Living on the Edge of Rich World vol III

So a neighbor came by yesterday with 60 dozen double-yolked, fertile turkey eggs and asked me if I wanted some, I said sure.

Turns out he "knows a guy" who works at a turkey ranch and this is turkey incubating time. Turkeys, like all good "modern" CAFO organisms, can't reproduce without human help and part of the industrial process is candling the eggs and discarding the doubles.

Eggs of course are the perfect naturally packaged food capable of remaining edible for at least a couple of months with no refrigeration. With a little care and you can extend that out to 6 months or more.

Eggs with an intact shell are pretty well hermetically sealed - if you handle them carefully and don't wash them, momma hen's own tamper proof container is sealed with an airtight coating known as "bloom". The only thing you can do to improve their 'shelf life' is try to keep out air and keep in the liquids after 'the bloom is off the rose' – sorta-speak.

Anyway, quite a while ago I had purchased a gallon of Sodium Silicate, known as 'waterglass' to your great-gram. We had a bunch of new hens and way too many eggs. Turns out we gave away eggs till things settled down in the hen house and so I still have most of the waterglass concentrate. I paid about $20 for a gallon of concentrate, I think though, if you check the link at the bottom of the blog you can see why the price is $30-something now.

From The Pure Food Cook Book, 1914

WHEN eggs are their cheapest and best, in May or early June, and before the really hot weather has come, the wise householder will put away, in water glass, a liberal quantity. If possible, " put down " enough to carry the family through the months when eggs " soar." If carefully packed, and if there are not more than three or four dozen in a crock, and again if they are kept covered with the water glass, they will keep well.

I posted these directions on a message board a few years ago:

One gallon of the solution (1 pint of sodium silicate solution to 9 or 10 pints of water yielding a little more than a gallon) should preserve 75 to 100 dozen eggs (900 - 1200 eggs) according to Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living Old Fashioned Recipe Book. If you want smaller quantities just keep the ratio intact at the 1:9 ratio. ie: 1/2 cup to 4 1/2 cups or 1 cup to 9 cups or 1 pint to 9 pints of water. Here are the details of the method referred to as the Water-glass method. Pack the eggs when they are between 24 hours and 4 day old. Older eggs don't keep as well. Unfertilized eggs will keep longer than fertilized eggs. 

Start with a clean crock* or (6 gallon food grade) deep plastic pail. Boil the water and let it cool before you add it to the waterglass. Then pour the mixed solution into the crock or pail. Remember not to fill the crock or container more than about one third full of the solution because you will be adding eggs.
Add the eggs. Do not wash the eggs before preserving them because the egg shell has a natural sealer on it that will be removed. Dirty eggs can be washed and used immediately. Make certain there is an extra 2 inches of solution covering them. In hot weather it evaporates pretty fast so watch it carefully. Cover the container as tightly as you can to ensure that no insects can enter the container. Store it in a cool dark place. Don't let it freeze. 

It starts out as a clear liquid but gradually turns to a cloudy jelly. When adding additional eggs or making up for loss due to evaporation, just be sure to cover them with about 2 inches of solution mixed at a 1:9 ratio. Preserving the eggs in this manner will keep them for up to one year. Eggs should be washed thoroughly before using.
Be sure to follow any safety tips or directions on the sodium silicate container or from the pharmacist while handling the solution or Sodium Silicate itself.

Another old link,  and 'nother link with instruction for use of dry sodium silicate,   and last but best, the great egg stor-off from, of course,  Mother '77.

And a more modern use for "waterglass"but don't tell where you heard it...

I looked for an old-timey version of "turkey in the Straw" and found Liberace but decided to link this by Cousin Emmy because it's just better on it's face.


*Most any container without a toxic history should do to store your eggs but be careful when using a croc...



hickchick said...

Great tip-- I have to admitt to being thoroughly brainwashed because I can't imagine eggs lasting that long. However I am open to being re-educated!

Pops said...

think egg factories have 30 days to get eggs to the store, I don't think there is a federal law requiring a sell by date but if one is shown it must be less than 45 days from the packing date and the USDA says you have 5-6 weeks to use them.

Eggs get old because the liquid inside dissipates through the shell leaving a larger and larger air space. To see how old an egg is put it in a cup of water, the faster it sinks the fresher, the faster it floats the older.

That's why the old methods of preserving: waterglass, lard, Vaseline, etc try to seal in the moisture.

Also as they get old the yolk gets runny and they probably loose some of their ability to do whatever it is they do in cooking.

Spoiling is different, it's caused by bacteria that enters through tiny cracks in the shell or rarely, introduced by the hen. But either way, refrigerator temperatures won't kill all bacteria, salmonella for one, only cooking completely to 160* will kill the bacteria.

Of course the USDA recommends a home test to tell if an egg is spoiled – crack it open, if it smells like rotten eggs, don't eat it! Cleaver scientists! ;^)

So refrigerator cold doesn't keep eggs from drying out or eliminate bacteria already inside either, mostly it keeps stuff from growing on the outside of the shell and makes people "feel" safer.

Here is the USDA egg page.

Backyard Chickens

Remember, I'm no expert (on purpose) – never take advice from some guy on the internet without doing your own research.