Those experienced in caring for chickens know about water-glassing eggs. It’s no wonder with how many eggs just one hen can produce in a week. Multiply the 5 to 6 eggs one hen lays by 6 or 7, and you’re working with 30 to 42 per week!
Hens also experience a dip in egg production in the winter months, making eggs scarce when you may want them most. I know baking and using the oven in the winter months becomes important, as a way to feed the soul with good food and combat the cold with the oven warmth.
There are only so many farm-fresh eggs one can give away or sell, and only so many around in colder times, which brings the topic of egg preservation to the fore. While there are many methods, water glassing seems to be one of the most viable modes of preserving eggs. So we’ve dedicated this piece to that topic.
If you’re a chicken farmer who wonders, how can I keep all my eggs from spoiling, or how can I have some over winter, look no further! We’ll talk about water-glassed eggs, and how you can preserve eggs at home.
Whether you’re a seasoned chicken farmer, or new to the game, the information here will help you keep more fresh eggs than you have to give away or throw away.
What Is Water Glassing?
Let’s take a moment to discuss the process and where it came from. We’ll touch on the different types of lime you can use, and which are most preferable. We’ll also talk about which eggs are best for this preservation method.
The History of Water Glassing Eggs
This is one of the oldest methods used to preserve eggs, harkening back to the 18th century. Water glassing famously appeared in writing in an 1886 publication by Fannie Farmer called The Boston Cooking School Cookbook. In this book, there is only a brief mention of storing farm-fresh eggs in lime water.
Sodium silicate solutions were and are commonly used in construction, but they have also been used to preserve extra eggs or to have a few eggs in winter. Other types of lime are more food-centric, and therefore it’s easier to assure their safety in food.
Water glassing is a surefire method that is still touted today because 90 to 100% of the fresh eggs stored this way will remain fresh – as long as they are stored properly.
Other methods mentioned in The Boston Cooking School Cookbook include storing eggs pointy side down in sawdust and cooling them to be used within 6 months. However, the success rate of water-glassed eggs is much higher than these methods, and you can keep the clean, unwashed eggs much longer.
Pickling Lime for Preserved Eggs
There are different types of lime out there. You may be aware of garden lime, used to build soil blocks and lower soil pH in the garden. When it comes to glassing eggs, we’re talking about lime water, which generally refers to pickling lime (also known as slaked lime, slacked lime, or hydrated lime) rather than the ground limestone you find in the garden section.
Hydrated lime used for glassing eggs comes from lime deposits, areas where various ocean debris have collected. In the 18th century, people removed this, and then burnt it, hydrated it, and applied a lime solution to buildings to apply a layer of what would become limestone again. This is very similar to the lime water used to keep an egg fresh for a long period.
Today, you can find pickling lime in almost any local grocery store. Some manufacturers sell a sodium silicate solution, which works both to preserve eggs and seal tiles, but there is a question about the toxicity of this silicate. In that regard, we recommend pickling limes rather than those that have applications in construction and home renovation.
Before we talk about your ratio of water to lime and how to carry out the process of water glassing eggs, let’s talk about eggs. It is necessary that you only use fresh eggs.
The eggs should be whole, unwashed, fresh eggs. They shouldn’t have cracks, nor should they be store-bought eggs, because those are washed and pasteurized before they even hit the shelf.
Pasteurization destroys the egg’s bloom coating, which develops on the outside of the egg, and protects its tiny pores from absorbing harmful bacteria that cause rot. It makes sense for eggs sold in the store to be pasteurized, as it’s unsafe to store them for the length of time needed to pack, ship, and refrigerate them in the cooler with bacteria present.
Fresh eggs directly from the coop need that protective layer of bacteria, which allows you to store them without refrigeration for a time. When the bloom is gone, egg shells absorb the hydrated lime used in water glassing.
This changes the molecular composition of the egg, which is the opposite of what you want to do. It also causes problems in preserving the other eggs in the solution. We’ll talk about how to remediate a batch of eggs that have one or two cracked ones in just a bit.
What About Non-Chicken Eggs?
You will succeed most when you use chicken eggs for this process. Using other poultry eggs – like quail eggs, duck eggs, or goose eggs – complicates things because they often are covered in dirt. Gamier birds have their nests in areas that are difficult to keep clean. Trying to clean them before you immerse them in your solution could remove the bloom.
