Chicken farmers benefit from knowing how to preserve eggs! Knowing how to keep fresh eggs for longer is a great skill, whether it’s a surplus or a shortage. With so many ways to preserve eggs, there’s definitely at least one that you’ll like.
Say you have about a dozen eggs coming from your coop per week. You can quickly eat fresh eggs from the farm to prevent spoilage or preserve them for later use. The latter also helps with the drop in egg production for laying hens in the winter months.
Knowing basic ways and other egg preservation methods is important, and practicing them isn’t just instructive – it’s fun! Some methods are best suited for eggs used in baking, and others keep a fresh egg fresh.
Here, we’ll cover preserving eggs, why people do this, and how to do different methods at home.
The Purpose of Preservation
Chicken farming is as old as agriculture, with archaeological evidence of domestication dating to over 8000 years ago in Southeast Asia. Initially, preservation was a matter of necessity. Until the World War II era, there were no home refrigerators and freezers. Humans developed ways to keep their eggs fresh for longer. Many techniques, like salt preservation, pickling, or canning, originated where chicken domestication began.
Preservation occurs for the two reasons we’ve mentioned: either a surplus of eggs or access to eggs when production naturally declines. There are also culinary reasons for preserving fresh farm eggs.
Preservation allows you to have fresh or frozen eggs at your disposal for a long time. Using different methods, you can store and use eggs in a way that provides foods with different textures and flavor profiles. These techniques save you some extended labor and time. Instead of trying to find someone to take your extra eggs, you have them available to be used as needed.
One of the issues that arise is food safety. We’ll discuss this in more detail later, but certain preserved eggs require different processes to prevent food poisoning. Another issue is storage. Maybe you’ve got tons of eggs, everything you need to preserve them, but no space to keep them; perhaps you’re living on a homestead without immediate access to amenities. This can make acquiring materials difficult or time-consuming.
Many methods require fresh eggs that haven’t been washed. Some you can carry out with store-bought eggs. The vast majority of the methods we’ll discuss here are for chicken farmers who regularly deal with fresh batches of eggs. However, we will discuss a few you can do with store-bought eggs.
Some also require that you use chicken eggs, as other types of eggs may not be laid in an area as clean as a regularly-maintained coop. Cleaning them can sometimes disrupt the process of preservation.
Ways To Preserve Eggs
Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and disadvantages of preserving eggs let’s examine the methods in detail. We’ll touch on food safety first and then get into the specifics of each.
A Word On Food Safety
There is no guarantee that dehydration will adequately kill bacteria that can remain in dried eggs. Therefore, while we cover this method, know it is not guaranteed to be safe. If you’re going to dehydrate, cook the eggs first and use them quickly, keeping them in a very dry place.
Always use clean implements – sterilized if possible. You may need to sterilize some preservation liquids to prevent infiltration and proliferation of bacteria. While some methods are sterile by nature of their chemistry, others require more careful food storage.
Always use caution when canning and preserving any food!
Currently, the FDA’s only recommended long-term storage method for eggs is removing their shells and freezing them. They do not advocate any of the many and varied ways of storing eggs used historically and throughout the rest of the world. Alternative methods that the FDA does not recommend range from freeze-drying and dehydrating to salt-curing egg yolks, pickling, water glassing, and more.
The FDA’s guidelines are based on commercial eggs found in the United States. Here in the States, all commercial eggs are pasteurized before they’re sold (with the exception of a few small home farmers who sell their chickens’ eggs through smaller locations). This is also why the FDA recommends that whole eggs be stored under refrigeration. The pasteurization process strips the exterior of the shell from its “bloom”, or protective coating that was on its surface when it was laid. Many of the alternative methods for whole-egg storage require the presence of the bloom for safety.
As with any food preservation method, if you ever are even the slightest bit uncertain about the food’s safety, don’t eat it. This is true no matter whether it’s an approved method or not! You’re the ultimate arbiter of what goes into your mouth or into the mouths of your family and friends through your cooking, and if there’s ever any cause for concern, your best bet is to choose an alternative.
In a commercial egg dehydration operation, certain processes prevent bacteria from getting into the finished product. Even though it’s difficult to ensure the same at home, let’s discuss how to dehydrate eggs.
