Pickled Eggs and Beyond
Feast or famine: that is the nature of a laying flock. The bright sunshine and summer smorgasbord of creepy-crawlies will produce eggs a’plenty. The cold huddle-down winter months, on the other hand, will leave you wishing for more. Of course, people do put lights on their chickens in the winter to stimulate egg production; we do not do that. Whether it is for fear of burning the place down or a desire to maintain the healthy rhythm of nature, we have decided to make do with what we get and to extend the summer harvest inasmuch as we can. People have been preserving eggs since…well…since eggs.
I have attempted freezing the summer surplus of eggs. I must have seen it on a pinterest board. Most of my dismal failures come from that. The easy-peasy method (in theory) was to just put the entire raw egg into an ice cube tray. Have any of you had success with that? It drastically altered the texture; it is almost as if they are hard boiled. It’s kinda weird, really more like reconstituted powdered eggs after you factor in the desication from the freezer. My hope was that I could preserve enough raw eggs to get through the winter’s bread baking. It was a backup plan anyway, since we have ducks that lay in the winter and produce fine eggs just right for baking. They just don’t lay quite enough for all of our eggy delights.
My method of choice is to pickle eggs!
Oh my, you have to bite into one or you would never believe me. They are really a delicious food that makes later food preparation all-the-easier. We have been pickling eggs for a few years now, and I cannot tell you that I have an old family recipe or anything; I have chosen to do it differently every time. I hope that you give it a try with your summer harvest. But before you do, there are some things you really ought to know.
Eggs are extremely alkaline. As you know, anything that is not acidic must be pressure canned, not water bath canned. This is because botulism can only grow in low-acid environments. The pressure canning method has a much higher heat than water bath canning, and it is enough to kill the botulism spores found in a low pH. Adding vinegar certainly makes it acidic, but only the outside of the eggs, not the interior. Therefore, if an egg has a cut or nick than the low-acid interior might harbor botulism spores. The eggs should be pristine for making pickled eggs.
Eggs should not be pressure canned. But did I not just say that pressure canning is the only approved method for non-acidic foods, such as green beans or venison? Yup, that is right. So it would stand to reason that you could just pressure can the eggs to kill the spores and then the low acid environment of the eggs would not matter. Right? Wrong. Eggs are too sensitive, too volatile for the pressure canning method. The heat is too high and too long and you have a nasty rubbery mess that you will not want to consume. For all I know they could be safe, but there is nothing left worth saving. Many say that they do not care for pickled eggs that were even water bath canned. Those who advocate a water bath canning generally suggest that you only boil the eggs just enough to peel them but not to cook them entirely—that way, the actually canning method will cook the egg and hopefully not overcook it.
I do water bath can my pickled eggs, and I probably overcook them. Are they rubbery? Well, I do not think it is extreme and they still work rather well in recipes in which I smash or cut them. I like them as is, but I can see that it might be a matter of preference. In either case, the process-on-record is that you should still refrigerate them.
There is not an approved canning method for pickled eggs that is shelf stable. The recipes generally do not require canning at all; you simply heat the brine and pour it over the eggs and spices in the jar, seal, and refrigerate. Even water bath canning recipes still call for refrigeration because of the potential for botulism. Although the risk of getting botulism from home canned foods is extremely low, the results are catastrophic. It is like playing with matches; the likelihood of your house catching fire might be low but since the result is catastrophic, you use prudence in the matter and avoid the danger altogether.
People have been preserving eggs since…well….eggs. We know so much more about safety measures now than ever before, and we need to follow the advice given. With that said, however, I simply do not have room in my refrigerator for many pickled eggs. I do not see it as a viable way of preserving eggs if they are taking the same electricity-dependent space in my fridge that the raw eggs occupied. Do I have other options besides pickling? Perhaps not from a protecting-myself-legally standpoint.
