We decided to add chickens to our homestead a few years back to have the freshest, healthiest eggs we could.
Before my garden is planted in the Spring and after it is harvested in the Fall, the chickens are allowed to free range (at some point I think we will fence the garden, but this works for now).
During the summer months in between, we give them the “free range” experience by using our DIY chicken tractor setup and move them to fresh grass each day.
With all the good nutrients they are eating, we end up with an excess of farm fresh eggs with the most beautiful, bright orange yolks.
I have sold some of the extra eggs, however I also wanted to have a way to keep some fresh for the winter months for when our chickens stop laying as many eggs.
Typically, you can get away with storing unwashed eggs in the fridge for a few months – if you have the space! But I didn’t want several dozen eggs taking up shelf space in my fridge for months at a time…
So what other options are there for long-term storage for these eggs?
I have seen ideas for easily freezing eggs, which I may still try at some point, but that takes up freezer space (instead fridge space).
The other option is powdering the eggs. I may try this option, too! That being said, powdered eggs likely limit your options to scrambled eggs and using them in baking.
My mom had sent me info on water glassing eggs, which I found intriguing.
What is water glassing?
The concept of water glassing eggs is to take clean (but unwashed), raw eggs and preserve them in a mixture of water and pickling lime.
Apparently this method has been around since the 1800’s, which certainly makes sense; before all of our modern technology, people had to be smarter about preserving their food and making it last.
Why unwashed eggs?
Let me back up a moment and explain why it is so important that the eggs are clean, unwashed!
The egg has a protective coating on it, called the “bloom.” This essentially seals the egg.
When you wash an egg, the bloom feels almost like a thin, slimy layer (and comes off when washed).
Egg shells are very porous, so without the bloom to protect them, they go bad much more quickly.
In order to make sure I was collecting clean eggs from the chickens, I simply was diligent in keeping their coop clean with plenty of fresh shavings in the nest boxes – and I collected eggs as soon as it got light out.
The sooner eggs are collected, the less chance they have of getting pooped on or stepped on by muddy feet.
If I had eggs that did get pooped on, I washed those and used them for our daily cooking rather than water glassing them.
Can you water glass store bought eggs?
I know the question will be asked, “Can store bought eggs be used for water glassing?” Maybe, but not likely.
Why do I say this? Two reasons. You want to use fresh eggs so they last longer and store bought eggs aren’t always the freshest. The second reason brings us back to the importance of the eggs being unwashed; you don’t want lime water seeping through your egg shells into the eggs. If there is a chance the eggs have been washed, I wouldn’t waste my time (or the eggs).
What if I want to test my eggs to see if they are good?
Another common question I have heard is, “Can I do a float test to see if my eggs are still good?”
The concern is this; if you are not supposed to wash them, are you allowed to do a float test to make sure your eggs are all still good enough to use?
You can definitely do this! The trick is to do your float test in the same mixture of water and pickling lime that the eggs are going to be stored in.
The process of water glassing eggs
Water glassing eggs is so simple and fast.
- Start with a clean container; I used a large glass pickle jar.
- Add your clean, unwashed eggs.
- Combine your water and pickling lime in a separate bowl, then pour over the eggs (you can mix it in your storage container before adding the eggs, but you’ll have to guess how much you need).
- Cover and store in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use your water glassed eggs!
If you want, you can add eggs each day as you collect them; we have 10 hens and the pickle jars I used hold about 30 eggs, so I just added our extra eggs each day for about a week until the jar was full and then topped up the lime solution to completely cover the eggs.
Which brings me to another important point; you want to make sure the eggs are completely covered by the pickling lime solution.
The pickling lime solution is an easy 1-to-1 ratio; one quart of water mixed with one ounce of pickling lime. If you are making a larger batch, it is easy math to figure out how much water and pickling lime you need.
Pickling lime can be irritating for your skin, so I wouldn’t soak your hands in the solution – but reaching in to grab an egg or two as needed with bare hands hasn’t bothered my skin.
I always rinse my eggs off after pulling them out of the lime solution, before cracking the egg, just to make sure I’m not getting any pickling lime in our meal.
How long do water glassed eggs last?
Online searches will tell you 12-18 months, if stored properly.
Right now, we are using eggs that I water glassed in October, 2021 – and today is January 24th, 2023! So yes, the 12-18 month shelf life is very realistic.
Does water glassing eggs change the flavour?
So far, I haven’t noticed a difference in the flavour.
The biggest difference I have noticed is the texture of the eggs; the egg white is more watery than a same-day-fresh egg. The yolks, however, are still the same bright orange color!
When you first mix your lime solution, it will have a murky, milky look to it. Over time, the pickling lime seems to settle to the bottom of the jar in a white layer, leaving the rest of the liquid clear.
This is quite normal and hasn’t caused any issues for me.
I also had a slight crust form at the top of the lime solution over time, which also has not caused any issues.
I have read that water glassed eggs may not do as well for boiled eggs since the shells are slightly soft after sitting in the pickling lime solution for 12-18 months, however I have not tested this opinion myself.
I have used the water glassed eggs for fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and in baking… and you wouldn’t know they were over a year old! Crazy, right?
In this modern day of consumerism, I think it is so grounding to try old (even “outdated”) methods of being just a little more self sufficient and cutting down on waste.
At one point before we got chickens, I couldn’t even find eggs at the grocery store because of supply chain issues.
And right now, I keep hearing about the exorbitant prices for eggs at the store!
So yes, I am very content to look after my little flock of chickens, feed them veggie scraps, let them free range, and preserve the eggs we collect from them.