With egg prices rising, no caged eggs allowed to be sold in CA, and other factors, eggs prices probably will stay high, and more and more people will try their hand at raising their own hens at home or rely on people who do. In this episode we will discuss the best ways to preserve eggs, and the ways that aren’t recommended.
Hens naturally go through periods where they lay zero or far fewer eggs, specifically when they are molting and many don’t lay when the days shorten during the winter. This period can be between 2-4 months, and for some hens it can be shorter- my hens lay zero while molting but at probably 50% during the winter once their feathers return. Some birds don’t lay at all- I have a few of those hens as well. Egg laying depends on length of day, not temperature. For many who keep hens, there’s a glut of eggs in the spring and summer.
The Nebraska State Extension office says eggs can be preserved 3 ways, not including freeze drying which we will talk about later, and canning isn’t one of them. Eggs can be kept raw below 40 degrees, pickled, and frozen raw.
Pickled eggs are prepared by adding peeled hard boiled eggs covering them in a mixture of vinegar, salt, spices and seasonings.
“Eggs used for pickling should have clean, sound shells. Small or medium eggs are usually a good choice for pickling so the seasoning can penetrate into the egg. Fresh eggs are the best to use for pickling to ensure the highest quality possible since the eggs will be stored over a relatively long period of time. However, eggs at least a few days old will peel better after boiling.”
Use a sterilized (boiled for 10 minutes) jar (canning jars are great) for storing the pickled eggs. A quart jar will hold about a dozen eggs. Small eggs take 1-2 weeks to season (or become deliciously penetrated by the vinegar pickling mixture) and large eggs take 3-4 weeks. Keep refrigerated at all times.
Here are some great recipes from the Nebraska state extension office for pickled eggs.
RED BEET EGGS
1 cup red beet juice (from canned beets)
1½ cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
a few canned whole tiny red beets (or several slices of beets can be used)
SWEET AND SOUR EGGS
1½ cups pasteurized apple cider
½ cup cider vinegar
1 package (about 12 oz.) red cinnamon candy
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spice
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic salt
DARK AND SPICY EGGS
1½ cups cider vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon mixed pickling spice
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke or hickory smoke salt
2 teaspoons salt
1½ cups pasteurized sweet apple cider or apple juice
½ cup white vinegar
6 thin slices of onion
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole pickling spice
1 peeled garlic clove
1½ cups white vinegar
1 cup water
¾ teaspoon dill weed
¼ teaspoon white pepper
3 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon onion juice or minced onion
½ teaspoon minced garlic or 1 peeled garlic clove
PINEAPPLE PICKLED EGGS
1 can (12 oz.) unsweetened pineapple juice*
1½ cups white vinegar
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon whole pickling spice
*If sweetened pineapple juice is used, omit sugar
Recipes and information from:
To wash or not to wash farm fresh eggs: This is a very interesting discussion and the practice of washing eggs in America and all info I got from this article from Food Safety News.
Essentially, egg washing in America began in the early 20th century and by the time we realized washing the eggs caused them to spoil more quickly, the customer was already accustomed to perfectly clean (and more and more often, white) eggs. European egg-eaters didn’t have to transport eggs as far, and their customers never got used to washed eggs and thus, we’ve stayed on our egg-washed path all this time. It is agreed upon that farm fresh eggs are best left unwashed because they are coated with a bloom that naturally protects the porous eggshell from any bacteria entering. “Through time, the European philosophy of foodborne pathogen control has been that prevention is better than the cure.”
It is recommended also, of course, that eggs be completely cooked through to eliminate the risk of salmonella. However, no French cook nor Eggs Benedict lover would cook their eggs through and it seems to be one of those recommendations that are rarely followed, for better or worse. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to loving a runny yolk, and I put raw egg in my coffee.
An excellent blogger I’ve followed for years is Deanna of the blog Homestead and Chill has an even better blog post about washing eggs that details when to wash (right before you use them), why, and she has great tips including storing the eggs on the counter in a skelter so you use oldest eggs first rather than a basket and storing eggs in the fridge in a container rather than open to the air. Her post is here https://homesteadandchill.com/store-fresh-eggs/
Water glassing eggs: This is a method that’s being demonstrated all over social media, and I really was curious about it and I researched quite a bit for myself and for you all. Water glassing eggs is the process of covering eggs in pickling lime and water solution. Pickling lime is also known as calcium hydroxide. This ingredient, when used as a pre-soak for pickled veggies, requires 3+ rinses to get the product off the veggies before canning because of the risk of botulism it presents (in pickling). Industrial lime can be found in cleaners, solvents and cement. Lime ingestion can cause calcium hydroxide poisoning. Lime ingestion when in the pickled vegetable context has been linked directly to a handful of botulism cases.
Pickling lime is no longer sold by Ball, because it is an alkaline chemical (listen to our Acid and Canning episode for more about that) and if the chemical fails to be rinsed properly, the pickled vegetables won’t be acidic enough for water bath or pasteurization (listen to our cucumber pickle episode for more about that). This is specific to canning, but gives me more pause when considering using it for water glassing.
The practice of water glassing became popular at a time when it was thought that eggs were sterile inside and all bacteria came after eggs were laid. Research shows that salmonella can contaminate eggs as they are being formed in the hen, and there’s no way to know if there is salmonella inside your egg or not. Water glassing also requires unwashed eggs and they’ll likely come from smaller flocks. Penn State University found that small home flocks have a much higher incidence of salmonella than in commercial ones (surely due in part to mass farming practices that admittedly have huge problems therein). We aren’t mentioning this to scare anyone but it is something to consider when deciding to or to not waterglass.
Another concern with water glassing leading to it being officially “not recommended” is that the lime water which is hoped to plug the porous egg shell can actually seep inside the egg.
Storing eggs in this way also leads to a loss in nutrients, changes in protein functionality, and sometimes leads to a bitter taste from the lime.
Most compelling for my household is that even pro-glassers admit that the yolks break after being stored in a water glass method. My family would riot if all winter we were trying to fry eggs and having the yolks break. Even if you weren’t worried about salmonella nor the potential effect of ingesting lime, a broken yolk is a tragedy not to be taken lightly.
Kansas State University has a great article that explains this in detail here: https://enewsletters.k-state.edu/youaskedit/2020/11/13/storing-eggs-safely/
Purina Mills (I know, I know, it’s a huge corporation but the information was solid and mirrored what I read in many other places) has an article about how long fresh eggs last and they stated that farm fresh eggs last 4 months or more in the fridge. It was this information that really solidified in my mind that summer’s eggs can be stored to last through the winter especially if used thoughtfully and if a family has enough hens. My recommendation to those interested in storing eggs for the winter would be to refrigerate them.
Eggs can be frozen, but they have the best quality when they are whisked first. I’ve never done this but maybe Anna has.
Finally, eggs can be cooked and preserved via a freeze dryer. Check out our episode about freeze drying for more about these amazing tools.
To conclude we don’t recommend water glassing because of the decreased egg quality, risk of lime contamination, risk of botulism poisoning, and the fact that eggs can be kept for many months in a refrigerator.