Keep eggs fresh without refrigeration

by Tim on May 18, 2009

Wendy Kravit has this suggestion over at MadMariner’s “Tips you can use” feature:

When embarking on a long cruise, it is nice to be able to have fresh food as much as possible. The difficulty, of course, is that the refrigerator on a boat isn’t that big. On a three-week Caribbean cruise, I learned a trick from a friend for keeping eggs fresh outside of the fridge: Coat each one with Vaseline, and then place them back in the carton. Store the carton somewhere safe from falling. The eggs will last weeks. When you need to use the eggs, wipe them down with a paper towel. The Vaseline prevents oxygen from penetrating the eggs and thus retards the spoilage. Since it is petroleum-based, it doesn’t get rancid itself.

Good suggestion, but it’s a shame we need to reinvent this particular wheel at all.

I used to keep chickens, and one of the things I learned is that if you don’t wash off the “bloom”, as is done in the United States, the eggs will last for weeks, without refrigeration.

After all, they last well enough for baby chickens to hatch out of them, when fertilized. What keeps the eggs with the baby chicks from spoiling, especially when they’re being kept so warm under the hen?

Ever notice they don’t refrigerate eggs in some European countries? You walk through the market, and the eggs are just out in the open. Why don’t they refrigerate them? They don’t need to, because the eggs aren’t washed before heading to market.

Vaseline is basically an artificial “bloom”, and I’ve no doubt that it works well.

Oh, you don’t know what the bloom is? In the last portion of the chicken’s oviduct, a thin protein coating called “bloom” is applied to the shell to keep harmful bacteria or dust from entering the egg shell pores.

So why is this valuable bloom washed off the eggs, necessitating refrigeration? Well, it sometime contains portions of excrement or other discolorations. It’s perfectly harmless (these particles are coated in bloom too), but unappetizing to American shoppers. You can wash the eggs off just before you break them, if you want, but we never bothered.

Anyway, when you’re provisioning your boat for a long trip, consider getting your eggs at a farm or farmer’s market, where they’re more likely to retain the bloom.

Thus endeth the Navagear’s poultry lesson for the day.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Momma Pauline May 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

I agree…… and this is my professional opinion, too!

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Sam May 18, 2009 at 11:37 am

Thanks Tim. At our cabin on Decatur Island there is a barn with some chickens that are owned by a group of homeowners. I always knew we could go down there and pick up the eggs and never worry about refrigeration, but I didn’t know we could artificially do the same thing with vaseline. I don’t have a refrigerator on my C-Dory 22 and I always want to have eggs aboard, but after a few days it hasn’t been feasible. I’ll try this!

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Captain Jack May 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Welcome to sterilized America at it’s best. White egg, White rooms, White yachts, etc. I guess people think color is dirty.

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Carl May 22, 2009 at 5:25 am

Even after wipedown, wouldn’t some Vasoline still get in your eggs when cracking them open? No petroleum in my eggs please.

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Karolina May 25, 2009 at 5:35 am

i have never refrigerated eggs and nor has my mum. my boyfriend is so adement of keeping them in the fridge and it really annoys me. my grandmother in Poland has never refrigerated her eggs and keeps them for months and they are fine. grr

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colin July 30, 2009 at 5:46 pm

carl -

if you have ever used any kind of ointment (ie ‘neosporin’), you will notice that the main inert ingredient in which the medicine is suspended is ‘petroleum jelly’, aka vaseline. i figure that if we put petroleum jelly straight into our bloodstreams via ointment in our injuries, it can’t be all that bad to have a trace of it in our omelette.

that being said, i also have reconsidered how healthy (or NOT) it is to be using petroleum-based ointments. food for thought, perhaps?

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stan January 14, 2010 at 11:25 am

i don’t have a fridge and i have always kept eggs coated with lard and they last 2 – 3 months.

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Ken February 27, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Stan… would that be Crisco or something similar???

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Hector June 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

Any tipe of lard works and they could last up to 5 months! Its an “old school method” people used before the invention of the fridge and although they can easily last 5 months the texture and quality decline after 2-3 months.

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cheryl September 19, 2011 at 1:20 am

Another old school method is to stack eggs in a crock and add (until submerged) lime water or glass water (liquid sodium silicate). Again, just prevent oxygen from getting in the shell. Eggs can be stored at room temp for 6 months this way.
Also, if you don’t want a crock and vasoline is not your preference, how about paraffin wax, a solid fat (lard), or even varnish! All are good options.

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olivier April 8, 2012 at 1:58 am

I would not put varnish on my eggs!
a lot of varnish have toxic solvent

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megan February 9, 2012 at 4:07 am

i have been told that you can buy refrigerated eggs rub them with mineral oil and that will act then as the natural “bloom” and prevent spoil. Does anyone know if this is true?

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Roger Paige March 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I was b. in 1939 in England. My mother kept chickens
because food was scarce during the war. Very few people
had fridges before the 1950′s and she kept the eggs fresh in what she called “Water Glass”, which was a mixture of sodium silicate and water. It worked very well. I think the same thing was used in USA where it was called “Egg Keep”.

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Larry Green June 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Am camping out of a backpack for a spell and look forward to smearing a little coat of vaseline on a couple of eggs in a protective case.

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