Practical Self Reliance: Storing Fresh Eggs in Limewater (Keeps 12+ Months)

Ashley Adamant at Practical Self Reliance has a good article on preserving fresh eggs – Storing Fresh Eggs in Limewater (Keeps 12+ Months)

The practice of storing eggs in lime water goes back centuries, and it’s still one of the best ways to preserve eggs without refrigeration.

Anyone whose kept chickens knows that egg production doesn’t always line up with demand.

In the spring months, you’ll be buried in fresh eggs, right when you’re excited to be outdoors planting the garden and couldn’t care less about baking.  Production stays strong all summer when it’s too hot to run the oven and you’re too worn out in the evenings to bother anyway.

Then in the fall, right as cozy weather starts, production starts to slip.  By winter, when the days are short and you’re ready for some comfort food baking, they may have stopped laying altogether.

These days, industrial chicken operations turn on banks of lights to keep the ladies cranking out eggs year-round (and just replace the chickens at 2 years old as they wear out from laying nonstop).  That’s a relatively new thing though, and the option of a steady year-round egg supply has only really existed for the past few decades.

Historically, how did people preserve eggs to ensure a steady winter supply?

The answer is, they had literally dozens of methods to preserve eggs.  They stored them in wood ash, wheat bran, and straw, or coated them with butter or lard, or kneaded them into homemade pasta that was hung to dry.

Most of the methods rely on a few simple principles:

  1. Start with clean, fresh eggs.
  2. Don’t wash the eggs at all.  That removes their natural “bloom” that prevents bacteria from entering through pores in the shell.
  3. Keep the eggs cool, but not too cold.  An egg is a living thing, and it’ll stay fresh best unwashed and at around 50 degrees (root cellar cool).
  4. If possible, seal the pores off further to prevent contamination within the egg.  Oil, ash, and lime are the most popular choices.

Simply storing fresh, unwashed eggs in a cool environment (around 50 degrees) will buy you a lot of time.  We’ve taken our fresh eggs and stored them in the basement dependably for up to 4 months, and occasionally as long as 6 months, no treatment required (so long as they’re not washed).

If you’d like to dependably store eggs for longer than 4 months, like if you’re trying to store an overabundance of spring eggs for the next winter’s baking, you’ll need a bit of help to get them to keep that long.

While many different methods work, most have drawbacks.  Storing in ash, for example, makes the eggs taste a bit musty and smokey.  Storing in salt draws water out of the egg, and makes them taste a bit salty.

Storing eggs in sodium silicate, known as “Waterglassing” was really popular for a time.  Incredibly dependable, the eggs didn’t spoil for years…but they changed.

Sodium silicate is used for sealing tile these days, and it softened the shells and penetrated the eggs…changing their flavor, and even their structure.  Waterglassed eggs whites won’t whip, and there’s never really been any testing on the impacts of eating a boatload of sodium silicate for breakfast.

So what does work?  Storing eggs in a food-safe lime solution made with pickling lime (calcium hydroxide).

The calcium solution seals the eggshells and effectively preserves the eggs for a year or more.

Though it’s called “pickling lime” it doesn’t make pickled eggs.  The process keeps the eggs in their same state, and once you pull them out of the solution they can be used just like a fresh egg.  They fry up beautifully, and the white still whip to stiff peaks.

It’s called “pickling lime” because it’s used to firm up veggies before pickling, namely dill pickles, and old fashioned watermelon rind pickles.  It works the same way to firm up the eggshells and seal them at the same time.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s someone cooking with eggs after a full year in lime water:

How to Preserve Eggs in Lime Water

Preserving eggs in lime water starts with making a lime/water solution.  The ratio is one ounce of lime powder (by weight) to one quart of water.

(That’s about 28 grams per quart of water or about 2 heaping tablespoons.)

Lime for Preserving Eggs

I’ll measure out the solution in a quart mason jar, and one quart of the solution is just about right for filling a half-gallon mason jar once the eggs have been added.