Crack all your eggs into a blender or bowl to be slowly scrambled. Take the low-scrambled eggs, and dry-cook them in a pan without oil or butter. Cook them until they are fluffy and somewhat dry. Then, place them in a dehydrator at 140° F for 18 hours, or until they snap in half and are completely dry.
Make an egg powder by grinding the dehydrated eggs in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Throw in a food-grade silica gel about halfway through the grind to keep your eggs dry in storage. Store the powdered eggs in an airtight container in a cupboard for up to 6 months. Always check the eggs for mold or strange odors before using them.
One commonly reported issue with this method is the powdered eggs are edible but don’t have the best flavor.
There are two ways to freeze eggs. The first and easiest is to scramble them and freeze them in batches in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Thaw and cook them in oil as needed later. Store them in freezer bags to prolong their life and prevent freezer burn. They’ll last about 2 to 4 months this way and are best when used right away.
Alternatively, begin making scrambled eggs in a blender on low. Then pour the eggs evenly into sections of a muffin pan or ice cube tray (preferably made of silicon for ease of extraction) and freeze them. Remove them from the trays and store them in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 1 year. Thaw them to use in cooking and baking as needed.
Freeze Drying Eggs
Another way to have powdered eggs is to freeze-dry them. Freeze-dried eggs require a home dryer. Combine the eggs on low in a blender. Pour them evenly into the dryer tray and place them in your freezer.
Allow the liquid eggs to freeze overnight, then place them in the freeze-dryer. Insert the insulating slip, and dry them anywhere from 20 to 24 hours or until they’re completely dry. Make egg crumbles out of the sheets, or powder them just as you would dehydrated eggs.
Keep these eggs stored in a mason jar to use within a few days. If you want to keep them longer, drop an oxygen absorber in the jar, seal it, and store it in a dark, dry cupboard. You can also use a vacuum-sealed jar to store freeze-dried eggs.
One interesting way to preserve raw eggs is to dip them in mineral oil. The oil coats the shell, sealing the pores that would otherwise allow the egg to breathe and spoil over time. For this method, you need to heat the oil ahead of time to 180° F for 20 minutes before coating the eggs. Have some gloves handy for this one, and use eggs that have been laid within the last 24 hours. That’s right! We’re talking about how to store fresh eggs.
Put some of the sanitized oil on your gloved hand. Coat eggs in mineral oil and place them in boxes or back in the carton pointy side down. Every week, flip the entire carton over to keep the yolk intact. Eggs preserved in mineral oil can be kept at room temperature for 3 months. Store them between 65°F and 68°F at 75% humidity in a dark place for 6 to 9 months, or store them in the refrigerator for 9 to 12 months.
After coating eggs in mineral oil, you can’t use them in cakes because the process changes the foaming potential of egg whites. Similarly, over time oil preservation can change the flavor of the egg, making it less than desirable due to the oil going rancid. Use the same process with coconut oil to prevent foul flavors.
Pickling and Canning Eggs
There are dangers involved in consuming pickled eggs because there is no way to ensure botulism doesn’t develop in the canning or pickling solution or the eggs themselves. It’s important to keep them in the refrigerator during the storage period of four months.
To pickle them in vinegar, you’ll need cooked eggs – hard-boiled and peeled. You’ll pickle whole eggs via salt brine fermentation, a form of lacto fermentation (like the kind done with the Kraut Source kit in our store). Make a brine of 1 cup of vinegar to 1 teaspoon of salt. Then prepare your sterilized jars, packing them with all the eggs you’ve boiled.
Pour the brine over, add spices and flavor elements to flavor the eggs, and seal the jars for 1 to 2 weeks. Then enjoy! Duck eggs, quail eggs, and goose eggs are perfect for pickling too.
Keep a whole egg fresh with salt, animal shortening, and a foam cooler. A large cooler and a gradual approach are best if you have a ton of eggs. If you just have a few eggs you’d like to preserve, a smaller container is just fine.
Line the bottom of your cooler with salt, covering the bottom so the eggshells won’t touch the cooler interior. Then cover each egg in shortening, and place them in a single layer on top of the salt. Add another generous layer of salt.
If you have many dozens to preserve, carry out the process for several days, laying one level per day. Between these shifts, place the cooler lid securely on. Keep it in a cool, dry place for about 3 to 4 months. These eggs are best suited to baking as the salt will dry them slightly over time.
Salt-preserving egg yolks allow the “good bacteria” to proliferate, while “bad bacteria” can’t cause spoiling. Separate your whites from your yolks. Turn your whites into frozen eggs if you’d like to use them later, or use them immediately to prevent spoilage. Grab a baking dish or plastic container that has a tight sealing lid.
Use a spoon to make an indentation on a ½-inch layer of salt for each yolk. Place each egg yolk in its slot. Cover them with at least ¼ inch of salt. Put the container in the fridge and wait 1 week.
Finally, dry the yolks. Gently take them out of the container, and place them on cheesecloth. Lightly wrap the cloth around the yolks and then tie off each yolk with some string. They’ll look like a string of candies this way. Hang-dry them for about a week in the refrigerator. They should be firm but not tough when they’re completely dried. Use your salt-cured yolks in a grated form on any dish that would benefit from protein and tangy flavor.
We have a great video and article about the topic of water glassing eggs! Water-glassed eggs are fresh eggs left in a jar of a lime solution, also called water glass, hydrated lime, lime water, or slaked lime. For this method, do not wash the eggs and only use fresh farm ones. This ensures the bloom is left intact.
In the past, and to this day, people used sodium silicate solutions to water glass eggs from their chickens. These solutions were and are also used in construction. While some companies recommend using their silicate solution brand, it’s best to use food-grade pickling lime instead.
Place the unwashed eggs in a jar, being careful not to crack them. Make a solution of lime and water at a ratio of 1 ounce of powder to 1 quart of water. Make enough to cover your eggs with at least 2 inches of liquid. Pour it over, seal the container and keep it in a cool, dark place for anywhere between 1 to 2 years.
This keeps your eggs essentially “fresh” for that period. You’ll want to crack each egg into a cup before using them to see whether they are fertilized eggs or unfertilized eggs and that they’re good to use. You won’t see much difference in flavor until the latter part of the storage period.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Everyone knows about hard-cooked eggs! Use them for egg salad, egg sandwiches, and deviled eggs. This helps you keep your eggs – that might be about to spoil – slightly longer. Here you can use farm eggs or store-bought.
My favorite way to hard boil eggs is in an electric pressure cooker, cooking them at high pressure for 4 minutes. You can also do this on the stovetop by placing eggs in a pan full of water with a healthy dash of salt over medium-high heat. Allow the water and eggs to come to a boil for about 17 minutes. Then take the eggs out and soak them in ice water for about 15 minutes. Store them in the refrigerator for 1 week.
You can use up several eggs by making egg noodles. Do this by hand, rolling out the dough into very thin strips with a rolling pin. Or use a hand-crank pasta maker or an electric one. Use them right away or keep them in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Freezing baked goods to save for holiday baking is a great way to save some time in the holiday season. Bake your preferred confection (one that requires several eggs) and freeze it. If you’re working with brownies or a cake, slice them ahead of time and thaw individual pieces to eat them as you like. Take the batter of the baked good and put even amounts in ice cube trays to be baked later. For both baked and unbaked batters, consume them within 2 months.
One way I like to use up a lot of eggs is to make breakfast tacos and burritos, wrap them in foil, freeze them, and eat them within a couple of weeks. Whenever I want to eat one, I’ll microwave it for a minute or two – until they’re hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can you preserve raw eggs?
A: You can! The best way is by water glassing eggs.
Q: Can you preserve eggs long-term?
A: Yes. See the oil preservation and water glassing techniques here.
Q: How did they preserve eggs in the old days?
A: Water glassing, mineral oil, and salt preservation were some of the premiere ways.
Q: How long can eggs be stored without refrigeration?
A: It depends on the method you’ve chosen.
Q: How do you pickle eggs for long-term storage?
A: See the pickling eggs section above.
Q: Can you use olive oil to preserve eggs?
A: Yes. Use the mineral oil preservation technique described above.
Q: Are water glassing eggs safe?
A: If the process is carried out properly, and the storage time hasn’t exceeded 2 years, you’re in the clear.
Q: Why do farm fresh eggs not have to be refrigerated?
A: They have a protective coating called the bloom, which inhibits bad bacteria from entering the egg’s pores, causing spoilage.