you ever eaten scrambled eggs that were made with dehydrated eggs?
It’s just not the same.
Water glassed eggs though are the same as fresh eggs when it comes to taste and texture.
That’s because you aren’t changing your eggs. You’re simply seriously extending the amount of time that those eggs are fresh.
How to use water glassing to preserve eggs
The idea behind water glassing is to keep the inside of the eggs free from bacteria. Eggs are designed to keep bacteria out anyways, so we are just helping that process even more when we water glass eggs.
Let’s talk a little bit about how to handle farm fresh eggs first of all…
The shell of the egg is created out of minerals (mostly calcium). The shell itself has pores. These pores are tiny little holes that will allow bacteria to enter the egg. The pores in the shell allow the egg to breathe, which helps nurture a developing chick.
When a hen lays an egg, her body puts a thin, moist coating on her egg. This coating is called a bloom. You may have noticed that your eggs feel slick or are slightly shiny when you collect them from the nesting box. This is the bloom that you’re noticing.
The bloom creates a seal around the egg that prevents bacteria and germs from getting into the egg. If germs and bacteria could get into the egg, it’s a nearly perfect environment for growth. The bacteria would take over the developing yolk and tissues and kill the baby chick.
The bloom helps prevent that from happening.
When you wash eggs to clean them, you remove the bloom and thus bacteria can enter the egg. That’s why eggs in the U.S. are refrigerated and eggs in other countries are not (in the U.S., eggs are washed and in other countries, they are not).
Placing clean, fresh eggs into water and lime prevents bacteria from getting into the egg. This method of preservation lasts much longer than the original bloom itself.
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Ingredients needed for water glassing eggs
This is super simple. For water glassing, you’ll need four simple things:
You’ll store your preserved eggs in a water mixture that you’ll make with the distilled water and hydrated lime. You’ll use your food scale to weigh out the lime. I prefer a food scale that weighs down to the ounce like this one.
Make sure that your container seals so that you can store your eggs without the water being disturbed.
Hydrated lime… what the heck is that?
Hydrated lime is a type of lime that has many different uses. It’s also called pickling lime, slack lime, builder’s lime, or even caustic lime.
Caustic lime sounds scary, but it’s not! Caustic means that something will burn you. Hydrated lime is very alkaline (the opposite of acidic). It has a high pH level and can cause burns if you get it on your hands and don’t wash it off.
It’s not going to harm your eggs because you’re diluting the lime in water. The pH of the lime is actually what prevents bacteria and microorganisms from growing around the eggs in the water.
Are there other kinds of lime that you can use?
Only use hydrated lime for this.
Note that hydrated lime does go by other names: pickling lime, slack lime, builder’s lime, or caustic lime. The chemical name for hydrated lime is calcium hydroxide.
Notes about Water
This is important. If you’re using tap water, you may want to purchase water for preserving your eggs. Tap water and even bottled water contains minerals like chlorine and fluoride that can interfere with your lime and prevent proper preservation.
Use distilled water or natural spring water. You can boil it for five minutes before using it to eliminate any bacteria. This isn’t necessary, but if you’re worried about it, you can. Cool water completely before using to prevent the eggs from cooking.
How to Preserve Eggs Using Lime
Now that you know what you need to preserve your eggs, let’s talk about how to actually do it.
Your water to lime ratio is one quart of water to one ounce of lime. This is for any sized container. If you need to make 5 quarts of water to cover your eggs, use 5 ounces of lime.
Combine your water and lime and stir until mixed completely. This is your water glass mixture. Pour this over eggs to preserve them. Your eggs should be completely submerged with 2″ of water glass mixture over the top of them.
Not sure how much water to make to preserve your eggs? Let’s look at some examples.
Storing Eggs in a 3-Gallon Bucket
You can buy a 3-gallon food-grade bucket with a lid like this one. A three-gallon bucket will hold about 80 eggs. Place your eggs in the bucket. To make your preserving water and lime mixture, combine 5 quarts of water with 5 ounces of lime.
That will produce enough water glass liquid to cover the eggs.
You can find food-grade buckets in 3-gallon sizes or 5-gallon sizes all day long on Amazon.
Storing Eggs on a Small Scale
You can store about 16 eggs in a gallon jar with a lid. To make the liquid, prepare one quart of water with one ounce of lime.
You can always make up your lime and water mix as you go to prevent making too much for your container. Just remember that you’ll use the ratio of one quart of water to one ounce of lime.
Use the food scale to weigh out your lime and use a tea pitcher or quart mason jar to measure out your water.
