It's the time of year when every chicken keeper begins wondering "What am I going to do with all these eggs?" If you've had your fill of scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, quiches, meringues, custards, and other egg-laden dishes, here are nine ways to preserve those eggs for later use. After all, just as spring is the season of egg glut, winter is the season of egg famine. Wouldn't it be great to have preserved eggs for those times when your hens aren't laying well?
First, a Note about Egg Condition
Before we delve into how to preserve eggs, it's important to understand that only eggs with intact shells should be stored long term. Any cracks, chips, or holes in the eggs allow bacteria to get inside, compromising the safety of the food. In other words: Such eggs could make you very, very sick.
If I find damaged eggs in our hens' nesting boxes, I typically feed them immediately to our dog. Cooked right away, and cooked thoroughly, they are probably safe for human consumption, but I cannot recommend that practice.
In addition, when preserving eggs, it's always best to keep each egg's "bloom" - that is, the natural protective coating on the outside of the egg shell. This is removed if you wash the eggs. Therefore, really dirty eggs are best consumed right away, or preserved only by freezing. Lightly dirty eggs may be preserved by first gently scraping them with a fingernail or brush to remove light soiling.
|Unwashed eggs last a long time in the fridge.|
While it's true that unwashed eggs store safely on the counter, they last considerably longer - at least 6 months - if you refrigerate them. (Store bought eggs, which are washed with a chlorine solution, don't last as long. Read more about why I don't wash our homestead eggs, here.)
Personally, I like to store our hens' eggs in 18-count cardboard egg cartons. Mine are saved from back in the days before we had a homestead flock and I was still buying eggs at the grocery store; sometimes family members gift me their cardboard egg cartons, too. You can also buy unused cartons at feed stores or online. These containers last a long time - and when they finally do start falling apart, they compost well. Other options include plastic containers designed for storing eggs in the fridge.
To extend storage length, be sure to store eggs pointy end down. The reason for this is that there is an air pocket at the fat end of every egg. This pocket helps protect the yolk (which is more susceptible than the white of the egg) from bacteria. When eggs sit pointy end up, the air - and any bacteria in the egg - will rise, making the egg go bad more quickly. Also remember that washing eggs before refrigerating them may make them go bad more quickly; I only store unwashed eggs in our fridge.
I stack my cartons, oldest eggs on top, so I know which to use first. You may also wish to date each carton. When I'm ready to use eggs, if I have any question at all about their age, I do a simple water test to make sure they are perfectly safe to eat. (Click here to see how.)
Pros: Quick and easy; eggs can be used fresh; eggs last at least 6 months.
Cons: Takes up space in the refrigerator; requires electricity.
|First, whip egg yolks and whites together.|
Freezing extra eggs is another easy preservation method. Once thawed, frozen eggs can be used exactly like fresh eggs. To properly freeze eggs:
1. Break open one egg at a time and pour the contents into a bowl. Whip to mix, using an immersion blender (I use this one), a whisk, or a fork.
2. Frozen eggs can feel gritty once thawed. To help prevent that, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every egg. (You may also use 1 1/2 tablespoons of granulated sugar for every egg, but really, the last thing our society needs is more sugar, right?)
3. Pour the whipped eggs into the cups of an ice cube tray or silicone mold. Freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container, like a Ziplock or vacuum sealer bag. If you put the frozen eggs in a single layer and vacuum seal them, the eggs will take up very little space and will stay good for a year or two. Or you can just pop them in a freezer bag without vacuum sealing and use them within a year.
|In most cases, a frozen cube equals about 1 egg.|
Before using the eggs, be sure to thaw them completely in the refrigerator.
Pros: Quick and easy method; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs store up to a year (without vacuum sealing) or two (with vacuum sealing).
Cons: Salt or sugar should be added for best quality; must wait for eggs to thaw before using; takes up freezer space; requires electricity; loss of electricity will make eggs go bad.
Preserving Eggs by Dehydrating (up to 1 year)
|Dehydrating eggs at home.|
Back in 2012, I learned many people were dehydrating eggs in electric food dehydrators. Not knowing this was a safety concern, I tried it. It was a complete flop. Not only were my dehydrated eggs terrible for baking (never giving the rise fresh eggs do), but they tasted awful when I rehydrated and scrambled them.
