In a dinner conversation with Oyama pioneer, Arnold Trewhitt, he mentioned that an early Oyama settler, Mrs. Townsend, had a badly scarred face because a bottle of Waterglass had exploded after she had placed it on a hot stove. This led me to question Arnold about Waterglass. He recalled that in the era before refrigeration, his mother stored eggs in the basement in a crock filled with a Waterglass solution. Effective egg storage solved the rural family’s problem of its hens providing eggs plentifully for most of the year but drying up when the hens were moulting. By the Waterglass method, eggs could be stored for months.
A little research indicated that the necessary product, either a sodium silicate powder or a solution, was sold at pharmacies. The pale yellow, odourless, syrupy, liquid was mixed with water in a 1:9 ratio and placed in an earthenware crock or glass container. A gallon of this solution would preserve approximately 1,000 eggs, allowing for them covered by two inches of the solution. Fresh eggs were first cleaned of dirt using a dry, soft cloth but not washed because the eggs have a natural protective coating that is removed by washing. The sodium silicate solution would turn cloudy and seal the eggs, protecting them from bacterial attack. To cook with these eggs, one simply rinsed them in cold water and then used them immediately. Arnold commented that his mother generally used these eggs for baking but thought that they could likely also have been used for frying or for making omelettes.
Apparently the Waterglass method of egg preservation was used until the 1940s. Refrigeration replaced this method of egg preservation because it provided superior results and was not toxic. Sodium silicate is still used industrially – to seal concrete floors, as an adhesive and to bleach pulp.