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.