In part one of this article, we talked about pressure canning fruits and vegetables. In this extension, we will discuss the preservation method of vacuum sealing foods as well as freezing goods for storage. Both of these methods are easy to follow and will ensure that your garden and orchard goods have no “off-season”.
A great way to preserve dry or powder ingredients is to utilize a jar sealer. In addition to dry goods, mason jars can be used for all sorts of foods; salad-in-a-jar, breakfast parfaits, etc. Most of your best survival foods to stockpile can be easily preserved long-term by using one of the two methods explained in this article.
How vacuum sealed jars work
After dehydration, vegetables can be compacted in a mason jar, add an oxygen absorber, and seal the lid with a vacuum sealer to expand the shelf life for quite a while.
Removing all the air from the jars helps to keep the moisture low. This is what helps to slow degradation reactions and deters the growth of microbes.
Mason jar sealers have special lids that cover the jars. These lids will have a rubberized ring that will create the airtight seal you are looking for. Simply stuff the jar with your homegrown goods, maybe toss in an oxygen absorber packet or two, and attach the jar to a vacuum pump (or in the chamber that the vacuum pump is attached to).
Turn the pump on and most of the air will be sucked out, and, given that the ring and the jar provide a satisfactory seal, the vacuum inside the jar will hold the down snug to prevent any new oxygen from leaking in.
Simple as that!
How vacuum sealers do not work
Vacuum sealing differs from canning in several ways. The most important being that pressure canning uses heat to kill all the microbes in the food prior to sealing.
If you attempt to vacuum seal a jar full of something wet, say tomato sauce, the microbes that are already in there are going to ruin the food rapidly. Microbes are literally everywhere, so being some kind of clean freak cook will not stop those guys from breaching. In fact, some microbes don’t even need oxygen.
Vacuum sealers only extend the shelf life of foods that are already microbe-proofed. They do not make the food microbe-proof. So how do you microbe proof foods in order to vacuum seal?
There are multiple ways to remove the risks or microbes:
- Dehydration – Dehydration removes enough water so that the microbe can’t grow. When you are using naturally dehydrated foods, such as pasta and other dry goods, they can be sealed just as they come.
- Pressure Canning – This method heats the food up to a certain point to destroy the microbes. While pressure canning, you use the same jars and lids as with the vacuum sealers detailed in this article (which can make it even simpler to preserve your favorite foods). As the jars cool, the contraction of the air provides the partial vacuum that holds the lid on and seals it.
Tons of different fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated and vacuum sealed. Nuts, pasta, and other naturally dry foods also have their shelf lives extended by vacuum sealing.
How to vacuum seal jars
Fill your clean jars, use a shaking method to get the contents packed into the jar or simply pack as much as will fit in the jar to reduce how much oxygen the pump must pull out. Add an oxygen absorber pack or two (depending upon the instructions you follow) to extend the shelf life even further.
Be sure to wipe clean the rim of the jar to ensure that it’s not defaced by nicks or cracks or particles of food. Jars with defective lids won’t seal properly, don’t even waste your time trying. Making sure the rubberized seal is clean and smooth, screw the lid on the jar.
Place the suction cap on the lid/jar. Let the pump do its thing momentarily and then wham, bam, thank ya ma’am; it is done.
Pull up gently on the lid. The suction just made should hold it down tight. Slap a label and date on that bad boy, and you are done.
Pull up on the lid gently. The suction should hold it down. Label and you’re done.
Upsides and downsides
- The same jars and lids work for pressure canning and vacuum sealing, so you can stack deep and use for what you need.
- Jars are reusable so long as the jar mouths remain unblemished and the jars themselves are not cracked. Don’t try to put vacuum pressure on a cracked vessel!
- Lids are not reliably reusable. They often get bent or the seals otherwise damaged when the seal is broken to open the jar. Stock lots of these.
- Other small items that must be kept dry and/or in a low oxygen environment (perhaps to keep rubber parts pliable) can also be vacuum sealed in jars.
- Some reusable lids made of plastic exist.
How Long do Vacuum Sealed Jars Keep? Where do I Store Them?
Frozen food that is vacuum sealed lasts an average of 2-3 years, while it will last 6-12 months, on average, stored in other ways. Most vacuum sealed foods will last in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, which is much longer than the typical 1-3 days food will last when stored conventionally in a refrigerator.
For best results, store your jars out of the light. Light energy degrades molecules by different reactions; the vacuum sealing can’t stop that. It’s also best to keep food at a cool, steady temperature. A cool basement is ideal so long as it’s dry (not to rust the lids).