Once you’ve used your preserved eggs, toss out the solution and make a new one with every new batch of eggs. There’s a chance that your solution won’t preserve your eggs as well if it’s already been used once.
How does hydrated lime preserve the eggs?
The pH of the lime is what preserves the eggs. When you pickle foods to preserve them, you’re putting them in an environment that doesn’t allow bacteria or microorganisms to grow.
Microorganisms can only grow in environments with a pH level that is within a certain range. Once the environment is too acidic or too basic, the microorganisms cannot grow.
Hydrated lime is very alkaline. In fact, the pH of a water and hydrated lime suspension (mixture) is 12.4. The pH scale ranges from 0-14 with 0 being very acidic and 14 being very alkaline. The strong alkaline mixture produced when you mix water with hydrated lime is what prevents microbial growth and therefore preserves the eggs.
Eggs and other food cannot ‘go bad’ on their own. The reason that food spoils is that some bacteria or microorganism gets into it and creates a population. The microorganisms feed on the food or change it chemically. When you ingest the microbes and/or the changed food, you can get sick.
If there isn’t bacteria or microbes present, the egg won’t change and doesn’t spoil.
Can I use any eggs?
No. You need to use the freshest eggs possible that have NOT been washed. The bloom should be intact before you preserve them with this method.
Do not try this method with store-bought eggs.
Also, you only want to use the best quality eggs to preserve. Check your eggs carefully for cracks or body checks. Body checks are cracks that happened when the egg what still in the chicken and were repaired before the egg was laid.
On a white egg, body checks often look like gray scars. You can see similar marks on colored eggs.
Body checks may not be 100% repaired, even if they look totally repaired. It’s best to assume that they aren’t and to leave them out. Just use your best eggs to preserve.
Can I use store-bought eggs and preserve them using the water glass method?
No. Not in the U.S. at least. If you’re in another country where eggs are not routinely washed before being sold to customers, then you may be able to use store-bought eggs.
In the U.S., all commercial eggs are washed before being sold to customers. This is why Americans keep their eggs in refrigerators. Washing the eggs removes the bloom. Remember, the bloom is a thin protective coating that prevents bacteria from getting into the egg.
Wash the bloom off and you’re inviting bacteria into the egg.
Eggs that have been washed can have bacteria in them, even if they aren’t ‘spoiled’. Eggs that have bacteria in them will spoil over time, even in your hydrated lime solution. The lime water won’t kill any bacteria that already exist inside of the egg.
In fact, the egg won’t get hydrated lime inside of it at all because of the bloom covering the pores. The hydrated lime just prevents bacteria from being around the egg.
Can you clean the egg without removing the bloom?
You don’t want to preserve dirty eggs, but you don’t want to run them under water and risk removing the bloom either, so what do you do?
This is really a two-step process. The first step is to keep your chicken coop and nesting boxes clean. When chickens lay eggs, they don’t lay them with poop or feathers on them. Any poop or debris that is on your eggs comes from your chicken’s feet. So, clean coop and nesting box= clean eggs.
If you have eggs that aren’t 100% clean, you can try to gently wipe off the dirt or debris with a dry paper towel. If the dirt or debris doesn’t come right off, don’t be tempted to wash it and stick it in the lime solution. Your tap water or kitchen sponge could have enough bacteria in it to cause that egg to spoil.
Don’t put your dirty eggs in the solution. If you can’t wipe the dirt off with a dry paper towel, then clean them up and cook with them. Save your clean and pretty eggs for preserving.
Is there an ideal time to preserve eggs?
There isn’t an ‘ideal’ time to preserve eggs. Most people find that they have an abundance of eggs starting in the spring, lasting through the summer and early fall. Many hens will molt in the fall and may stop laying over the winter.
If you preserve eggs during the spring and summer, you’ll have a supply of preserved, fresh eggs to use during the winter if your hens stop laying.
According to the old USDA document that I found, eggs preserved in the spring and early summer keep the best. It didn’t say why that is. It could have simply been referring to the fact that this time frame is when eggs are largest or the most abundant during the year.
It’s safe to preserve eggs year-round though if you have an abundance of eggs.
Can I use water glassing to preserve duck and quail eggs?
Yes. Again, do not use store-bought eggs, and don’t wash the eggs before preserving them. Check them for cracks or body checks and only use the freshest eggs possible.
Keep in mind that duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, so you may not be able to fit as many duck eggs in the same sized container.
On the other hand, quail eggs are considerably smaller than chicken eggs, so you’ll be able to preserve significantly more quail eggs in the same container than you would chicken eggs.
