Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Thursday, September 4, 2008

FoodSaver/Vacuum Packing Tips

Pin It Way back in January, I blogged about flash freezing and vacuum packing foods. That post has the basic information, while this one goes into more detail with detailed tips about vacuum packing. So, start with the first post, and then come on back to this one!

I've been using my FoodSaver for about two years now. When I first purchased it, I really had no clue how often I'd use it, and if it would really be worth the money. Looking back, I can definitely say that it has paid for itself.

How has it paid for itself?
  • I no longer throw away food because of freezer burn (I simply don't get freezer burn anymore!)
  • I am able to purchase foods (mostly meat) in large quantities when they are heavily discounted.
I'm sure I could think of more reasons, but those two alone justify the cost.

So, what does this handy contraption actually do? For the most part, it sucks out all the air in a container, and seals the container, keeping your food fresher. The containers aren't just bags, though that's mostly what I use. You can also buy FoodSaver plastic containers or use any canning jar. It also has an attachment for bottles (fits a standard wine bottle).

When I got the machine, I'd heard that if you store it in a drawer or cabinet, you simply won't use it. It needs to be out on the counter, with your bags and accessories handy. OK...I gave it prime kitchen real estate. You all know how precious that is! No matter how small/large your kitchen is, great thought goes into what stays out on the counter. The model I have flips up so that it is vertical, against the wall. Though it's a nice brushed stainless/black finish, it's still not all that attractive, but it is very functional. And, functional scores big time in my kitchen.

Right below the machine, I keep all the accessories and supplies in a drawer. That includes: regular/wide mouth jar sealers, the accessory hose, bottle stoppers, a Sharpie pen, extra rolls (love the rolls; not into the pre-made bags), and cleaned out used bags (yes, you can re-use them!).

Upon getting my FoodSaver, I joined a Yahoo group, and learned lots of great tips for the machine. I've compiled them here in categories, so you might benefit from them as well. The questions, comments, and replies come from people all over.

Foodsaver Tips

First off, is a tip of my own. When I am placing a bag in the FoodSaver, I find that I waste a bit of bag because the bagged food item is resting on my counter, which is about 1" lower than the working parts of the machine. My simple solution is to place a cutting board right in front of the machine. Next I place the bagged food right on the board while I get it ready for vacuum packing/sealing. It's much easier to use when it's up a bit higher.

And now onto tips from others...

Holes

Often the bags will get one, or more small holes from jostling in the freezer. To prevent holes, and loss of vacuum, place the FoodSaver bag into a regular baggie to protect the FoodSaver bag. (You can re-use these protective bags too!)

Sharp items (like crab claws) WILL poke holes in the bags.

Canning/Mason Jars

Good for avocados & guacamole.

Problem: It's difficult to get the regular mouth accessory to work properly.
A. I have both the regular and wide mouth jar accessory and I do use a second lid turned upside down in the regular jar accessory. I think maybe it's because the shoulders of the jar come up so high it prevents the accessory from sitting here it needs to sit. I don't know! What I do know is that the second lid works for me. I also use the hole and masking tape trick on the lids I'm going to be using frequently for storing items in jars. It works well for me.

I have noticed that the regular mouth accessory has a hard surface that extends below the rubber gasket, which sometimes doesn't allow the accessory to fit down over the jar snugly. It seems some jars have a shorter or longer area between where they begin to flare inward and the top. So I decided in the past that either the gasket on the small
accessory isn't pliable enough, or the jar is too short for it to fit down far enough. I suspect that's why sometimes, some people use two lids to get the job done.

About sealing jars: you don't use it for regular canning, you seal shelf-stable items in jars, like rice, beans, spices, pretzels etc. When you suck the air out of the jars, these things will keep on the pantry shelf for a long time, with no bugs or moisture problems.
When I seal things in jars, I use the band, just lightly tightened, to hold the lid in place while it is being sealed. Then you can take the band off, and use it again. Learned this through trial and error.

When using your mason jars to can or to vac seal it is s good idea to leave the rings loosely tightened on the jars so that is someone knocks the jar the lid will not be knocked loose.