But the biggest reason to not dehydrate eggs at home is that the process may not kill salmonella or other, similar bacterias. In other words, it's not a perfectly safe preservation method. (Some people argue that as long as you cook the raw, re-hydrated eggs to 160 degrees F., they are safe to consume. But there are risks in handling and cross-contamination to consider, too.)
|Dehydrated eggs aren't safe - or tasty.|
In order to circumvent the bacteria issue, I also tried thoroughly cooking the eggs before dehydrating them. Because fat goes rancid in dehydrated products, it was necessary to cook them without any fat in a Teflon pan. (Click here to learn why Teflon is a bad idea.) I found the resulting dehydrated eggs had little flavor. In fact, they were just gross.
If you want to know the process, see The Prairie Homestead's post on the topic. In my experience, there are better - and safer - ways to preserve eggs.
Cons: Not a safe preservation method; poor quality; requires electricity.
Preserving Eggs by Freeze Drying (20 - 25 years)
|Freeze-dried eggs are the longest-lasting.|
When you purchase dried eggs at the store, they are actually freeze dried, not dehydrated. (Click here to learn what the difference between the two is.) Freeze dryings is the only way to safely dry eggs at home.
For the cost of a refrigerator, we now have a home freeze dryer on our homestead - and I find I'm constantly using it to preserve eggs. (Please note: Harvest Right is currently the only manufacturer of consumer grade freeze dryers.) Here's how I do it:
1. Each of Harvest Right's medium freeze dryer trays easily holds about 12 eggs. Begin by whipping up one tray's worth of eggs. It's best to use an immersion blender for this job; if you don't get the whites and yolks blended well, the eggs may "burst" in the freeze dryer, causing a big mess.
2. Pour the blended eggs into one freezer dryer tray. To do this without spilling, I recommend putting the tray on a shelf in your regular freezer (like the one attatched to your fridge - not the freeze dryer itself), then pouring the prepared eggs into it. Slowly and carefully slide the tray back in your freezer. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the remaining trays.
3. Allow the eggs to harden in the freezer; in the meantime, turn on the freeze dryer for about a half hour. (This allows the chamber to get good and cold so that when you insert trays of frozen food, they won't thaw.)
4. Transfer the trays of eggs to the freeze dryer. (You can just pop the trays immediately into the freeze dryer, without pre-freezing in your freezer, but you'll likely spill eggs in the Harvest Right, since it is designed to not sit level.)
|Raw eggs going into the freeze dryer.|
|Eggs come out foam-like. Before cooking, powder and rehydrate with water.|
Stored this way in a cool, dry location, the eggs should last 20 - 25 years. After rehydrating, use these eggs just like you would fresh. To rehydrate: Mix 2 tablespoons freeze dried egg (crumbled into a powder before measuring) with 2 tablespoons of water. If you'll be scrambling the eggs, add a little extra water (or milk or cream) to allow for evaporation.
It's also fine to cook the eggs (for example, scramble them) and then freeze dry them. Because they will contain some cooking fat, they probably won't last as long on the shelf. Most people agree they don't taste quite as good when they are cooked first, but they do make for a super-easy meal.
Pros: Easy method with little hands-on time; can use the eggs like fresh; can make a quick dish by just adding water; lasts up to 25 years.
Cons: Requires mylar bags and oxygen absorbers; requires electricity.
Preserving Eggs in Mineral Oil (6 months - 1 year)
|Coating eggs in mineral oil.|
This is a traditional method, but one that's been studied scientifically, and is still used on about 10% of store bought eggs (after the eggs have been washed - often in chlorine). To preserve eggs in this way, you will need food grade mineral oil (found online or in pharmacies).
I also recommend using gloves during this procedure because mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct and a known endocrine disruptor that raises estrogen levels in our bodies. This, in turn, is linked to cancer and many other health problems. Does the mineral oil seep into the egg itself? I've been unable to find an answer to that question. However, literature widely says chicken eggs are semipermeable, meaning moisture can pass through the shell. Will the oil pass through each egg's membrane? I honestly don't know. You'll have to decide.
In addition, it's important to note that this method of preservation works best on freshly laid eggs - ideally, eggs no more than 24 hours old.
1. Warm 1/4 cup of food grade mineral oil in a nonreactive pan and don some gloves.
2. Dab warmed mineral oil on your hands and pick up an egg. Cover the entire surface of the egg with mineral oil; it doesn't matter if the coating is thick or thin.
