Updated: Mar 31
Water glassing eggs for long-term storage seem to be the new rage on homesteads since a few YouTube videos popped up a few years ago from some "ancient" family homestead recipe. Smitten with the idea and with 40 laying hens on pasture, it sounded like an easy way to keep eggs for an extended time. So I decided to study it.
What is water glassing? It is the process of submerging whole fresh eggs in a large container filled with a hydrated lime solution, creating a high alkaline environment that keeps the eggs from losing moisture in storage. The container is then placed in a cool dark area for long-term storage. These eggs are for cooking use.
This home method for preserving eggs is available on the internet. It surfaced as a historical document from 1935. The first page of this recorded historical document states in large words, "Do not assume content reflects current scientific knowledge, policies, or practices." Yet several homesteads, farms, and YouTuber's are sharing this now proven unsafe method of egg storage... ...as SAFE!
The FDA does not recommend this as a safe method for keeping eggs. Calcium Hydroxide (slacked lime) is known to contain botulism in the powdered lime itself. Hydrated lime does not protect against botulism in long-term storage without acid and heat to kill it. Botulism lives in the soil where chickens trod with their feed that often gets in contact with eggs. So not washing the eggs before water glassing raises the risk of food poisoning from environmental contamination and from using the lime. Botulism grows best in high pH, and this is why when homesteaders and gardeners can foods, we use acids to lower pH and high heat and pressure to kill botulism. Soaking eggs in hydrated lime could be proliferating botulism on the storage shelf.
Calcium Hydroxide is toxic in high amounts. Anyone who owns chickens knows that unborn chicks breathe through the shell as they develop. Eggs are porous. Moisture and humidity move through the shell. Hence, the importance of correct humidity in an incubator to hatch chicks. The shells are so porous that it only takes the humidity being off by a few percent to render a chick un-hatchable because the developing chick drowns or dries out in the shell as it grows.
This moisture exchange through the shell is why we float eggs in a glass of water to see if it is fresh. As moisture moves out of the egg in storage, the air pocket gets larger at the top of the egg, making it more buoyant. A fresh egg full of moisture has a small air pocket and will sink to the bottom of the glass. An older, more dehydrated egg will float on one end.
Eggs soaking in hydrated lime will take on calcium hydroxide. The repeated dose effects of hydrated lime, due to its calcium content, are hypercalciuria, kidney stones, hypercalcemia, renal insufficiency, lethargy, coma, and death. Hydrated lime (water glassing fluid) also causes local irritative effects on the body's external surfaces, such as the skin, eye, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. The hydroxide ion causes these afflictions. Over time, consumption in small amounts will affect the gut lining.
As a homesteader who makes pickles with lime the old-fashioned way, I know that we only soak the cucumbers for 24 hours and then are instructed to rinse the cucumbers THREE times to remove any excess lime. Then we go further for food safety by adding vinegar to lower the pH and then water bath canning with heat to keep our food safe. Even still - there are a few botulism-related incidents related to pickling cucumbers with the lime due to the lack of proper rinsing, and some are recommending not using it.
Improperly mixed, calcium hydroxide can cause irritation or burns. Aside from the toxic aspect and the possibility of food poisoning, there is also a safety issue. Young children could ingest the slacked lime fluid, thinking it to be like pickle juice, or suffer irritation or burns from not rinsing off their hands from being in the solution.
Sure the idea sounds great, and they did do it long ago, but that doesn't mean it is still a good idea. As time and science prove safer storage methods and discover where food-borne illness comes from, we are to evolve and abandon the older, less effective, and unsafe ways.
Moreover, recommending an unsafe method or selling or feeding someone food that you sold or stored in a non-FDA recommended procedure to an unknowing person that causes injury or death could make you liable. It's best and safest to follow FDA regulations when storing eggs. Don't risk the health of you or your family over something as simple as an egg. There will be more next year. Please share this article with anyone who has laying hens.
~Next blog - How to Store Fresh Eggs for a Year~
Proven and FDA safe method.
"Growing Back to the Land" is my first-hand recorded account of returning to living off the land. I have been homesteading for two decades and have written this autobiography about claiming self-sufficiency. We have been growing and processing 99% of our food on the homestead for the last ten years. The book is available HERE in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
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Home Methods For Preserving Eggs ~ HISTORICAL DOCUMENT ~
First Aid for Calcium Hydroxide Poisoning
Botulism in Pickling Lime
Why Rinsing Lime From Pickles is so Important and Understanding Lime Use