Q. My Food Saver just arrived in the mail a couple of days ago and I’m still trying to figure out how to get the most use out of it. I watched the DVD that came with it and it said to boil the lids of the mason jars for a few minutes before sealing the jars. Is this something you need to do each time or just the first time you use the lids. Also, I really don’t understand how a vacuum can be created at room temperature with the lid already on top of the jar. How is the air sucked out? A1. Boil the lids if you have trouble sealing, it will helps soften the gasket. When you are vacuuming a mason jar with the lid attachment the lid temporarily lifts up letting the air get sucked out of the jar and as soon as you stop the vacuum pulls the lid down tight. This happens so fast you can not see it happening.
A2. I have yet to boil a lid for use with the FoodSaver, and I'd think their usefulness greatly lessened if I had to do that each time I resealed them. I *think* that the accessory seals to the shoulders of your jar, or perhaps the threads. The vacuum is pulled with the lid loose, then when the FS stops vacuuming the lid sucks down onto the jar. A nice seal it is too.

I would like to add one more tip when boiling the lids before using. Make sure you vacuum seal while the new lids are still warm and the rubber gasket is more pliable. I have also recycled my previously used lids from home-preserved jellies and canned goods. Once they have been sealed (as in home-canned goods), the gasket has more of an indention and will vacuum seal just fine...at least in my experience. You cannot re-use lids in canning again, though. But they work just fine when resealing something using your vacuum food sealers.

My daughter in law gave me little two oz jars which I use for spices that I only need a little bit once in awhile, like saffron. There is a hole and tape method of sealing which works for the gallon size and all store bought glass jars with an insert in the lid of a rubbery like material in order to seal. This can be accomplished in two ways. One is to use the pump and seal. The other way is to poke a tiny pinhole in the lid and put a piece of electrical tape over it. Then put the lid on the jar and into a large size canister (I got a 3 ½ qt or maybe it was 3 1/4 qt at Walmart for about $13. Then just use the large jar sealer on the canister, that will vacuum the jar as well. When you release the air back into the canister, the jar will seal nice and tight. This way you have an unending supply of jars. All the sauce or pickle or any jar purchase will then become your food saver stash.

Q. I did the mason jar thing with just the lid (not the ring around the lid) - isn't that supposed to be right? I have the attachment - it appeared to suck all the air out. The lid was stuck on there and I happily put the bread crumbs (which had been taking up space in my refrigerator) into my pantry.
A couple weeks later I went to get them and the lid was loose. I'd blame the Airedales but there wouldn't have been any bread crumbs left if they'd gotten into it. Did I not suck enough air out? What do you think I might have done wrong?
A. It could be that the lid might have been slightly warped.

Also, did you "condition" the lids before you used them? (Put them in boiling water for a minute or so). It softens the wax and makes for a better seal.
I also always put the ring on, just in case. I just figured out that apparently my dogs are "shopping" in the pantry while I'm gone, and yesterday they ate an entire box of muffins - and left the wrappers on the family room floor.
Reply: Anyway - no - I didn't do that, and I'm sure that was the problem.

I use canning jars for tons of stuff - dehydrated veggies, pantry items, pasta, mixes (I have a YUMMY fajita mix that I just found), nuts, marshmallows, etc. Pretty much anything that will fit into a jar or that I don't have a regular FoodSaver container for. They are just so darn much cheaper than the regular containers and can be used for tons of things. You just need the jars (I recommend the large mouth jars) and a FoodSaver jar adapter (I think they are about $5-6). I would also recommend a canning funnel, but that's not absolutely necessary (but you WILL thank me).

Tip: Drill a hole in the lid and cover it with duct tape, so that you can then pull the duct tape off to break the seal. My husband made a bunch of these "quick release" lids and we use them all the time. They still hold a seal perfectly and we don't worry about bending them while prying them off.

I have that attachment for the mason jars, so I just wash & cut all my lettuce & put it in the mason jar. I make my salad each day for lunch & reseal the jar. I have had lettuce last in my fridge for 2 weeks this way!

A couple of tips - get a good canning funnel (you can get them at any place that sells canning supplies usually - a good hardware store, a farm store, a kitchen store.) It makes filling those jars so much easier.

The key to success to sealing canning jars is to put the lids into boiling water for a few minutes. They seal down better that way - - - although I've had very few problems getting lids to seal even if I don't do that, but they are usually lids that I've used once or twice.

They are easiest to pop off with a spoon, but make sure you don't warp the shape. If you are having problems with getting one to seal down, check to make sure it's still flat. Sometimes they bend easily, but they are cheap and easy to replace.

