A few weeks ago, I received an email from a Backdoor Survival reader asking my opinion on a device she had seen being promoted to preppers. It was basically a vacuum sealer that could be used to seal up packages of dry foods. The cost was about $300. Holy moly! I could hardly believe that someone would consider something like this when an $80 FoodSaver would do the same thing.
I have had a FoodSaver for years. I use it for all sorts of soft and dry goods, such as cheeses, meats, specialty flours, and even things like coffee beans and tea bags. It works great. The surprising thing, however, is that at least half of of the time, I don’t bother with the bags. Instead, I use Mason jars.
You have seen me talk about my sealed mason jars many times in the past but I have never gotten around to telling you about them in detail.
Enter contributing writer, Rob Hanus, who has done all of the work for me. In today’s Fast Track Tip, Rob will explain how the FoodSaver jar attachment works in words while I show you how it works in pictures. (And by the way, those M&Ms make for great comfort items while hunkering down for whatever reason!)
Vacuum Canning Using a Food Saver Jar Attachment
Thanks to the numerous infomercials, there is hardly a person in the US that doesn’t know what a vacuum sealer is. The most common being the Food Saver units. You’ll find that even people that aren’t preppers will have these in their home. Vacuum sealing works great for keeping food fresher, especially in the freezer. To get an idea on how long you can keep some foods, check out this recent blog post: How Long Do You Freeze Food?
If you have ever used a vacuum-sealer, you know that one of the pitfalls of using one is having to buy more bags. Even when you try to save a little money and buy the rolls of bags, you still have to spend time cutting them and sealing one end before you can even use it. And washing the bags doesn’t work as well as it would seem it should.
However, there is something that you can do to vacuum-seal food without having to buy replacement bags. It’s not a complete replacement for using the bags, but in some ways, it can be more efficient.
Getting it all set up. Note the canning funnel.
I’m referring to the jar sealer attachment. There are jar sealer attachments for both wide-mouth and regular-mouth jars. Mine came with the wide-mouth and we bought the regular-mouth size for less than $10. This is a good investment as it allows you to use both sizes of jars.
Using the jar sealer is as simple as sealing a bag. To set up, you place the hose into the sealer and the other end into the top of the jar sealer attachment. Next, fill your jar with the item you’re going to seal and place the lid on top. Don’t put the ring on yet, though. With the jar sealer connected to the vacuum sealing unit, place the attachment over the jar and firmly seat it on top. Then, press the button on the sealer unit. The air will be sucked out of the jar and when the light goes green, release the button. When you’ve confirmed that there is a vacuum, then you can put the ring on.
The vacuum that is inside seals the lid onto the jar. If the lid is damaged, it might slowly leak air back in, so use only lids that aren’t damaged or have holes. However, the great thing about vacuum-sealing these jars is that you can reuse the lids. Because you’re not heating them up, the sealing compound on the lid isn’t destroyed, like in normal canning. So long as the lid holds the vacuum, you can reuse it.
To ensure a good seal, hold the jar attachment down during the sealing cycle.
A nice tight seal!
Done! A batch of Backdoor Survival Tranquilizers for when the SHTF!
Because there is no bag crushing the contents, you can seal items that are fragile or easily crushed. It’s also quite easy to reseal, so keeping your bulk herbs and spices just became a lot easier. After you (carefully) open the lid and take out the amount you need, just run the sealer and it’s vacuum sealed again!
One of the things we use this quite a bit for is freezing homemade soup and tomato sauce. The lack of air extends the amount of time you can keep the food in the fridge for freezer. Just remember that vacuum sealing isn’t like water bath or pressure canning and most things will need to be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
Fun Tip #1: Marinade meat in record time. Putting your meat in the jar along with your favorite marinade and vacuum-sealing it will cut down the amount of time you need to marinade. The vacuum allows the juices to penetrate into the meat much faster. What used to take hours now takes about 20-30 minutes.
Fun Tip #2: Put a handful of marshmallows into the jar and have your kids watch as you vacuum seal it. The marshmallows will expand! This one never ceases to amaze my kids. The air in the marshmallows expands in the vacuum, which in turn makes the marshmallows bigger. If you leave them in there for a while, though, or if you open the jar, they will shrink again. Great way to teach science to your kids!
About Rob: Rob Hanus frequently posts original podcasts on his website at the Preparedness Podcast. He also is the author of an eBook, the Preparedness Capability Checklist which can be purchased from links on his website. His podcasts are informative and his Prepper News Watch is the best. You can bet that his book is good as well.
What About an Oxygen Absorber?
When packaging dry goods in a mason jar, I use an oxygen absorber. Why do I do this? Whereas the FoodSaver reduces the amount of air inside your mason jar, it does not remove all of it. By adding an oxygen absorber, you know that the oxygen will be reduced to almost nothing; thus preventing mold and spoilage.
For a pint sized or quart sized jar I will use a 100 cc packet. They cost about 10 cents each and I figure that this modest expense provides an extra cushion of freshness, especially if my vacuum canned dry goods will sit on the shelf for longer than a year or two.
Something that Rob did not mention is that it helps to leave a bit of head space in the jars. I don’t know why, but if you overfill a jar, it will not seal. Likewise, regular mouth jars seem to seal more successfully if you use two lids. One lid gets sealed to the jar and the other acts as a shim that can be used again on another jar. Again, I don’t know why this works but it does.
Another good use for the jar sealer attachment is storage of unused oxygen absorbers. By storing the unused packets in a sealed jar, you can pretty much guarantee that they will still be good the next time you have a food packaging session.
The Final Word
As much as we prepare for off-grid situations, we still need to live our lives in the here and now. There is no shame in using modern, 21st century conveniences. That is why I promote the use of Crockpots, Automatic Bread Machines, and Food Savers.
Does this mean I do not know how to bake bread from scratch the old fashion way? No, of course not. Nor does it mean I do not know how to cook with my cast iron Dutch oven over an open fire. I do and do it well, mind you.
In using modern conveniences to save time, we carve out those extra hours needed to learn other survival skills such as fire-making, hunting, fishing, sewing, gardening and a myriad of other things that may be handy down the road. Personally, I think it is worth it.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Today I share some tools and supplies for using a FoodSaver to vacuum can your emergency food. For help with your food storage questions, my new eBook: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage.
FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), and inexpensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.
FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food. There is also a version for regular sized jars.
100-Pack Oxygen Absorber, 100cc: I always have these available. At less than 10 cents each, I consider adding a 100 cc oxygen absorber cheap insurance that ensures that my vacuum sealed food will remain nice and fresh – even five years later.
Sharpie Permanent Markers: Sharpies were invented for preppers! And without question, Amazon is the cheapest place to buy them. Typically, the price on Amazon is less that $8 for a dozen.
VacMaster 3 1/2 Mil Vacuum Bags Combo Pack, 60 Count Box: I prefer these over the make-it-yourself FoodSaver brand bags. I have been using these for years with great luck. To re-use them, I turn them inside out and wash them in the dishwasher.
Mylar bags & Oxygen Absorbers: What I love about Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is they protect against every single one of the food storage enemies. Prices do vary but for the most part, they are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. And while you can seal them up with a FoodSaver, some tubing and a common clothes iron, I find it infinitely easier with a cheap hair straightening iron that you can pick up $20 or less.
The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage: My eBook will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this! Now available at Amazon.
Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.
One item I can recommend available is their Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo. It includes 6 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 6 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers.
Don’t forget that you do not need fancy equipment to seal the metalized bag. A cheap hair iron will do the job.
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