3. Place the egg in an egg carton, pointed end down.
4. Repeat until you've covered all the eggs (1/4 cup of mineral oil will cover 4 - 6 dozen eggs), then store the egg carton in a cool, dry location (like a cold cellar or garage) where the temperature stays 68 degrees F. or less (but is always above freezing). If the temperature gets warmer than that, the eggs won't last but a few weeks. You may also store the cartons in the refrigerator, the mineral oil extending the life of the eggs even longer than if stored without a mineral coating.
5. Flip the eggs over once a month. You cannot skip this step! However, to make it easier, you may simply (and carefully) turn over each egg carton.
Before using mineral coated eggs, be sure to conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.
By the way, a common question about this method is whether or not a different type of oil may be used. The answer is no. Other food safe oils will go rancid.
Pros: No electricity needed; eggs can be used like fresh; eggs last up to a year.
Cons: Mineral oil should be used with caution; may be unhealthy (although the FDA allows it on commercially sold eggs); requires rotating the eggs once a month.
Preserving Eggs in Water Glass (up to 5 months)
This was a common preservation method in the 19th century, said to keep eggs good for up to five months. Most people today have never heard of water glass, or its scientific name, sodium silicate (a naturally occurring mineral). Unfortunately, this chemical can cause serious breathing and lung issues if inhaled, can burn the digestive tract if consumed, and can burn the skin and eyes upon contact.
Again, I question whether sodium silicate seeps into eggs during storage; I feel there are better ways to preserve eggs. For instructions on how to water glass eggs, see this article.
Before using water glass eggs, conduct a water test to make sure the eggs aren't bad.
Pros: No electricity required; can use eggs like fresh.
Cons: Must be handled carefully; may be toxic.
Preserving Eggs in Slaked Lime (6 months - 1 year)
This is another old method, using calcium hydroxide (which is created when calcium oxide - a.k.a. lime) is mixed (i.e. "slaked") with water. For directions, click here.
Do note that food grade lime is potentially dangerous stuff. It's toxic when consumed in quantity, may cause skin and eye burns, and leads to life-threatening conditions if inhaled. Personally, I'm not comfortable with that in or around my food, even knowing that for decades, calcium hydroxide was used to crisp pickles.
Before using eggs in unslacked lime, conduct a water test to make sure they aren't bad.
Pros: No electricity needed; can use eggs like fresh.
Cons: Must be handled carefully; can be toxic.
Preserving Eggs by Pickling (4 months)
|Pickled eggs, courtesy Green Mountain Girls Farm.|
That said, making pickled eggs to store in the fridge may extend the eggs' life a wee bit.
1. Hardboil the eggs using your favorite method. (What I do: Using a pin or sewing needle, poke one hole in the fat end of each egg; this makes fresh eggs easy to peel. Pour 1 cup of water in the bottom of a 6 qt. Instant Pot. Place a steamer basket inside the Pot, and stack eggs atop it. Steam for 5 minutes. Let the IP reduce pressure naturally for 4 minutes, then quick release and plunge eggs into cold water. Cool completely in the fridge before peeling.)
2. Peel each egg and place it in a freshly washed canning jar.
3. Choose a brine from The National Center for Home Food Preservation's website. Heat the brine to boiling, then simmer 5 minutes.
4. Pour the brine over the eggs, completely covering them. The eggs must be completely submerged in the brine to remain safe. (A quart-sized jar holds about a dozen eggs.)
5. Let the eggs sit in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks, so they can take on the flavors in the brine. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends eating home pickled eggs within four months.
Pros: Unique taste.
Cons: Uses up refrigerator space; requires electricity.
Preserving Egg Yolks in Salt (4 weeks)
|Salt cured egg, courtesy of Practical Self Reliance.|
This very old method is similar to curing meat. In it, high amounts of salt inhibit bacterial growth so that other (good) bacteria can release lactic acid (lactobacillus). This method has become all the rage lately, but it's really more about a gourmet treat than storing eggs long term. Once cured, salted eggs should be eaten within four weeks, and for optimal safety, should be stored in the refrigerator. For details on how to salt eggs, see Practical Self Reliance's excellent how-to.
Pros: A gourmet treat.
Cons: Takes up room in the refrigerator; requires electricity to be safest.
This post featured at the Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop.