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Preserving Eggs for the Long Term
Written by: Hanne Moon Off-Grid Foods March 5, 2012 90 Comments Print This Article Print This Article
If you have been watching National Geographic’s Doomsday Prepper series, you’ve probably seen a few ideas that you wanted to try to implement in your own storage preparations. At least a show or two got you wondering about the feasibility of some of the stuff these preppers are doing. One thing that piqued my interest was from the episode that showed the woman oiling her eggs in order to preserve them for long-term storage.
I found myself frowning… was it really that easy to keep an egg fresh for months at a time? If so, why weren’t these well-oiled gems sitting on the grocery store shelves instead of crated up in the refrigerator section? I decided to do a little more research into this subject, so I turned to the one person I consider the quintessential expert on chickens and their products, Gail Damerow.
No, I didn’t get a chance to interview her. (That would be a homesteader’s dream come true!) However, I did the next best thing—I pulled out her book Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens in order to gather the information I needed for this article.
And am I glad I did.
Chickens are the hottest new backyard pet and with this new guide for beginners you’ll be a pro in no time…
While I discovered that oiling is a perfectly acceptable way to extend the shelf life of eggs, I also found out that you can’t just take any old egg, slap some mineral oil on it, and call it preserved. There’s a selection process and strict time frame that you have to work around.
Eggs can be stored for up to two to three months at temperatures no higher than 55°F without doing anything to them. However, the humidity needs to be close to 75%. This is an important factor in successful egg storage. If humidity levels are too low, the eggs will dry out. If they are too high, the eggs will get moldy. You want clean, uncracked eggs. If you have to clean an egg before storing it, then put it in the freezer, throw it in the frig for breakfast, or make some deviled eggs with it. The point is, use it elsewhere. Anytime you wash or dry buff an egg, you are removing a protective outer coating which in turn allows bacteria to more easily enter the egg.
What coating the egg with oil does is it seals the shell to prevent evaporation during storage. The eggs you’re going to store this way should be oiled 24 hours after being laid. (This will immediately put store-bought eggs out of the running.) In a clean, closed carton that is located in a cool, dry place, eggs dipped in oil will keep for several months. They will, however, eventually develop an off-flavor, and this off-flavor is especially pronounced in eggs stored at 34°F for more than four months. By the time you hit the six-month mark, the flavor is usually unacceptable to most people.
If you’re able to have fresh eggs at your house day in and day out from some pretty prolific layers, or because you have a neighbor who gives you fresh eggs each day, or if you’re able to obtain fresh eggs from a farmer’s market, then this method may be for you. Regardless, the knowledge alone will be a great help if and when the worst were to happen.
To properly oil your eggs, they must be at room temperature (50 to 70 degrees F) and they must be dry. Make sure your oil is free of bacteria and mold by heating it 180°F for about 20 minutes. Then, with tongs or a slotted spoon, dip the eggs one at the time into the oil. Set them aside on a rack such as is used in candy making and let them drain for about 30 minutes. Pack them away in clean, dry cartons.
The only drawback to storing your eggs in this manner is that once eggs have been oiled, they’re no longer useful for cake making. The oiling interferes with the foaming properties of the egg whites, so they no longer whip up as well as fresh ones do.
So, while this episode of Doomsday Preppers showed a viable method of preserving eggs, they foolishly chose a shortened version to pass along to the audience, one which could easily have made someone ill had they followed the haphazard advice. Safe food handling practices are something everyone should cultivate.