How do you keep eggs that you’ve water glassed?
The eggs that you preserve can be put into a sealed container. Don’t try to can the eggs. A jar or bucket with a sealable lid will suffice.
You also don’t have to refrigerate these preserved eggs. Keep water glassed eggs in a cool, dark place. A pantry is a suitable place for a container of water glassed eggs.
Make sure that you label your jar of eggs with the date that the eggs were started. This will help you remember exactly how old the eggs are.
How long will your preserved eggs remain fresh?
This is a long-term method for preserving eggs. These preserved eggs can be stored unrefrigerated for 2 years. This method of preservation was used by settlers and other people before refrigeration was available.
Some modern homesteaders have been able to preserve fresh eggs in containers for over two years.
The video below shows some eggs that are one and a half years old that have been preserved in water glass:
What to expect the eggs and water to look like
It’s important to note here that the water will smell a little weird. I don’t mean that it will stink, but it does have an odor. It’s not a rotten or bad smell, just know that some faint, weird odor is normal. I don’t want you to think that the strange smell means your eggs are bad because it doesn’t necessarily mean that!
The lime will settle in the water over time. Lime doesn’t dissolve in the water like sugar would, so some of it will settle on the bottom. This is normal and expected.
Don’t worry about stirring the lime to distribute it back through the water. It’s not necessary and you’ll probably end up doing more harm than good (especially if you try to stir the water with the eggs still in it).
The eggs will look like fresh eggs when you take them out. The shell color will look the same. Even though the lime and water suspension is quite alkaline, it’s not corrosive to your eggs and the shells will look the way they did when you put them in the water.
When you crack the egg, the yolks and whites will look like fresh eggs. The yolk should be a rich yellow/orange color and the whites will still be clear. You may notice a very slight thinning of the egg white, but that’s ok.
Your eggs are good to go if the whites are clear and there is no odor from the egg. A rotten egg is very obvious when you crack it open!
Will you end up with pickled eggs?
I know, you’re thinking “But aren’t we putting them in pickling lime?”. Yes, you’re putting these eggs in the same type of lime that is used to pickle foods.
But, the bloom and the shell prevent the lime from getting into your eggs. If the lime can’t get to the inside of the egg then the egg doesn’t become pickled. That’s why it’s important to check your eggs for cracks before dropping them into the water.
How to safely work with lime while you’re preserving your eggs
If you buy a bulk bag of hydrated lime, you’ll notice that there are all kinds of warning labels all over it. It can seem a little intimidating when you get ready to use it.
Remember that this type of lime is also used in construction projects. These projects may require massive amounts of lime and the lime gets tossed around. The particles can get into the air and workers can breathe these particles in. This is why you see all of the warning labels.
You’ll be using a small amount of hydrated lime and won’t be tossing it around like they would on a construction site. As long as you aren’t slinging your lime around the kitchen, you’ll just want to keep your hands safe.
The lime does have a high pH. If you were exposed to it for a long period of time, it could cause damage to your skin. Products with high pH won’t ‘burn’ your skin the same way something very acidic would, but they can still cause injury.
You won’t be exposed to the lime long enough to cause burns, but it could lead to dry skin. Wear gloves to prevent your skin from turning into dry lizard skin. 🙂
Are the eggs safe to eat since they are soaking in lime?
Yes. This is a very safe method of preservation.
The lime doesn’t actually get into the eggs. The bloom on the shell and the shell itself prevent the edible part of the egg from coming into contact with the lime.
And, this is the same type of lime that is used for pickling. Hydrated lime, or pickling lime, is a natural product.
There aren’t synthetic chemicals in it. This type of lime is generally made from crushed oyster shells or crushed limestone.
The lime solution isn’t safe to consume. Washing the eggs off before using them is a must to make sure that you aren’t consuming some of that lime water mixture. And again, the lime mix won’t get into the eggs if you place uncracked eggs into the water with the bloom still on them.
Using Preserved Eggs
To use your preserved eggs, remove them from the water and rinse them off under cool water. This will rinse off any lime solution that may be on the outside of the egg.
Once your eggs are rinsed, use them as you would a fresh egg. Scramble them, boil them, bake with them… The options are endless since they are essentially fresh eggs!
If you gradually added eggs to your container, the oldest eggs will be on the bottom. You may want to try to get the bottom eggs out first to use. This will help to keep the eggs as fresh as possible.
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Have you tried the water glassing method of preserving eggs? Are you going to try to preserve your fresh eggs? Let me know below!