|"Canned" pasta, dried beans, noodles, cereal, crackers, dried fruits, & more.|
Dry-pack vacuum canning is a preservation method for dry foods such as grains, dried beans, crackers, pasta, cereals, herbs, spices, flour, dehydrated foods, etc. The gist of it is to store these foods in air-tight containers under a vacuum. It has appealed to me because I have such terrible problems with pantry moths. And while the chickens may benefit from the moths destruction, I certainly don't appreciate it. Consequently I've stored almost all of my moth-susceptible items in the refrigerator or freezer.
Probably the most common device for vacuum sealing foods is the FoodSaver. Every time I blog about my moth problem, someone usually suggests one of these. So why haven't I gotten one? Well, for several reasons. Cost is one, but not the biggest reason I haven't invested. The real turn-off for me is that I've only seen them advertised for vacuum sealing in plastic. That means I would be continually having to buy (and dispose of) the plastic sheets needed for the process. I'm trying to get off the consumer merry-go-round, not find more ways to stay on board, so I might as well stay with my current practice of refrigerating and freezing.
Something I have been tempted by is the Vacucanner. This clever device is a pressure canner converted for dry-pack canning. It uses regular canning jars with metal canning lids, so that's a huge plus. The deterrent is the cost, and I never seem to have a spare $400 available to make the purchase. All of my dry goods remain in the fridge and freezer. For the DIY crowd, there are instructions for a do-it-yourself version over at earthineer.
There are other ways to create a vacuum. Remember my blogging about finding this?
It's a "Pump-N-Seal Food Saver Vacuum Sealer" that I originally bought for Y2K. (Still sold here). It uses plastic tabs as check valves, which is less plastic and more economical than the sheets required by a FoodSaver. Mine's been packed away for a number of years, so I've never actually gotten to use it.
Recently I discovered a way to use it without punching holes in my canning jar lids for the plastic tabs. I learned of it while watching this video - "Dry Goods in Mason Jars - Vacuum Seal - Pump-n-Seal" by Learning Self-Reliance. It only required a few one-time-only-purchase attachments from FoodSaver.
|FoodSaver jar sealers (regular and wide) and attachment hose|
(which is supposed to attach them to the FoodSaver device).
The other items I needed were things I already have on hand: canning jars and metal canning lids.
Could I use used lids or did they have to be new ones? Opinions vary, but part of the appeal is reusing old lids. These can't be reused for water bath or pressure canning, and it seems a shame to throw them away after one use. As long as they are clean, dry, and not bent, they can be used for dry-pack vacuum canning again and again.
I decided to try out this technique with some dry artisan noodles I got from Aldi. The bags were 25¢ each on clearance, so I bought a bunch.
The Pump-N-Seal comes with a small hose which is attached to the bottom of the pump for use with their tab system. For dry-pack vacuum canning, it is attached to the side hole and the bottom is plugged (the plug came with the Pump-N-Seal).
Slip the Pump-N-Seal hose into one end of the Foodsaver attachment hose, and it's ready to use.
Two preliminary steps are a good idea:
- Kill possible moth eggs and larvae
- Sterilize the jars, especially for long-term storage
Heat can also be used to kill moths. Recommended temperature is at least 140°F (60°C) for an hour. This can actually be combined with vacuum sealing, because as the lidded jar contents cool, they will create a vacuum. The following are two informative blog posts on oven canning:
Sterilizing the jars can be done several ways. Either of the above two heat methods would work. Or the jars could be steam sterilized for about 15 to 20 minutes. Another way would be in the oven. Place clean empty jars in a cold oven and turn it on to 225°F (107°C). Heat for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off and allow jars to cool before taking them out. It is said that dry goods in sterilized jars can keep for up to 15 to 30 years.
Canning lids must be washed and dried thoroughly as well.
Another bit of good advice is to not vacuum pack dried goods in high humidity. We want the contents to remain as dry as possible, so low humidity conditions are best.
Now, on to giving it a try.
|Fill the jars and check to make sure rims and lids|
are clean and smooth. Place the lid on top of the jar.
|Place the appropriate size jar sealer on top and press firmly.|
|Attach the hose to the jar sealer accessory.|
|Depending on the size of the jar and how full it is, I'm|
finding that 40 - 60 or so pumps make a good vacuum.
|There is an audible "PFFT" when the hose is removed. The lid|
should be firmly in place after the sealer accessory is removed.
The seal can be tested by tapping the lids. If they bounce or click when tapped, then repeat the process. Seals that appear to be successful but later pop may be due to something on the rubber ring part of the canning lid, or because the lid is bent. I left my sealed jars on the kitchen counter overnight and resealed the few that popped. If they popped again, then I discarded the lid as no longer being able to hold a seal. Rings can be applied for storage.
Check the seal about once a month by tapping on the lids. If the vacuum is broken check the contents. If everything remains dry and moth free, then the jar can be resealed.
The jars don't actually have to be canning jars. They just need to fit canning lids.
|That's an old coffee jar in the center, and one of those 3/4|
jars (the ones I wasn't sure what to do with) on the left.
Of course if you already have the FoodSaver you don't need the Pump-N-Seal. Some folks use a manual brake bleeder to suck the air out of the jar, but do check out Learning Self-Reliance's video before buying one for this purpose. Apparently the bleeders can contain lead which doesn't recommend them for food related use. It's also possible to convert a bicycle pump into a manual vacuum pump, instructions here.
The beauty of this system is that the jars can be quickly and easily resealed every time they're opened. I also love that as long as I have enough jars and lids, then I don't need to continually buy supplies. Nor do I need electricity to do it! All that plus increased shelf-life and food quality. What's not to love?
The only thing left to mention is that dry-pack vacuum canning is not suitable for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, or other high-moisture foods. Neither is it suitable for garden or sprouting seeds, i.e., things that require oxygen to maintain viability. Nor is it a good idea for oily rancid-prone foods such as nuts (although vacuum packing is recommended for freezing too, so if the nuts were popped into the freezer for storage this would probably help).
|This vacuum packed jar of fancy bow tie pasta gave me some ideas|
for gifts - jars of fancy pastas, dried soup mixes, baking mixes, etc.
Will the method live up to all the claims made about it? I don't know. I do know that basic storage recommendations will help, especially low light and low temperatures to increase longevity. For myself, I think it will help, especially if it deters pantry moths. And that means I'll be able to get back to more dehydrating, which I've somewhat fallen away from because of the moths.
So now I'll have to buy more 1/2-gallon canning jars! I buy wheat berries in 50-pound bags to store in the freezer, so how many jars would it take to vacuum can that! Plus I now use the Tattler reusable canning lids, so I no longer have a continual supply of old disposable lids. It's always something, isn't it?
Dry-Pack Vacuum Canning © February 2017