I've read (but never done myself) that you can take a small drill, drill a hole in the flat lid, and then put a piece of tape (probably something strong like duct tape). When you want to open it, you can simply lift the tape to release the seal. Like I said, I haven't done it, but a lot of people seem to have had luck with it.

How to Use Mason Jars
1=Fill wide mouth mason jar with contents. (try an empty one first)
2=Insert hose firmly in the wide mouth jar sealer & the port on your machine.
3=Put wide mouth Ball brand canning lid flat (no ring) on jar.
4=Put jar sealer attachment over flat and jar pushing down firmly.
5=Lock the locking clips on your machine.
6=Push the button on your machine to vacuum seal the jar, when the machine stops vacuuming, your jar should be sealed.

SHORT TERM VACUUM SEALING OF FOODS IN MASON JARS:

With the Foodsaver, we just create a vacuum in the jars which SLOWS DOWN the process of the food going bad. (Makes the food last longer.) It does NOT sterilize the food. That is why you have to refrigerate or freeze the jars of foods that you normally would keep in the fridge or freezer anyway. (Lack of oxygen and colder temperatures slow this process down.)

BTW, salad ingredients (crisp celery, lettuce, onions, etc.) can only be kept for short term storage in the fridge. They can be frozen, but, when defrosted, they become too mushy to be used in salads. However, they can be used as ingredients in other recipes that require further cooking.

Certain gassy foods do not take well to the vacuuming process without blanching first. The following is from the Tilia site:

"Note: Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cauliflower, kale, and turnips) naturally emit gases during storage.
Therefore, after blanching, they must be stored in freezer only."


LONG TERM VACUUM SEALING OF FOODS IN MASON JARS:
For long term storage, the food has to be frozen, canned, or dried.

VACUUM SEALING IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR REGULAR CANNING.

WHY WE VACUUM SEAL DRY STAPLES IN JARS:
When we vacuum seal our dry staples (flours, spices, etc.) in jars, we prevent any present bug eggs from hatching as well as preventing any new bugs from getting in. Any that do hatch, don't last long enough to do much damage without oxygen. The lack of oxygen also helps prevent any oils in these staples from turning rancid. Also, if you have a critter/ant problem, they can chew through cardboard, plastic bags and buckets to get to the food. The glass and metal jars help prevent them from feasting on your food.

We vacuum seal our dehydrated foods to prevent the moisture, that is normally found in the air, from getting back into the food (makes them go bad), so we are able to keep and store them for longer periods of time.

Regarding bugs in flour, rice, etc. I have found that if you FREEZE these items in your freezer for 24 - 48 hours, let come to room temperature and then seal in containers they will last for years. I know this for a fact. I am still using the same cornstarch and rice that I purchased 5 years ago. Also, I only go into the warehouse for bird seeds twice a year. Bring it home, freeze it, and then put it into popcorn cans and store on my screened in porch. You can imagine how hot it gets in the So. Calif. desert. I do this with cereal and any product that I know I will not use immediately.

TO VACUUM SEAL JARS WITH FLAT LIDS USING JAR SEALERS:

You can practice with empty jars.
1. Place items you want to seal into jar. Leave at least 1" space between contents and rim of jar. DO NOT overfill! (You need this space to create a vacuum.)
2. Make sure rim of jar and rubber gasket on lid is free of all foreign matter (food, grease, dust from fine particles of food like flour, etc. See note 2: below) and place flat part of lid on jar. (Screw band is not needed to vacuum.)
3. Insert accessory hose into accessory port of machine, giving it a twist while inserting to make
sure it is FIRMLY seated.
4. Insert other end of hose into hole on top of jar sealer, giving it a twist while inserting to make sure it is FIRMLY seated.
5. Place sealer over jar and lid and press down to make sure it covers both.
6. Lock locks; press and hold start button; press and release start button; press and hold lids; etc. - whatever you have to do to vacuum seal bags with your model of foodsaver - do it.
7. When machine stops sealing, remove jar sealer from jar. Jar should be sealed. If not, see note below.
8. The screw band is not needed, but if you want to, you can put it on now. Just not too tightly or you can break the seal. I use it because I don't know what else to do with it and sometimes I store the jars on their sides. This will prevent the lid from falling off if the vacuum is lost. (Hasn't
happened yet.)
9. Check the seal on the jars for slow leaks after a day or so. If there is a crack, scratch, or nick on rim of jar (or tiny piece of foreign matter), it can outright prevent the jar from sealing or cause a slow leak. Discard the jars with imperfections or reuse them for something else - you'll never
get them to hold a seal.

