In the summer months we have an overabundance of eggs from our backyard chickens. Then, the cold months of late fall and winter come around and egg production dwindles significantly. Thankfully, water glassing eggs is an efficient long-term solution to preserving eggs so we can eat that overabundant supply later in the year.
While some breeds such as New Hampshires and Brahmas will lay through the cold months, most chickens really slow down on production during the winter months. This is mostly due to a lack of light, but weather conditions also play a part.
Some folks choose to add supplemental light in their chicken coops to help boost winter production, but we do not. This means we get very few eggs most of the winter. Yet, we still eat eggs quite frequently.
What is Water Glassing Eggs?
An old preservation method to keep eggs long-term prior to refrigeration, water glassing dates back to the early 1800s. Originally, sodium silicate, also known as water glass, was mixed with water, put in a container and eggs were submerged in the mixture to preserve the eggs.
When sodium silicate is mixed with water and the water begins to evaporate, it turns into a hard, glassy gel. In fact, water glass is often used to seal concrete surfaces or glue together glass and porcelain due to these properties.
Today, most people use calcium hydroxide, or pickling lime, in place of sodium silicate to water glass their eggs. While either substance can be utilized, I use and recommend using pickling lime as it’s more natural and widely available.
Pickling lime, a food grade substance that shouldn’t be confused with other types of lime, is a white powder that was originally used in old fashioned pickling recipes to add crispness to the pickles. It can be found in grocery stores with the canning supplies or online.
Regardless of which substance you use, it is mixed with water in a container and the eggs are submerged into the solution. The process actually seals the eggshell to prevent bacteria from entering the egg, keeping the egg fresh for months, or even years.
Is Water Glassing Safe?
Water glassed eggs that have been submerged in the water glassing solution are safe to eat. The eggs should be thoroughly rinsed of the lime solution before they are used.
When placing eggs into the water glassing solution, care should be used to make sure none of the eggs crack. The smallest of cracks will ruin the entire batch of eggs. Eggs should also be dry and free of debris. Even a speck of chicken poo or mud can ruin the batch.
Can all eggs be water glassed?
All poultry eggs can be water glassed. That being said, the eggs must be fresh and clean of all debris but unwashed. Washed eggs cannot be preserved using the water glassing method as the bloom is no longer intact which will allow the lime water to enter the egg.
This means that store bought eggs, at least in the United States, cannot be water glassed as they are washed and bleached before being sold to consumers. These eggs don’t have the protective coating, known as the bloom, to keep the lime water from entering the egg.
How to Water Glass Eggs
Water glassing is a simple process and the best way to preserve your farm-fresh eggs. You’ll just grab materials, make your solution and place your eggs into it. But, let’s discuss the exact procedure.
The first thing is going to be to grab all of the materials you’ll need to successfully water glass. While there are different methods between using sodium silicate solution and lime solution, I am going to stick with explaining the lime water method.
Pickling Lime – found in the local grocery store with the canning supplies or online, pickling lime, also known as hydrated lime, is a white powdery substance is derived from limestone.
Kitchen Scale – limewater is made by weight not volume, so you need an accurate scale to measure the weight of the lime.
Water – it’s best to use distilled water, this is especially true if you have water high in mineral content or chlorinated.
Food Grade Container – many people use half gallon or one gallon glass jars. I recommend one gallon food grade buckets because the eggs are easier to retrieve out of the bucket than they are out of the glass jars. A one gallon bucket will cover about 2 dozen eggs. Some people use larger buckets, just keep in mind that you have to reach to the bottom to grab the oldest eggs first.
Eggs – Fresh unwashed eggs are necessary for this to work. However, you do not have to add all of the eggs the same day you make the solution, or any eggs at all. You can add fresh eggs as you get them.
- Pickling Lime
- Clean Eggs (with the bloom still intact)
- In a food grade bucket or glass jar combine 1 ounce of pickling lime to 1 quart of room temperature water and mix until lime powder is well dissolved. Note that no matter how much of the solution you make, the ratio of 1 ounce of lime to 1 quart of water will remain the same.
- Add eggs to the liquid gently, with the pointy side of the egg pointing down, making sure the egg is fully submerged into the water glass solution with two inches of liquid remaining above the eggs. Be sure not to crack any eggs when placing them in the solution because a cracked egg will ruin the entire solution and you’ll have to start over.
- Add the lid to the container to prevent evaporation and store in a cool, dark place.
Using Water Glassed Eggs
When you’re ready, grab an egg, preferably from the bottom layer of your bucket if you’ve been adding eggs a few at a time. You can also grab a few eggs that will be used within a couple of days and store these eggs in the refrigerator to prevent needing to get into the container each time you need another egg.
Water glassed eggs can be used the same way as a farm fresh egg just gathered from the coop unless you plan to boil or steam the egg. Since the preserved eggs are no longer porous you’ll want to put a small pinprick in the egg shell prior to boiling or steaming to prevent the egg from exploding.
The texture and flavor of water glassed eggs is very much the same as a fresh egg. So, you don’t have to worry about using them for a freshly fried egg or scrambled eggs. But, they can be used in any way you desire.
If you aren’t boiling the eggs, it’s best to crack them in a separate bowl before using to make sure you don’t have any rotten eggs. Of course, with fresh eggs this is really the best practice anyway because, well, you never know and chickens like to be sneaky with eggs sometimes.
This long-standing historical method for preserving is a fantastic way to preserve dozens of eggs for use all year long instead of having to rely on grocery stores when production drops.