Prepping for Ocean Passage or….Lockdown!
Sailors’ Tips to Keep Eggs Fresh for the Duration
Sailors are the original preppers. On a sailboat the idea is to live well on limited stores and make do with what you have in your galley until you reach a mainland market. Preserving food and substituting ingredients is an art and science for sailors, and here are some tips for making your eggs last as long as three months.
When we left the Galapagos Islands bound for the Marquesas, I purchased 5 dozen eggs from an outdoor market. Sixty eggs for two people may seem like a lot, even for a 3 week long sailing passage. But they are a great source of protein and these two egg-cellent methods of extending their freshness will help reduce your exposure time in grocery stores during the Corona-virus.
Fresh is Best
There is no difference between free range, cage kept, brown, white, green, or baby-blue chicken eggs. It is freshness that counts. Eggs that have never been refrigerated, directly from a farmers’ market, are best. In America, eggs bought in a grocery store are sold cool or refrigerated and you will have to opt for the freezing method.
First, don’t wash your eggs before you store them away. They have a natural protective covering, and it’s water-soluble. Even if they have bits of soiling or straw from the chicken coop, just brush them lightly with a paper towel.
Two easy methods to preserve eggs:
- Deep-freeze the eggs.
- Turn over fresh, never refrigerated eggs every two or three days.
Freeze the Eggs
This is your method for eggs that were refrigerated when you purchased them. First, never freeze eggs in the shell. They expand when frozen and you will have a mess. Eggs have unique properties, and need to be prepped before freezing:
- To freeze whole eggs (both whites and yolks), blend the eggs together first. Store in a freezer quality zip-lock bag or plastic container with the date and number of eggs. Thawed, they’ll be great for scrambled eggs, and any other recipe that calls for an entire egg.
- To freeze egg whites, separate them from the yolk making sure there’s no crossover. 3 tablespoons of egg whites is the equivalent of one whole egg.
- Freezing egg yolks is trickier because cold temperature can cause the yolk to thicken or gel. To avoid this, add 1/8 teaspoon salt to 1/4 cup of egg yolks if planning on using them in a savory dish. Or, for sweet dishes, add 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar before freezing.
- Thaw eggs overnight in the fridge or under cold running water. Use whole eggs and egg yolks right away once thawed and only in recipes that cook the egg.
Flipping the Eggs
If you are able to buy eggs fresh from the farm, that have never been refrigerated, this is your method. Store the eggs in regular egg cartons and turn them over every two to three days. Each carton has to turn over three times a week or the eggs will quickly deteriorate. If they sit for a week without turning, they’ll start to go bad after three weeks.
When an egg is absolutely fresh, its shell is well coated inside by the clear egg fluid, and air can’t get through. As it ages, the shell dries out inside where the air space sits, and then the shell becomes more porous. Turning the eggs keeps the entire inside of the shell moist.
Don’t be alarmed if they change slightly as they age. After 12 to 25 days (depending on the temperature of your store room — the cooler the better), the yolks will become fragile, and break easily when you crack the egg. Sunny-side-up will be a challenge. After three weeks, the eggs will only be good for scrambling, boiling, or baking. After a month, the whites of hard-boiled eggs may have a slightly yellow or brown tinge and the yolks will be pale in color. This doesn’t change the eggs’ cooking value; it will still cause cakes and omelettes to rise. But at this stage, be careful. Hold the egg up to the light and if it has a dark appearance don’t use it. After spoiling a whole cake mix, I got into the habit of breaking each egg separately into a cup or small bowl.
The longest I’ve had eggs last by turning them over three times a week is 10 weeks. Maybe they would have lasted longer but I ran out of eggs. Out of the 5 dozen eggs I’d started with, only one went bad and it may have had a small crack in its shell. But cracking that one rotten egg is memorable!
Eggs were a great source of protein on our boat, and they can be a boon for those locked down as a precaution against Corona-virus. Your other perishables will be an ancient memory, but you can enjoy egg salads, deviled eggs, omelets, custards, soufflés, cookies… The incredible egg!