So, while it’s possible to use other kinds of eggs, they may be better suited for later projects when you’ve gotten the hang of water glassing in general. You can lightly clean them and still follow the same steps as you would for chicken eggs, though.
How To Water Glass Fresh Eggs
Now we’ll tackle the entire process of water glassing eggs so you can follow it step-by-step. It’s fairly simple and requires a potentially small amount of maintenance. What you get at the end is essentially a fresh product!
Let’s talk about what supplies you should acquire before embarking on your journey from fresh egg to fresh water glassed egg.
You will need some kind of container to hold the lime water solution as well as your eggs. Kevin uses a large mason jar in the video linked here. You can use one or more of these depending on how many dozen eggs you need to preserve.
Another option for those with tons of eggs is food-grade buckets. These are great when you have a lot to work with. You can also use large water-tight jars, like a glass jar or a keg.
You’ll need room temperature water that does not contain chlorine. The problem with using tap water is that it’s normally treated with chlorine, fluoride, and minerals that can remove the bloom from the shell as the eggs are water glassed.
Opt for distilled water or natural spring water instead. If this isn’t possible, it’s fine to boil tap water for at least 30 minutes which off-gasses the unwanted compounds, and let it cool before you make your lime water.
Of course, you’ll also need your unwashed eggs and lime solution. Whether you’re working with a premade solution or a dry one that requires you to make the brine yourself to keep your eggs fresh is up to you.
Water Glassing Ratio
Let’s talk about how much pickling lime to combine with water to make your lime solution! The general ratio for making your own brine is 1 quart of water for every ounce of pickling lime. If you’re working with a ton of fresh eggs, you’ll likely need to adjust that ratio before you get to the water glass process.
The best way to do this is to measure the number of eggs, by selecting your container (or containers) and seeing how many clean unwashed eggs fit within. Then develop the solution based on the size of your container. For instance, if you’re working with 2 quarts of space, use 2 quarts of water, and 2 ounces of pickling lime. Half a quart needs half an ounce. And so on.
For sodium silicate solutions that are already mixed, use 1 part solution to 10 parts water. While this is the standard for most of these kinds of solutions, always follow the directions on the label. Again, silicates used in construction may be advertised as safe for use in food, but they have higher toxicity than pickling, food-grade limes, which are calcium hydroxide based.
The Process of Water Glassing a Fresh Egg
Finally, we come to covering the water glassing method for keeping eggs fresh. To start, check your eggs to see if they have any dirt or debris on them. If they do, use fine sandpaper to lightly remove any of this. The fineness of the paper will take away detritus without damaging the bloom.
Add eggs into the vessel of your choosing very carefully. Make sure all the eggs you place in the food grade bucket or jar do not get any cracks, because at that point it will be impossible to keep the cracked egg, and you’ll have to do some maintenance to keep the other eggs fresh.
Then create your water glassing solution in a separate bowl or container, mixing your spring water or distilled water (or thoroughly boiled tap water) with the pickling lime at a 1 quart to 1-ounce ratio.
Pour the hydrated lime solution over the fresh unwashed eggs you’ve placed in the air-tight container. Check to see if you have room for more eggs by ensuring there are at least two inches of the solution above the top of the eggs. Then place the air-tight lid over the jar.
Store the eggs that you’ve water glassed out of direct sunlight in a dark place for up to a year and even up to two years!
What To Do About Cracked Eggs
Even the most experienced water glassers sometimes have cracked eggs in their batch. It happens! Thankfully, if you catch this early you don’t risk losing the entire set of eggs your chickens spent time producing and you worked to save.
If you crack an egg when removing another for use, simply take out the cracked one and monitor the batch for signs of decay. Don’t use the egg unless you just cracked it. Cracked ones sitting in the solution could be bad. You can add an extra layer of caution and take out the remaining eggs and place them into a new, clean solution too.
More severe signs that a cracked egg is among your bunch include a cloudy solution, or a foul stench emitting from the container. In this case, it’s best to throw out the batch and start again.
How To Use Water-Glassed Eggs
This egg preservation method makes it so the stored eggs can be used essentially like fresh ones. You will need to clean eggs, removing all the lime from the shell before cooking. Those stored for less than a year will have less of a lime flavor than those stored for a year or more.
The second category of these will be better suited to baking rather than frying, scrambling, poaching, or boiling. But the flavor will not make the egg taste bad if you do opt to simply cook an egg for ramen, or breakfast.