Recommended article: Four Simple Methods To Preserve Eggs For The Long Term
Another method for food saving is to freeze your homegrown fruits and vegetables:
This is one of the simplest and least time-consuming ways to preserve foods at home. It keeps well the nutritive values of most fruits and veggies. Frozen fruits and vegetables are ready to serve on short notice because most of their preparation is done before freezing.
We will cover the basics here, but keep in mind that each variety of fruit or vegetable will require its own specific directions be followed. It is important that you follow them carefully, as the quality of the product can differ with the freshness of produce used, a method of preparation and packaging, and conditions of freezing.
Freezing is not always recommended as the best way to preserve all products. You must decide what to freeze based on the families needs, on freezer space, and on other storage facilities available.
Freezing, to you, may be worth the extra time/cost because of the convenience of having the products already prepared to make them ready for quick serving.
The costs of owning and operating a home freezer will vary with the rate of turnover of foods, the electricity used, the costs of packaging materials, repairs, and of course the cost of the freezer you choose to use.
Some varieties of fruits and veggies freeze better than others. This will most likely be based on the locality in which you reside. If you have any doubts at all about a specific products freezability, test it before freezing large quantities.
Choosing a Container
The chief intention of packaging is to keep food from drying out as well as to preserve food value, color, and texture. All containers should be easy to seal and leak proof. They must be durable.
To reserve the highest quality in frozen food, the containers chosen should be moisture-vapor-proof which will prevent evaporation from occurring. Glass, metal, and rigid plastic are examples of moisture-vapor-proof containers.
Types of Containers:
These are typically made of aluminum, glass, plastic, tin, or heavily waxed cardboard. They are suitable for all packs, and specifically for liquid packs. Glass canning jars may be used for freeing most fruits and veggies (except those that are packed in water).
Bags and sheets of moisture-vapor-resistant cellophane, heavy aluminum foil, polyethylene, or laminated papers and duplex bags consisting of assorted combinations of paper, metal pool, glassine, cellophane, and rubber latex are all considered non-rigid containers, and are suitable for dry-packed vegetables and fruits. Bags can also be used for liquid packs.
The size you choose should be just big enough to hold one meal at a time. Common sense will fill you in on why… As for shape, well it all depends on how and where you will be storing the containers. Rigid containers with flat tops and bottoms will stack very well in a freezer. Round containers are more apt to waste space.
Taking your time and care in sealing can be just as significant as selecting the right container. Rigid containers are typically sealed by either pressing on or screwing on the lid. Tin cans require a special sealing machine. Select cardboard cartons need to have freezer tape applied after sealing.
Glass jars must be sealed with a lid containing composition rubber or with a lid and a rubber ring. Most bags used for freeze-packaging can be heat-sealed. Some duplex has been sealed up by folding over a metal strip attached to the top of the bag.
Related reading: How To Make Biltong With A 5 Year-Shelf Life Or More
There are a multitude of items that will help you to make packaging a smidgeon easier. Some containers may be easier to fill if you use a stand or a funnel. There are special sealing irons available nearly anywhere.
Packing the Food:
Be sure to chill the food and syrup you will be packing into the containers. Being cold already will help the food preserve by speeding up the freezing process, thereby aiding in the retainment of natural color, flavor and texture.
Pack foods tightly to abbreviate the level of air in the container. If you are packing in a bag, press out the air that takes up the unfilled space.
With only a few exceptions, allotment for headspace is needed between the food and the closure due to expansion as the food freezes.
This is fruit packed in juice, sugar, syrup, or water.
Fruit or vegetables packed without adding sugar or liquid. Vegetables that pack loosely (broccoli, asparagus, etc.) require no headspace.
Keep sealing edges free from moisture or food particles to ensure a good closure can be made. Label packages clearly: name of the food, date packaged, and type of pack.
Loading the Freezer
You must freeze vegetables and fruits soon after they are packed into containers. Freeze at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below. Be sure not to overload your freezer, as this will ultimately slow the rate of freezing. Foods that freeze too slowly may lose quality and eventually spoil.
For quick freezing, put the containers against freezing plates and coils and leave a bit of space between the packages so that the air can circulate freely.
Once frozen, the containers can be stored closer together.
Most fruits and vegetables maintain high quality for eight to twelve months at zero degrees Fahrenheit or below; citrus fruits and juices will maintain good quality for four to six months. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than those packed in sugar or syrup.
Longer storage will not make foods unfit to eat, but may weaken quality.
It can easily be mistaken that once the general growing season is over, so is the income of delectable fruits and veggies. But as we have shown, this simply isn’t the case. By following a handful of simple directions, you can enjoy your hard earned readings throughout the rough, unforgiving winter months.
Always remember, “life began in a garden”.
This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.