I can tell you that eggs were traditionally root cellared. We currently understand that they must maintain a fairly consistent temperature between 32-40°F, which is colder than most any root cellars. Many times, they were placed in sand, oats, or other dry goods in an upside down (skinny-side-down) position and they remained there for many months as fresh as the day there were laid, so they say. The eggs were candled before use, meaning that the eggs were checked for fertilization by using a candle to see through their semi-translucent shells.
Another root cellar method that was common beyond pickling was to use “water glass”. This chemical (potassium silicate) is still available today, and it seals up the pores of the egg. Since this included silica, the stuff in the packets that warns not to eat it, you would not be able to recycle the egg shells for animal feed calcium (and I would not personally add them to compost, either).
I have never personally used either of the traditional oat-burial or water glass methods. I would love to hear from someone who has (or who remembers grandma’s use of these methods). I do pickle my eggs and I do maintain the correct temperature range (and whether I use electricity or not is not the discussion here). The temperature must remain fairly consistent, that is the key.
Pickled eggs are absolutely delicious and—especially if you skip the water bath canning—as easy as pouring water. I wish I could invite you over for a salad, or for a barbecue featuring my famous potato salad as a show-stopping side dish (thank you, pickled eggs). Try a jar out just so that you can experiment with the flavors and using pickled eggs in recipes. You will get hooked, just you wait and see.
Looking for more info about eggs? Check out these resources:
Pickled Eggs HACCP by Peter Snyder Jr, Ph.D.
How To Can Pickled Eggs the Safe Way (with 2 recipes)
CDC: Information on the singular known case of botulism through preserved eggs
Interested in building a root cellar?
Country Wisdom Bulletin: Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar
Recipes from the Root Cellar (a cookbook)
18 thoughts on “Preserving Eggs”
In Denmark, in 1970-71, I studied and lived for a time with one of my great-aunts. She had eggs in water glass in her root cellar, right along with the crate of carrots in damp sand, and a million pickled and preserved goods! Eggs preserved in water glass are not tasty, so not usually eaten, but rather used for baking. Things baked with them are just as delicious as if made with fresh eggs. The water glass method was commonly used in Denmark at the time by older persons who had lived before refrigeration.
I have a jar of water glass on my pantry shelf, it is sodium silicate.
Info on potassium silicate – says it is not soluble in water.
American Elements is incorrect. K2SiO2 is also called water glass and is soluble in water. It can be used for preservation or in low concentration as foliar plant food. From USDA ” Solid is colorless to yellowish; solution pH ≈11.3 Solubility: 120mg SiO2 as Si(OH)4 per liter. Very slowly soluble in cold water, increasingly soluble in water with increasing temperature. Agricultural preparations are soluble in all proportions.Sep 4, 2003″
Although informative and interesting, I’m really uncertain how you preserve your eggs. Questions to follow, fist one I assume obvious… You first boil and peel the eggs? or put them as is in a jar (I’m assuming peel) but it wasn’t specified.
Water bath, I seem to recall 30 minutes as opposed to 90 minutes pressure cooked … The brine mentioned, is it vinegar? Or maybe one of those pickle packets sold with the jars…
Overall I found this sight interesting, and wasn’t aware of the candle … Can you see thru if it’s fresh or not? Assuming fresh eggs of course are the best to be canned.
Having done a fair amount of canning, when the garden produced too many cucumbers, I simply uses the pickle juice from an opened pickle jar, cut up the cucumbers, put them in and closed the lid.
I’m told nothing can go bad in vinegar, years later and they were good to eat… A bit soggy but still edible. So I guess what I’m asking is some detail on how exactly you pickle your eggs, time in the water bath, peeled and what spices to add … Thankyou for posting this sight.
I pressure can pickled eggs. They’re pretty chewy, lol, but I still like them.
You do? I don’t mind chewy eggs at all. Do you follow the same guidelines as you would for canning meat?
Also, Mother Earth News did some testing back in the 70s on various preservation methods, and burying them in the dirt or sand or sawdust came in dead last. Eggs were all rotten in a month. Water glass was #1.
Excellent, thank you.
Okay well eggs
1. Farm fresh eggs only, with the bloom intact, and NO rooster in sight are best re coated. Use gloves and a few drops of mineral oil, rub your hands together then gently coat the egg again with the oil. Yes this fills up the holes and prevents rot. Honestly you can keep them for 9 months in cool dry place this way. Good for eating.
2. Waterglassing also for farm fresh, bloom intact eggs only. You use hydrated lime which is calcium hydroxide. Not potassium or sodium silicate. (where do you get your information?) Guess what? these are also good for eating, yolks a bit more runny and can break but good scrambled or omelette.
3. PC hard boiled eggs- well people differ on that, IN shell, out of shell 5lbs of pressure for 5 minutes to one lady who does it for 90 minutes at 15lbs (yeah her yolks are green from the sulfur) most I know wash eggs, place in quart jars, add in 1 tsp canning salt, and PC for 10 minutes at 10lb or for your altitude. May get slight grey on the outside of yolk. And done.
Of course pickling your eggs is always the fall back but if you want eating eggs then the first two and sandwich or salad ready the third.
NB: At 56 and I have checked, I am NOT dead from doing this and also canning butter, milk, sour cream, cream cheese, cream soups, bacon, biscuits, sausage gravy, and everything else on the list of OH MY GOD you are kill people with botulism… List. Nope. Not dead.
Thank you so much for your information! I really want to pressure can (or otherwise can) HB eggs and pickled eggs. You mention several ways…which would you recommend the most? I am at just over 6,000 feet.
And please forgive my ignorance; what is NB? I want to can/preserve (without refrigeration) all of the things you listed!
I’ve just put up a couple dozen duck eggs in calcium hydroxide. Curious to see what happens. I’ve also put 10 of them in potassium hydroxide and black tea, an attempt to make ‘hundred year old eggs.’ What’s wrong with potassium silicate? I’m going to try that today. I’ve read elsewhere that the idea that the eggs must have the ‘bloom intact’ is a myth. Any data on that? Interesting idea to pressure cook eggs in the shell.
The idea is that the hydrated lime creates a deposit on the outside of the shell, preventing air exchange and bacterial contamination. However, the lime is potentially toxic, so you want the bloom intact so it can not penetrate the shell and get absorbed into the egg itself. The bloom is a natural antibacterial barrier that provides protection to the egg and the developing chick, keeping it healthy. To remove it is simply denying yourself that extra layer of protection from Mother Nature.
Do you put water in to cover the hb eggs when pressure canning?
People haven gotten so city fide there amune system dose not work like it should!! People are so picky about everything anymore there body’s can’t ajust to the ways of old serval !!
The 3 eggs that I nicked I still put in the brine in a separate jar and water bath canned them. My question is are they safe to try in a few days as long as I stuck them in the fridge?
I just want to pickle some eggs…not for a hundred years…maybe one
As to freezing eggs, they are not good frozen in the manner you see posted everywhere. You can scramble the eggs add 1 tbs water per egg and the texture is ok. It is best however to separate the eggs, whites freeze wonderfully, I
Keep a pint container in my freezer to put any whites that are extra. They make great angel food cake, and I love angel food cake, really good macaroons too. The yolks should be broken and mixed together then frozen, if you leave chunks of yolk not mixed well it will be rubbery, so mix well. Depending on your egg or your ice cube container you can fit 2-3 yolks in each space. I use them for crème brûlée, but do strain the mixture before cooking, but then I strain it before cooking with fresh eggs too.
I water glass eggs both chicken and goose eggs. The white is a little runny. My friend water glasses her eggs too and her family eats them. I preserve them for my cats since the start of the fake pandemic our Walmart has either been out of cat food or cat litter all the time. So in order to stretch the cat food I add the extra protein of the water glassed eggs. It’s super easy I store them in the closet they last well over a year.