Having chickens that can provide us with eggs is one of the most ideal ways to have a solid, healthy source of food literally in our own backyard. Plus, eggs are a highly nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals that will keep our tummies full and our bodies fueled.
In a post-collapse world, chances are you will not have refrigeration, and even if you do, your chickens will have an egg-laying schedule that does not jive with your eating schedule. At times, chickens produce far more eggs than you can eat, and at other times, they don’t produce anything.
By being able to preserve eggs, you can even out the supply of these little white (or brown) gems and be eating eggs throughout the year.
Things to Know Beforehand
First and foremost, you can’t take just any eggs and preserve them. Eggs off the grocery store shelf won’t work, at least when it comes to North American grocery stores. In much of the world, grocers keep their eggs unwashed and unrefrigerated. These eggs are only washed when it is time to use them. In North America, the fear of lawsuits ensures our grocery store eggs are presented clean and pretty.
It is critical that you use unwashed, farm-fresh eggs that are clear of cracks. Why unwashed you ask? Because eggs straight from the chicken and unwashed actually come with a natural sealing agent called bloom. This bloom protects the egg from the environment around it, sealing it off from bacteria, oxygen, and any other nasties floating around in the air.
There are many ways to preserve eggs, both with or without refrigeration. Some of these methods are better than others. Some are easier than others. Let’s take a look at the best methods of preserving eggs.
Just Let Them Sit
Yup, as long as you have fresh, unwashed eggs, you can simply let them sit, provided the temperature does not get above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). A cold room would work well.
Eggs will keep for up to three months like this, provided the humidity level is around 75%. If you are keeping the eggs on your counter, they will last for two weeks. Remember to keep the eggs in the carton because it helps reduce the amount of condensation on the shells.
Sealed Container in Fridge
If you do have refrigeration, then the very best way to store eggs for the long-term is to put them in a sealed container or their carton in the fridge. They should be stored between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 5 degrees Celsius) and will keep that way for at least seven months. After this amount of time, the whites might get a little runny, but otherwise the texture is good and they taste great.
Storage in Salt, Wet Clay, or Other Substance
The ancient Chinese people used to store their eggs in salt and lime, wet clay, cooked rice, or salt and wood ashes mixed in an infusion of tea. These eggs would be stored for years this way, and although they looked bad (yolks that were greenish-gray and albumen that looked brown and jelly-like) they could be safely eaten.
Cured Egg Yolks
This is a great way to preserve the yolks of your eggs. You will want to put down half an inch of salt in a container of some sort. Make depressions in the salt that will hold the yolks. Then you will separate the eggs yolks from the whites, making sure that the yolk does not break.
Set the whites aside to use later and place the yolk on the salt. You can place more than one yolk side by side if the container is big enough, but do not let them touch more than slightly so the salt can surround them.
Pour more salt over the yolks and cover the container. Leave them in the fridge for one week, then remove them from the salt. The yolks will be hard by this time. Wrap them in cheese cloth and hang them in the fridge for one to two weeks. You can then leave them in the cheesecloth and store them in a container in the fridge. They will keep for at least a year this way.
Yes, you can freeze eggs! Again, this is if you have electricity and the ability to do this. You will need to remove them from their shells to freeze them. You can mix them together or freeze them separately. Small portions work well for this method of preparation and using an ice cube tray is ideal.
One egg will fill two compartments in an ice cube tray. Another great option is a popsicle mold. When you want to use the eggs, let them thaw in the fridge and then you can scramble them, make French toast, or bake with them.
Coating/Immersing in Oil
Coating fresh eggs in food-grade mineral oil is a great way to preserve eggs. You will want to use ¼ cup oil for 4-6 dozen eggs:
- Warm the oil and lay your eggs out on the counter.
- Wear food-handling gloves or medical gloves and get some oil on your hands.
- Then pick up an egg and rub the oil all over it. It can go on thick, but the most important thing is to ensure the entire surface of the shell is coated.
- Repeat this with all the eggs, replacing them in the cartons with the smaller, pointy side down.
You can store these for a few weeks at room temperature and longer at slightly cooler temperatures, about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). You should turn the carton over once a month so that the yolk will remain intact.
An alternative to this is to immerse the eggs in food-grade mineral oil, olive oil, or another type of oil in a large sealable container, such as a food-grade 5-gallon bucket. This will buffer the eggs from the air very well. You can also coat the eggs in lard or shortening. Finally, when coated in oil and stored this way, the eggs are no longer usable as a leavening agent when making cakes.