When you have clean eggs, crack them into a cup before throwing them in the frying pan to ensure there were no unexpected egg cracks. This prevents food poisoning, though the potential for this if you’ve done everything right up to this point, is rare.
Another thing to look out for with any farm fresh egg that comes from a hen house with roosters is fertilization. Especially if the eggs aren’t immediately removed from the coop after they’re laid check for this. Make sure fertilization isn’t present before throwing the eggs in a pan by cracking them into a cup.
Boiling Water Glassed Eggs
If you’re going to boil the eggs, make a small hole in the shell because the calcium hydroxide solution seals up the pores of the eggshells. Without any way to release the pressure, the egg could explode as it boils.
Other Preservation Methods
To top this all off, let’s talk about different methods of preserving, aside from the one we’ve examined in detail up to this point. We’ll cover this to more extent in another piece, but for now, here’s a brief explanation of each method.
Crack your eggs into a blender, and use the lowest setting to mix them and scramble them. Then pour them into muffin tins and freeze them. A silicon muffin mold will give you the most ease in removing the eggs after they’ve adequately frozen. Pop them into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for 6 months. Simply thaw them and use them in whatever way you need to – cooking, baking, etc.
For this, you’ll need a dehydrator and pan. Scramble all your eggs or just a few, or blend them just as you would for freezing. Then dry cook them (without any fat, like oil or butter) over low heat in a pan until the water content of the eggs is sufficiently removed.
Place the scrambled eggs in a single layer in a dehydrator at 140°F for 18 hours or until they snap in half. Then powder them with a coffee or spice grinder, throwing in a silica packet halfway through to keep them dry in storage. Store the powdered eggs in a cool dark place in a mason jar for at least 2 years.
With this method, chicken farmers run the risk of food bourne illnesses if the dehydration is not done completely and the egg powder is not stored completely dry. Therefore use caution when dehydrating your eggs.
Advantages and Disadvantages of These Methods
The benefit of using these methods as opposed to the water glassing preservation method is you don’t have to worry about keeping the bloom intact or using chlorine-free water. You also don’t run the risk of accidentally preserving cracked eggs, which results in rotten eggs.
What you miss is the ability to keep your eggs essentially “fresh” for a much longer period. That’s why this method has been employed by homesteaders for centuries and is still widely considered one of the most reliable preservation methods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is water glassing eggs safe?
A: It is generally considered to be safe. If you use food-grade pickling lime and thoroughly wash water-glassed eggs before cooking with them, you’re likely fine.
Having said that, we do have to provide a caveat here. The FDA currently only recognizes one storage method as safe: cracking eggs into a clean container to remove their shells and freezing them. They presently do not recognize other methodologies such as freeze-drying, dehydrating, salt-curing, oil-coated eggs, water-glassing, or other methods that have either been in use for centuries or that are still in modern use abroad. If you want to strictly follow FDA guidelines, be aware that they do not recommend water glass techniques.
With any preservation method, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you ever feel uncertain about using your preserved food (no matter what that food is), opt to throw it out instead. Your health is far more important than a batch of eggs!
Q: What do water glass eggs taste like?
A: They generally taste almost exactly like they did fresh. Some that have been water glassed for about a year can take on a slightly limey taste. If you prefer, use these in baking rather than cooking.
Q: How long do glassed eggs last?
A: They last anywhere from 1 to 2 years. Pretty awesome, huh?
Q: Can you water glass eggs with poop on them?
A: No. Before water glassing eggs, ensure you’ve removed any detritus by brushing the surface lightly with fine sandpaper. Don’t go too hard here to keep the bloom intact.
Q: How tell if a water glassed eggs is bad?
A: There are a couple of signs to look out for while your eggs are in storage. Check for a cloudy solution or a foul smell. Both of these indicate something happened in the process – potentially a cracked egg.
Q: How long will eggs last covered in mineral oil?
A: Coating eggs in mineral oil is a different preservation mode than water glassing eggs. Overall, fresh eggs preserved this way keep for about 9 months.
Q: Do water glassed eggs taste different?
A: Sometimes, only slightly. If they’ve been immersed in the solution for between 1 and 2 years the egg’s contents can take on a limey flavor. Therefore, these eggs are better used in baking.
Q: Can you water glass unwashed eggs that have been refrigerated?
A: For the same reason you shouldn’t use grocery store eggs, don’t use refrigerated ones. They need to be as fresh as possible.