Give the jar a shake, and you’ll have a milky white liquid.  Much of the lime will settle out to the bottom over time (that’s normal), but what you’re doing here is making a saturated lime solution.

Some sources say that as little as 1 part lime to 700 parts water creates a saturated solution, but other sources say that the lime may not be completely pure and you need to use a bit more to be sure.  Still, others recommend as much as 1 part lime to 2 parts water.

At a rate of one ounce to a quart, there’s a lot that settles out of solution, and it’s a good middle ground that ensures that the solution is saturated (without wasting a boatload of lime in the process).

lime water solution

Carefully select eggs that are super fresh and clean, without cracks or issues, pulled from clean nesting boxes that day.

Fill a clean jar with the eggs, and then pour the lime-water solution over the eggs.  Be sure that the eggs are completely submerged and then cap up the jar.

Pouring lime solution over fresh eggs

Cap up the jar, and store in a cool place, like a basement, pantry, or cool closet on the north side of the house.

A half-gallon mason jar will hold roughly 14 to 18 eggs, depending on size.  You can also use something like these one-gallon glass jars, which will hold about 3 dozen eggs.

Historically, they would have been stored in wooden barrels or ceramic crocks (like this one that I use to make sauerkraut a gallon at a time).  Alternately, a food-safe plastic bucket will work if you want to store them in bulk.

We keep our jars of eggs in the basement, right next to my home-canned goods and root cellared apples.

Once you’re ready to use the eggs, simply remove them from the solution and give them a rinse before cracking.  Rinsing ensures that the lime solution doesn’t get into the egg as it’s cracked, which will impact the flavor.

Then, just cook with the eggs as you otherwise would…(continues)

See also:

Practical Self Reliance: 30+ Ways to Preserve Eggs

and this video from Homesteading Family

Food Preservation

Our tomato plants are starting to produce an abundance of paste tomatoes. We’ve just finished canning our first excess of tomatoes for the summer. We dehydrate our goji berries in batches as we harvest the ripe berries. We’ve previously canned up elderflower cordial earlier this summer and enjoy refreshing and healthy spritzers in the heat. Blackberry and blackberry/apricot jams have been stored up in jars. The first ripe watermelon was devoured this afternoon; will we preserve some rind?

Food preservation has become something of a lost art in this day and age, but a lot of people still express an interest in the practice. Where can you learn more about it if you don’t already have a friend who has been preserving food? One way is through books. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving are stand-bys that have been updated over the years. They mostly just cover canning, but have very reliable recipes and instructions that are easy to understand for beginners. If you can learn through reading, but don’t want a whole book on the topic, Instructables has a free online course on Canning and Preserving which lets you work through six topics at your own pace.

For a more visual approach and covering more topics, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Extension has a video series on Youtube called Preserving Alaska’s Bounty which gives you an overview of several preservation topics, including water bath canning, pressure canning, sausage-making, fruit leathers, sauerkraut, dehydrating, and more. The videos are a bit dated, but still have good basic info. Youtube user Homestead Heart also has a playlist for food preservation. English Country Life’s Youtube channel has a food preservation playlist which includes things like curing bacon, smoking food, lard, and more. A more technical or science explanation of food preservation can be found with FoodSci with ProfVigeant.

The WSU Extension normally has an online, food preservation program called Preserve the Taste of Summer, but it appears to be closed for the year. Click here to download a PDF flyer with details about the course cost and syllabus. Similarly, the University of Idaho Extension has a Preserve @ Home online program, which next airs in January 2021. Click here for a past Preserve @ Home flyer.

Other web resources include:

National Center for Home Food Preservation (Univ of Georgia) and its related website Preserving Food at Home.

Healthy Canning

The Home Preserving Bible

FoodPreserving.org This one is Australian. Weights are giving in both grams and pounds, while other volume measurements are in the familiar cups and teaspoons.

Now, go forth to a new life, rising through food preservation methods to self-sufficiency, peace and plenty.