Updated: Feb 10
An abundance of eggs is always a blessing on the homestead but come winter... the bounty can slow to a crawl. Over two decades of raising poultry on pasture, I have tried every method known to man. I know all the oiling techniques, water glassing, dehydrating, food-saving full cartons to retain moisture, filling up crisper drawers in the fridge, and burying them in sawdust in root cellars.
I am homesteading for my health. I provide the best environment, care, and feed for my poultry. I started raising poultry for farm FRESH eggs, and I want the best of the best! Many old ways make us feel "country" and self-sustainable, but are we fooling ourselves about the reality of "farm fresh quality?" Are we considering household and pantry safety?
All of the "old ways" for storing farm eggs have something in common... they are ways of consuming OLD eggs! That is a lot of work and expense for not much better than store-bought eggs. Why go through all of the work to raise chickens to save sub-standard eggs? Sure they might look and taste okay after a few months, but the risk of food-borne illness multiplies, and there is actual science behind how long an egg can be stored to maintain healthy fats and protein.
Protein breaks down in storage. An egg is supposed to have three layers when cracked into a pan. Yolk, a raised oval ring of thick albumen (white part), and thin albumen (the runny white part). You may have never noticed it before, but it is there. Old eggs lose that little bulge of thick albumen in the whites surrounding the yolk after some time in storage. Fats also break down in the yolk as fatty-acid chains weaken. Yolks lose their roundness and tend to lay more flat. These eggs even lose their loft when cooking. They don't blend well and can lead to omelets ripping or tearing easily and scambles with strange texture due to moisture changes inside the egg. Someone with a keen taste for flavor can taste the difference between a fresh egg and an old egg that has been in storage; this is just one reason commercial eggs taste flat, bland, or musty compared to fresh farm eggs.
According to the FDA, eggs should be refrigerated as soon as possible after being collected, especially in the summer months. Fresh eggs, cleaned, stored in a clean container, refrigerated at 40° are considered fresh for three weeks. I was once guilty of keeping fresh eggs on the counter in a basket just because I knew they were "live" and didn't require refrigeration right away if I didn't wash them. It made my whole kitchen feel country! Now I know this causes them to only age faster, so there is no point in it if I want fresh eggs. If you leave them on the counter for four days, this drastically cuts down on their freshness and flavor.
So how do I keep fresh farm eggs for a year? Without risking salmonella, losing flavor, loft, or losing nutrients? The only SAFE and FDA recommended way is freezing without a shell.
Freezing stops salmonella from spreading. Samonella WILL continue to increase colonies in temperatures above 40°, like in a warm egg on the counter, deep in a sawdust bed in a pantry, or inside an oiled egg in the closet. Don't forget - salmonella can be inside the egg before it ever leaves the chicken - that hen's protective coating that homesteaders rely on isn't a sure bet. You are much more likely not to get seriously ill when only exposed to salmonella in micro amounts around the farm as your body builds resistance. Still, improper food storage and cooking can raise the colonies of bacteria. In large quantities, it can take out the healthiest of people. It is why weightlifters no longer chug raw eggs like in the Rocky movies. The health benefits do not outweigh the risks of illness or death, just like it should be on your farm.
Fresh eggs should be gathered, washed, and refrigerated immediately to retain the goodness you worked so hard to obtain. It's why we wanted farm fresh eggs in the first place, right? I will collect eggs for a few days unless I get all my hens laying at once. As soon as I have a nice clutch of wholesome golden orbs, I crack a meal's worth into the electric mixer, in our case, for two, it is usually six eggs for weekend omelets or country scrambles. I turn the mixer to medium and beat the eggs until well incorporated.
I pour the mixed eggs into a container that will make a nice size cube to fit in a vacuum seal bag easily. Freeze the containers with lids on for 24-hours.
Once frozen, pop the egg blocks from the containers and seal them individually inside a vacuum saver bag. You can freeze several blocks in a large bag if they are all laid flat. You can reseal this bag as you remove blocks to thaw. Do not stack your egg blocks to freeze in the same bag; they will stick together. These frozen blocks stack nicely in the freezer, saving more room than whole egg storage ever would.
You can thaw your eggs in the fridge right back in the same container you froze them in or in the individually sealed vacuum bags. They don't look very appealing after an overnight thaw, but with a little mixing or hand massaging while still in the bag they blend up nicely. I nip off a large corner and squeeze them into a hot pan with simmering butter, and in a few minutes, breakfast is ready—no messy shells to deal with.
The neatest thing about these scrambled eggs is the way they cook up. During the freezing process, ice crystals shatter the yolk's fat that has a hard time breaking up when mixing. This method makes for the fluffiest and freshest old scrambled eggs ever!
You can freeze yolks and whites separately, but I find the texture lacks consistency when thawed and cooked, so I don't do it. I have saved frozen egg yolks by the dozens for ice cream and supplementing pigs when I'm on fresh herb frittata kicks.
*Remember - 1/4 cup of scrambled eggs equals one egg.
I don't know regulations in your area for selling eggs, but health-conscious customers might find buying a month's supply of farm-fresh frozen eggs more appealing than the weekly trip for eggs.
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The Reasons Why Water Glassing Eggs Isn't Safe
FDA Food Facts on Egg Safety
Understanding Egg Consumption and Cholesterol
(Eggs raised in healthy environments on good feed are safe to eat.)