TROUBLESHOOTING THIS METHOD:

One of the most common reasons for sealing failures is not having either end of the accessory hose firmly seated. Take them out and re- seat them, swapping ends if need be.

If the machine does not stop vacuuming and the jar will not seal, clean the ball bearing in the accessory port to eliminate that as a possible cause. See the last Troubleshooting file for details.

Someone could not get his wide mouth sealer to work consistently until he placed the ring on the jar as though he was going to seal it in a canister (not too tight) and then placed the sealer over BOTH the ring and lid.

**REGULAR JAR SEALER NOTE**: I don't know if there is a design flaw with this sealer, or if somewhere down the line, they changed the design of the jars, but with regular mouth jars, you may have to place an additional flat lid - UP SIDE DOWN (back to back) - on top of the first lid (to raise the jar sealer a bit) before placing the sealer on the jar in step 5. (Works for me.) You will then have to use the extra lid every time you seal these size jars. (Seems the raised ring which runs around bottom of neck, or some other bump on jar, prevents the jar sealer from becoming properly seated.) Make sure the 2nd lid is up side down - otherwise, you will have one heck of a time separating the 2
lids.

Someone could not get this to work until they placed the second lid right side up on top of the first one. They had a hole punched in the lid so that it would not vacuum itself to the first lid.

NOTE 2: Sealing jars with flour or other powdery items has its own set of problems. Sometimes, the fine powdery dust is sucked up while vacuuming and get deposited between the jar rim and lid, either
preventing a seal or causing a slow leak.

One hint is to cut a piece of paper towel or coffee filter to fit on top of the flour to prevent these fine powdery pieces from being sucked up.

Many who had this problem said it was solved when they STOPPED OVERFILLING the jars, and making sure that the lid and rim were free from flour dust by wiping with a damp cloth. In addition, some helped to pack the flour down by gently tapping bottom of jar on a toweled counter and/or slapping sides of container with your palms.

HOLE AND TAPE METHOD:

Another easy way to open lids, (especially if you open the jars every day or if someone has trouble opening the lids without bending them, or if someone has an affliction which causes pain or otherwise makes it difficult to twist a spoon handle) is to poke a small hole (I use a push pin) in the top of the flat lid and put a piece of electrical or vinyl, not duct, tape over the hole. First fold the end
of the tape over on itself (glue to glue) to use as a handle to lift the tape.

To open the jar, peel back the tape to expose the hole. When the air stops rushing in, just push the same piece of tape back down over the hole. Jar is now open. Reseal the jar as you would seal ANY jar without the tape on the lid. Tape and lid can be reused many times. Many of us use this method. It works. Try it, you may like it. (Regular scotch tape will also work. I use the regular tape on the
small, pretty lids of my spice jars. I would not use regular scotch tape for any long term storage. I don't think it will hold up as well as electrical tape. This is just my personal preference.

TO RECONDITION ANY TYPE OF JAR LID WITH A SEALING COMPOUND:

When you use any lid with a sealing compound, you can see the imprint of the jar rim on the compound. After a while, the compound becomes hard and dry and it will no longer hold a seal. Then it's time to recondition them.

1. Place lid(s) in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer. (180F)
2. REMOVE FROM HEAT.
3. Leave lid(s) in the hot water for a while - a few minutes.
4. Carefully remove lids (they're hot) and let them dry.
5. You can see that the sealing compound has "fluffed up" and become pliable again.

½ & 1 Gallon Jars

Next gallon jars; have any of you been able to get the gallon jars to hold a seal? Mine won't. The original sealing compound is pretty thin and hard. I've heard of various ideas, but they just don't seem practical. Heating the compound every time I open a jar, or smearing petroleum jelly on the rim of a jar that holds something like flour doesn't seem practical. I tried to use heavy duty vinyl as a gasket, and although the jars sealed initially, and held for 12 hours, they didn't hold the seal over the long term. Anyway, I have ordered some food grade gasket material, and will let everyone know how that works. No matter how that works out I'm always looking for good ideas.

½ gallon jars are great for storing rice, flour and such but they are not recommended for vacuum sealing.

I also put several small jars of spices I use infrequently (like saffron) inside a ½ gallon jar & FS it.

I bought my half gallon mason jars from Ace hardware.

I keep crackers, cereal, chips, etc. in the ½ gallon jars. Sure keeps them fresher! I sometimes vacuum seal my chips in the original bags, but stop the vacuuming process before they can crush the chips.

I use the ½ gallon jars all the time, and I've found that Ace is the best place to buy them. You can also order them on their site and they will ship them to the store with no shipping fee (or at least they used to.) I keep all of my sugar, flour, pasta, etc. in ½ gallon jars.

½ gallon jars are awesome, but they are hard to find. If you have an Ace Hardware near you, you can order them on line and have them shipped (for free) to the nearest Ace. They are the cheapest I have found.

Canisters

I use a tall 3 or 3.5 quart Foodsaver container. I bought it at Target. Then I buy a bag of 3 romaine lettuce heads, spend 5 minutes to cut them all and put the cut/shredded lettuce in the container, vacuum it, and it lasts for a couple of weeks with NO browning. I just take out what I need each night we eat salad and re-vacuum the rest.

First let me say that I am a #1 fan of the FS...I have had mine for 5 years so I don't even have one of the "fun" new style ones. Having said that I will say that there have been a few things that have not worked for me as well as I would like. The canisters being one of them. I thought it would be GREAT for pre-shredded cheese, but no matter how much I "sucked" it would still get a little mold in actually less time than if I would have just left it in it's original zip bag. I believe I tried brown sugar way back when and that didn't work very well either. I am definitely more of a "bag" lady...I put everything in those suckers (well actually I get the rolls at Costco).

My lettuce lasts at least a week in a canister! Sometimes longer.

I bought the 4qt canister - found a valentine's sale online, and that's what I'm planning to keep my lettuce in - I buy the 3 lb. baby lettuce container from Costco for $3.99.

I keep lettuce (iceberg) in the large canister. It has kept for weeks!!

Our canisters worked for awhile and now sometimes they seal and sometimes don't. We still use them though for short-term stuff.

Oh - another thing that I do - if you have a large canister, you can put a jar of whatever - say salsa - inside of it and seal the canister. It reseals the airlock on the jar too. You can then open the canister and take out the jar to put in the fridge. This will also work with the flat Universal lids and a coffee can.

Tilia DOES NOT recommend that you use your FoodSaver Canisters in the freezer. - "Due to the expansion and contraction that occurs when something is frozen then thawed, the canisters will eventually crack and will no longer hold a vacuum."

If you wish to freeze food or leftovers, this leaves you with two options. Freeze in Foodsaver bags, (which is great if you want to use the boil in bag method to reheat the food); or freeze in mason jars.

Accessories

Accessories I would get (if it's a good sale) - the jar top accessory (should be around $6); I LOVE the square marinating containers (I have three). They are great for almost everything - from marinating meat to storing deli meat or cheese. I never use my wine sealer, but then again, when we open a bottle of wine, it's a goner - LOL. I also don't use the flat, universal lid very often, but I think it's just because I don't think of it. I do have three sets of the round containers and use them fairly frequently (3 sizes in a set). Mostly I use large mouth canning jars or bags.

I use my marinator all the time. In fact, I have three. They are good for storing other things that you open frequently. I have never used my universal lid or my bottle adapter. I do, however, recommend getting the large mouth jar adapter. I store at least 50% of my things in large mouth canning jars, both on the pantry shelves and in the fridge/freezer. The adapter comes in both large mouth and regular, but large mouth jars are easier to fill.
.
FoodSaver Bottle Stoppers are not to be used with plastic bottles. Also, do not use with any carbonated or sparkling beverages. Carbonation happens under pressure. A vacuum removes this pressure, releasing the bubbles and causing the carbonated or sparkling beverages to become flat.

I use empty wine bottles and put my regular cooking oil in it, as well as the olive oil. Here in AZ the oil goes bad very quickly, and I don't use a lot of it, so I put a small amount in a little bottle by the stove and the rest in an empty wine bottle (or Torani coffee syrup bottle) and evacuate it. The canola oil and olive oil both seem to last indefinitely on the shelf this way. I used to have to keep it in the refrigerator. I also use one in my cooking sherry.