Finally, you can thermos-stabilize the eggs prior to coating them in oil. This is done by immersing the eggs in boiling water for a short time in order to cause a thin layer of albumen to coagulate directly beneath the shell. However, when the egg is used, you will have this consistency that you might not want, depending on your intended use for the eggs.
Water-glass is a solution of sodium silicate that will fill the pores of the egg shell to keep out air and contaminants. It is a method of egg preservation that has been used for decades and was particularly popular during World War II.
Water-glass comes in powder form and you mix one part water-glass to nine parts water (or as directed on packaging). Be sure to boil the water and cool it first to ensure it is free of bacteria and other contaminants.
Once you have the water-glass solution mixed, ideally in an earthenware crock, place the eggs in the solution, ensuring there is a minimum of 2 inches of water-glass above the eggs. You will get about 16 dozen eggs preserved for every quart of water-glass solution and the eggs will keep for several months.
There are some things to remember about water-glass preservation. First, the best eggs to use are those that are at most three days past laying. Shells must be clean (wiped with a damp cloth; not washed) and there must be no cracks in any of the eggs.
One egg with even the tiniest crack will go bad and one bad egg will cause all the other eggs in the solution to spoil. Also be sure to sterilize the crock before using and go by a first-in-first-out procedure when using the eggs.
Isinglass is a form of gelatin obtained from fish, particularly sturgeon, and it is resistant to bacteria. Note that liquid paraffin can also be used. As with water-glass, the eggs should be wiped clean and free of cracks:
- Mix the Isinglass with water according to package directions.
- Heat the mixture and then let it cool.
- Once cooled it will be a white jelly-like liquid.
- Place eggs pointed end down in a crock and pour the cool Isinglass over the eggs, completely covering them.
You can then cover the crock to keep dirt out and remove eggs only as you need them.
Egg Preservation French-Style
The French style of preserving eggs is a variation on the oil preservation:
- You will melt 2 ounces of beeswax into 4 ounces of olive oil.
- Dip your eggs into the wax-oil mixture and lay them to dry.
- Then place them pointy side down in an air-tight container that contains course sea salt.
- The eggs must be completely covered by the salt and they cannot be touching each other.They will keep for up to two years in this manner.
You might think of pickling as something you do with plant-based foods, but you can also pickle eggs. Pickling eggs is a great and tasty way to preserve them. Be sure to have your jar(s) sterilized ahead of time. Choose fresh eggs and hard boil them using your preferred method. Once boiled, transfer the eggs to an ice bath and when they are cooled, peel the eggs and place them in your sterilized jar.
Next you need to make your brine. You will need:
- 6 cups water
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- Any seasonings you choose, such as salt and peppercorns or curry seasonings
- Beet juice (optional if you want pink eggs)
Bring the brine to a boil and let it simmer for ten minutes, then strain it and pour it into the jar with the eggs. Be sure to completely cover the eggs with the brine. Put on the lid tightly and refrigerate. You will need to wait between one and four weeks for the eggs to absorb the seasoning, depending on the size of the eggs. They will keep up to four months.
Making dehydrated eggs is quite easy. You can either crack them or mix them together or you can separate the yolks from the whites and dehydrate these separately. Spread them in thin layers on the dehydrator trays (be careful, they will run easily!) and dehydrate them at 135 degrees for 6-8 hours. Stirring the eggs about halfway through the dehydration process will help get rid of any skin forming on top of the eggs.
Once done you can crumble or powder the eggs and store them in jars. If powdered finely enough, you might be able to fit a dozen eggs into ½ pint jar! The best thing is, once the eggs are reconstituted, they can be cooked up or used in baking the same as fresh eggs, yet it takes so much less space to store them than it takes for whole eggs.
Regardless of how you have chosen to preserve your eggs, be sure that when it comes time to use them you break them over a separate dish, rather than over the food to which you are adding them or the pan in which you are cooking them. There are two reasons for this, the first of which is that these are unwashed eggs that might still have chicken doo-doo on them or other nasty stuff from the hen house.
For this reason, you should also separate eggs with your hand, rather than the shell. Here’s how:
The second reason is that you might end up with the odd spoiled egg and you should make sure they are good before you add them to the pan or the food. It is always wise to test the eggs by placing them in a dish of water. If any of them float, then they are spoiled and you don’t want them.
Preserving eggs to keep in your food stores is smart because it will ensure your family has a good source of protein when food is scarce. Having enough eggs in your food stores to get you by until you can establish a new food source will give you considerable peace of mind, particularly when the going gets tough. At the very least, preserving your eggs, even in good times, will ensure you don’t waste eggs when your chickens go on a laying binge.