The “storm” of the last few years has created a tsunami wave of new, interested and excited individuals who are practicing the dying art of food preservation among other things. It’s been encouraging to watch the influx of interest rise and the joy of bringing back and reclaiming a bit of independence from the systems in play within our society.
One popular method of preservation that has perpetuated for many months now is Lime Preserved eggs, only many are calling it by another name.
When I observed the method floating around instagram used for “water glassing eggs” I noticed it was in fact not water-glassing that was going on but Lime preserving of eggs.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE
Water glassing of eggs was a popularized method of egg preservation specifically before refrigeration. Eggs could be preserved for scant months when eggs were a bit slower to come into production during the shorter days or fall and winter (when chicken’s biological clock tend to slow down ovulation). The true water glass method uses a syrup or powder form mixed in a specific ratio with water. It seems that Pharmacies would be the place to obtain these forms of sodium silicate as early as the 1880s. Sodium silicate is still used today and found in a number of products including tile sealer and adhesives. According to this MSDS sheet for the liquid form, sodium silicate is not great for the skin, if ingested, or comes into contact with eyes or inhaled. It would appear that common-sense precautions would need to be given when handling it such as not breathing it as it’s being mixed, covering skin, and not eating it and making sure eyes are covered.
In the 1980s docuseries The Wartime Kitchen and Farm, there is mention of the water glassing of eggs in the WWII kitchen in one of the first 2-3 episodes (Watch it on Youtube)
(more info on water glass in the UK during war – antidotal evidence)
Lime Preserving involves the use of Calcium Hydroxide which is commonly identified today as pickling lime. It does not actually “pickle” fresh eggs but instead, when mixed with water, it provides a solution that will preserve fresh, visually clean unwashed eggs for upwards of 12+ months.
HOW TO WATER GLASS EGGS
In one of my favorite cookbooks (a 1921 edition of Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook – check out my appreciation reel I posted some time ago on Instagram) there is a recipe on water glassing eggs but no mention of Lime preserving eggs.
HOW TO LIME PRESERVE EGGS
I love archieve.org and ran across this 1918 publication from the United States Bureau of Animal Industry for Preserving eggs for home use. It’s only 3 pages long and spells out how to properly lime preserve eggs (like I’ve done here in this Instagram reel) I used Practical Self Reliance’s recipe listed here.
Are there other methods out there to preserve eggs? Of course there are! Refrigeration and commercialized food production is still relatively new in our modern culture. Pickling, smoking, and a million ways of fresh use existing before what is near and familiar to use now.
A type of Egg preservation that I find fascinating is the Century Egg which I’ll admit, I am not brave enough to give this method a try just yet. (excerpt below from Wikipedia)
Century eggs (Chinese: 皮蛋; pinyin: pídàn; Jyutping: pei4 daan2), also known under a wide variety of names (see infobox), are a Chinese egg-based culinary dish made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggsin a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. Through the process, the yolk becomes a dark green to grey color, with a creamy consistency and strong flavor due to the hydrogen sulfide and ammonia present, while the white becomes a dark brown, translucent jelly with a salty flavor. The transforming agent in the century egg is an alkaline salt, which gradually raises the pH of the egg to around 9–12, during the curing process. This chemical process breaks down some of the complex, flavorless proteins and fats, which produces a variety of smaller flavorsome compounds.
Whether you are accidentally lime preserving your eggs under the guise of water glassing your eggs, I hope this short post helps clear up any confusion one may experience as they begin to venture out into trying new ways of preserving their fresh backyard eggs.
If you are interested in the cookbook I mentioned, you can typically find them at an affordable used rate on Thriftbooks.com – Here is a free book should you spend $30 or more. I am not an affiliate but most definitely a “Frequent flyer”. This link I share is from my personal account. Check out my Instagram highlight Book Recs for other book ideas if you are feeling particularly bookish. Here are two other posts filled with book recommendations. ( books and more books )