Fremont County, Iowa

Storing Eggs in Water Glass

By Evelyn Birkby

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of March 19, 2012

It happened when my family was living in Prairie City, Iowa. I was in the 7th, 8th and Freshman year of school which means we moved there in the fall of 1931. Water glass was being used widely at that time to preserve eggs when extra quantities of that food item were available. Hens laid more eggs during the summer months and I can only imagine that my minister father was getting paid, at least partly, in farm produce and that would include eggs, sometimes more at a time than we could use quickly.

Refrigeration was not yet in our lives. Summer-time we used an ice box with big cubes of ice brought around often enough by an ice truck to keep our food fresh. But in the winter our back porch became our food preservation location and if the weather was freezing this was not a good place for eggs. Also, in the winter when the hens laid fewer eggs, the farmers would not have any to share and their price would be higher in the stores so it was important that we preserve as many as possible when they were readily available.

What I remember is a big crock in the cellar that contained "water glass" into which extra eggs were stored. My mother would mix the powder from a can with water in the large stone crock until it became a soft, thickened, milky-colored mixture. Then she would carefully put cleaned eggs into the water-glass to be covered by the liquid to seal out the air and moisture. There they would keep, some said for several years, but we always used ours up in about six months.

When winter came on and local hens laid less eggs for our use, my sister or I would often be sent down into the cellar to reach our hands down into the soft, thick, milky solution to pull out the number of eggs Mother needed for the next meal. She would carefully wash them off and use them, primarily, for scrambling, custards and making cakes and cookies.

Now I have learned (via Google) that water glass is designed specifically for the storage of eggs. Instructions, as imprinted on the one-pound tin, were simple:

"Thoroughly dissolve 1 pound of Reliance Water Glass in 1 gallon of water. Fill receptacle about one-third full of the above solution, and put in clean fresh eggs as they are collected. Never use cracked or broken eggs. The receptacle used should be wooden, crockery, or enamel, as iron or tin will rust. Always keep it well covered."
The next time you buy a dozen fresh eggs from the local grocer, be thankful that they are available year 'round and the problem of keeping them useable is as near as your kitchen refrigerator shelf.

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Page updated on February 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau