To store fresh eggs for the long term without refrigeration, an alternative to the traditional method of submerging them in water glass (sodium silicate) is to use lime water (calcium hydroxide). Both are highly alkaline saturated solutions, with a pH of about 12.4. Both seal eggshell pores to prevent evaporation from within the egg, as well as penetration by bacteria.
Lime water is slaked or hydrated lime made by dissolving food grade lime in water. Food grade lime is a white, odorless powder sold as pickling lime, sometimes found in the grocery store canning department. The best known brand is Mrs. Wages pickling lime.
At one time, pickling lime was used for pickling cucumbers and watermelon rinds. It’s no longer recommended for that purpose, because improper use can neutralize the vinegar that makes pickles safe to preserve. However, when using pickling lime for egg preservation, you’re not pickling the eggs, so no vinegar is involved to neutralize the lime.
How to Use Lime Water
Just as you would for preserving eggs with water glass, use only same-day fresh unwashed eggs. Candle them to make sure the shells have no cracks and the eggs contain no unappetizing blood or meat spots.
To store the eggs you’ll need a large container, such as a gallon jar, stoneware crock, or food grade plastic bucket. One gallon will hold about 3 dozen eggs. The container should have a tight-fitting lid.
To mix the lime water, bring water to a boil, then let it cool to room temperature. You’ll need about 2 quarts of water for each one-gallon of eggs. In a glass jar or other non-corrosive container, combine 1 ounce of pickling lime by weight to each quart of water. Although weighing is more accurate than measuring, one ounce of lime is approximately 2 heaping tablespoons.
Shake or stir the lime water to create a super saturated solution. It will appear cloudy or milky, which is normal. Some of the lime will settle to the bottom, which means the water has absorbed as much as it can.
Fill your jar, crock, or plastic bucket with eggs, pointy end down. Slowly pour in the lime water to completely cover the eggs to at least 2 inches above the topmost eggs.
Tighten the container’s lid to prevent the lime water from evaporating. Store your eggs where the temperature remains above freezing but preferably below 40°F.
When mixing lime water, do not use an aluminum bowl or utensils. The high alkalinity of lime is caustic to aluminum.
Calcium hydroxide is a fine powder that, if inhaled, can irritate your respiratory system. And, if handled directly, will dry your skin. While mixing, you might want to wear disposable, watertight gloves.
Unused or left over calcium hydroxide can be safely disposed of by pouring it down the drain. But don’t dump it on the ground, as it will “burn” grass and other vegetation.
When you’re ready to use your eggs, thoroughly rinse the shells to remove the lime. Otherwise, when you crack the egg, lime could affect the flavor.
The longer you store your egg, the thinner will be both the albumen and the yolk. Aging eggs can also develop a slightly stale flavor. Before using any egg, even one fresh from the coop, a good idea is to make sure it looks and smells right by cracking it into a cup or small bowl before using it.
Is Storing Eggs in Lime Safe?
Kansas State Extension, among others, does not recommend preserving eggs in lime water. Their reason is that “Salmonella enteritidis can contaminate the eggs as they are being formed inside the reproductive organ of the hen and there is no way a person can know it is there or not.” Another concern is that lime water “could seep through the egg shell. The risk of storing eggs for long periods of time include loss of nutrients, several oxidative reactions, changes in protein functionality, and a strong bitter taste from the lime.”
Oregon State Extension suggests waterglassing as a preferred method of preserving eggs. The same source says: “Eggs stored in lime water are of poor quality.”
On the other hand, numerous preppers use lime water for preserving eggs.They claim the eggs remain fresh and tasty for as long as two years.
As for minimizing the chance of Salmonella contamination, purchase only disease-free chicks from an NPIP source such as Cackle Hatchery®. Control rodents in your coop to prevent the spread of Salmonella bacteria. Store your eggs-in-lime-water where the temperature remains cool.
And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.
Gail Damerow is the author of Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens.