One of the benefits of living in the country is the ability to have chickens. Our chickens are prodigious layers and we have a seemingly never-ending supply of eggs. This is a huge part of our preparedness strategy: as long as we have healthy birds, we have plenty of eggs to eat, plenty to give away, and plenty to trade, and eggs even supplement our dog food. But things happen. One day we may not have chickens, so we discovered a method of long-term storage of eggs, no refrigeration required.
Eggs and Preparedness
I imagine many of my chicken-owning readers own chickens because of the preparedness benefits. Chickens are a huge asset, even when times are good. Eggs have helped us build and strengthen bonds with all of our neighbors. Eggs give us a pretty consistent supply of protein-laden food, just about all year round. Though we feed our chickens, we don’t spend a ton of money on their feed as they get all our table scraps (solving that problem for us). They also get plenty of time to pick through our yard and woods each day. Laying chickens are a pretty big asset should times get tough and food get scarce.
But if you’ve kept chickens for any length of time you know that bad things can happen. In a previous life, several years ago, I had 24 chickens. Until I awoke one morning and didn’t hear the normal chicken noises. I discovered that my flock of 24 chickens had been reduced to just two by the depredations of coyotes. In a crisis during which you are relying on those eggs that could be disastrous. And that’s not the only thing that could happen to your birds.
Chickens eventually get old and stop laying. Your chickens could get disease. They could be picked off by hawks and foxes. A free-ranging dog could get into your yard and kill half a dozen chickens in just a couple of minutes. Wtih chickens laying prodigiously it’s a shame not to set any of those eggs back against hard times. Fortunately we found a method of long-term storage of eggs that doesn’t require refrigeration.
Long-Term Storage of Eggs
I stumbled on this method a while back. It percolated and finally we decided to do it. It doesn’t require much in the way of time or money, though you will have to spend a few dollars. You’ll need:
- Clean, fresh eggs. These have to be “farm fresh” eggs. You can’t use store-bought eggs as the protective membrane has been washed off of them. If you’re collecting your own eggs, they can’t have poop on them, but they also can’t be washed. The bloom (the natural coating a on an egg when it’s been laid) must remain intact. If you have chickens I’m 100% confident you know what I’m talking about.
- Containers: We used some half-gallon Mason jars we had sitting around, along with plastic screw-top lids. You should be able to find these at your local hardware store or grocery store. I’m very happy with that solution and will definitely continue to use these jars.
- Pickling lime: Don’t let the name scare you off – you aren’t making a jar of barroom pickled eggs. It doesn’t really “pickle” the egg. Pickling lime merely seals the existing membrane on the surface of the egg, rendering it airtight.
And that’s about it. Once you’ve acquired your stuff you can begin. Let’s talk about the process.
Preserving the Eggs
First, wash the jars and lids. They must be clean before you place the eggs into them.
Next, carefully place the eggs in the jar. Be extremely careful here. The weight of the eggs can crush eggs on the bottom (ask me how I know). You can use a larger container than these half-gallon jars but I don’t recommend it.
Next, make a mixture of lime and water at a ratio of 1 ounce lime per quart of water. You may need a kitchen scale to measure this by weight. A bag of this stuff goes a very long way. We used a large mixing bowl for mixing the lime water. Whisk or stir it vigorously. The lime won’t dissolve but will suspend into the water and give it a milky appearance.
Pour the lime-water over the eggs. Make sure to completely cover the eggs. You may have to take one or two out of the jar.
Once you’ve completely covered the eggs, place a lid on the jar. Date the lid so you know when the eggs were preserved.
Long-Term Storage of Eggs
After a day or so the pickling lime should settle out of the water and you’ll see it in the bottom of the jar. This is how your preserved eggs should look.
If the water is excessively cloudy an egg might have broken in the jar. You will want to fix this issue ASAP. This is a good reason to use a clear container and make relatively small batches of eggs.
At this point you are finished. You can place your eggs in a cool, dark place for long-term storage. We keep ours in the basement, along with our other preparedness “pantry.” According to most sources online, this should keep eggs in good shape for 12-24 months. I really like this idea. Instead of doing one, huge batch that all goes bad about the same time, we are doing a jar a month. This will give us 12 jars, each containing about a dozen eggs – not enough to be our main food source, but certainly enough to supplement beans, rice, and other foods we have stored.
This is just one strategy among many to increase our food resilience. Fresh eggs are our mainstay, but having some in “cold storage” gives us a little margin for error. We did our first two jars in May. I’ll revisit this article next year when we’ve actually opened these eggs up and see what happens. Stay tuned!