A glazed crock

In the kitchen at Market Lavington Museum, we have a large earthenware crock. As it measures 50 cm in diameter and stands 32 cm high, it is tucked away under the kitchen table.

It dates from the mid 20th century and its record suggests that it could have been used with a lid for storing bread or that it might have been used for preserving eggs.

Domestic hens can lay an egg daily through the summer months, but go off lay during the winter. In the spring, a hen might lay a clutch of eggs and then go broody, sitting on them for 21 days until the chicks hatch. This means that a poultry keeper with a few hens might have a glut of eggs at times and then none in the winter. Before the days of home refrigerators, it was hard to keep eggs fresh for very long. To overcome this problem eggs could be preserved in waterglass.

Sodium silicate powder was bought from the chemist and mixed with water. The solution was put in an earthenware crock with sufficient depth to just cover the eggs, which were wiped clean with a dry cloth before being immersed. The waterglass would turn cloudy and seal the eggs, preventing bacterial attack. They could then be stored for several months. When an egg was needed, its shell would be washed with water before the egg was used for baking.

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