The Pump n Seal by itself makes a GREAT companion to camping out, motor home, boat, picnics, anywhere you don't have electricity.

Features

Here's what I would look for:
Make sure it has the accessory port (I think they all do now)

Is it hands-free? One model I have, you can push it and then walk away and it will seal. The other one you had to hold until it sealed. It's not a HUGE deal, but the hands-free feature is pretty nice.

How many suction levels does it have. My 1200 has three suction levels; my smaller one only two. I don't think I've ever used more than two. The third one is mostly for very moist things, but I don't see much of a difference.

I think they all handle 8" and 12" rolls, but make sure. I use both sizes pretty frequently.

The biggest thing for me is whether or not it has an auto seal button. It's the main reason I packed my smaller one away (it doesn't have one). It's a shut off/seal button that you can activate anytime even if all the air isn't sucked out. It's nice for sealing bread, etc. Otherwise, it will suck the life out of soft items.

"hands free" vs. "auto or instant seal"
The hands free feature is that you press the unit, and once it gets enough air sucked out, the machine takes over and continues and you can let go (you can tell by the sound of the motor when to let go). It will continue the suction process and then seal while you move on to something else. If it doesn't have this feature, you have to maintain pressure on the unit until the suction/sealing is done. That, in my mind, isn't a huge deal because it's pretty short anyway.

The auto seal feature that I'm talking about is a button that says either "auto seal" or "instant seal". It means that you can activate the machine by pressing down and then immediately (or at any point) press that button to stop the suction and start the sealing function.

Without that feature, it will vacuum pack/suction everything, which is great for meat, cheese, etc., but terrible for bread or some leftover meals that you don't want to crush. For example, I package a lot of leftovers on chine-type plates for HUSBAND to take to work. Without that feature, it will literally suck until the plate rolls into a curve. With the feature, I can stop the suction when almost all of the air is sucked out, but not enough to mangle the plate.

It's not a feature you would use for the freezer, but for storing something short term, like break or leftovers, I use it all the time.

Is that more clear what the difference between "hands free" and "auto or instant seal" is?

As for the bag cutter, that's a feature that sold me on the new machine, but I didn't use it as much as I thought I would. But that's probably because I have a drawer with my bags, accessories, scissors, and a marking pen right next to my FoodSaver.


Foods/Items That Work Well in a FoodSaver
cream cheese
flour
sugar
foods you dehydrate
hard cheese (whole/shredded)
nuts
meat
herbs
crackers/chips
dried fruits
cereal
oats
leftovers in individual servings for the freezer
cut tomatoes
cut onions
leftover spackle/calking

- cut-up salad mixture, home-grown sprouts, fresh parsley, cilantro and green onions
I tested by putting half of each bunch in plastic containers with a layer of toweling underneath, and half in the appropriately sized jar. The ones in the jars far outlived the ones in the plastic. In fact, I haven't lost a single piece of food since doing this. I cook for one, but buy in bulk, so trying to keep things from going bad is an ongoing problem for me.

When I buy hotdog buns and hotdogs. I put hotdogs into the buns and wrap into a paper towel then vacuum seal.
When you want "one", then take it out and heat for about 1minute. It taste like it has never been frozen and no buns go bad.

After we open a bag of salad we put the rest in the container and it keeps for at least 2 weeks. Before we Foodsaver we would be lucky if it lasted 3 days in the fridge.

Celery:
A month ago I bought a package of celery and I ate a few pieces but never really did much with the rest. After a week, it was pretty limp and soggy. I decided to see what would happen if I put the remaining (soggy, limp) celery in a Food Saver canister. That was three weeks ago - with one week old limp celery. Then I forgot about it. Until tonight when I was cleaning out the fridge. There it was in the Food Saver canister. I was kind of afraid to look at it, but when I opened the canister, the celery was as fresh looking and crisp as the day I bought it. The limpness was completely gone, it snapped when I broke it, it tasted fine (I'll admit that I did throw the rest of it out since I just bought another stalk of celery, but I did try it), and there were absolutely no brown spots. So - limp celery is brought back to life and after a month is still fresh, crisp, and green.

Guacamole made on Thursday is still perfect. I bought a big bag of Costco avocados and made a huge bowl of guacamole. I then divided it into 3/4 cup servings in small Tupperware containers. Put a layer of saran wrap over the top and then slipped it into a vacuum bag and sealed it. The saran wrap keeps the guacamole and almost all of the liquid in the serving cup. This way you only have to unseal one serving at a time.

I like to go to Albertsons at night (after their butcher block is closed) and buy the hamburger then. They put out the days grind at the end of the night if they don't sell it all and usually mark it down to .99/lb and pack it in about 7 lbs worth. I will buy 3 or 4 and it will get us through a whole month or two.

It struck me that the little bit of paint left over from repainting a room, etc., might be preserved well if it were vac sealed in a jar. It would help with touch ups later.

Corn
I had read on here somewhere that it was okay to just shuck the corn and freeze the ears with a pat of butter on each ear in a vacuum-sealed bag. I froze it on July 10 and ate it last night - it tasted fresh picked! I have tried other methods which all call for some type of blanching, and have always been disappointed with the soggy, mealy results. No more jumping through those hoops for me! This was so easy and produced the best results ever. I didn't even thaw it before cooking - just dropped it into
boiling water and simmered. I only did 4 ears for about 10 minutes - should have gone longer as it was still frozen inside. I ended up finishing it in the microwave. It was delicious! I love saving time, I love fresh corn and I love my foodsaver!

Foods That Don’t Work Well in a FoodSaver
lettuce
mushrooms (unsafe)
soft cheese
garlic

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts give off gases when they are stored. This gas will cause the bag to expand, and the vegetables will go bad. The best way to store all vegetables is to blanch them first, then cool, dry, vacuum pack and freeze.
Baby carrots tend to either lo se taste or get mushy.

Liquids/Marinades

Try marinating the meat a couple of hours in the fridge, Then put it all in a foodsaver bag and freeze, vacuum the bag after it is frozen.

Try to always avoid sucking liquids into your vacuum sealer, it is a quick way to ruin it.

As for as using FS bags to marinade meat. Place the meat and the marinade in the bag and seal... The vacuum will pull the sauce through the meat. Leave for 15 -30 minutes, open the bag, and cook the meat...

I actually would take it one step further if I was able to and try to freeze the meat in the marinade after it set a while first and then food saver it. We eat a ton of pork and the extra time marinating would be so helpful to me.

A good rule is to try and freeze everything before vacuum sealing, while you might not think this is always practical, it is liquid and sometimes moisture that you can't even see that destroys vacuum sealers. The Magic Vac Maxima which I have and recommend has a removable and washable sponge filter to help stop any liquid/moisture from getting into the machine. EG. just like a pressure cooker raises the boiling point of a liquid, a vacuum sealer lowers the boiling point of a liquid during the vacuum process.
Nick

Q. When sucking the air out, sometimes, liquid gets sucked out as well and the bag doesn't seal properly. Is there a way to prevent this?
A. What I do is take a paper towel and fold it into a small strip and place it at the top of the bag (just below where the seal will be.) Make sure it goes all the way across.
That way, when you are sucking the air out, the extra juices will get wicked into the paper towel and you will be able to get a proper seal. Then when you cut open the bag, you can just cut below the paper towel. It won't hurt a thing in the freezing process.

Q. Someone mentioned putting a folded up paper towel in between the juice and the suction so the juice doesn't ruin the machine. Do you leave the paper towel in there? or take it out? Maybe it will be more self explanatory when I actually see the machine?
A. my parents leave a paper towel in there. I've never had the need for one. Once you get it and see what you're sealing and if it's juicy--and like the juice is starting to get sucked up, just stop and get a paper towel.
A. mine has a little reservoir that collects it. not a big deal...

What I do for "wet" meats, etc. is take a paper towel and fold it into a narrow strip and put it right at the top of the bag (but below where the sealing would be - about 2" down). When you vac and seal, all of the excess liquids that might get sucked out, get wicked into that paper towel. It's easy to remove when you open the package for use.

The square marinator is a must!

Try marinating your steaks with it also. We put our steaks in a glass dish and pour the marinade over the top and then slide a bag over and seal. We usually leave it about 30 minutes and it tastes like it has been on there overnight.

Marinating can be done in a bag (kind of messy) or a container. Basically, because the air is sucked out of the container, it forces the marinating juices into the meat. You can marinate meat in a matter of minutes. I sometimes take chicken breasts that I'm going to freeze, put them in a sealing bag with the marinating sauce, seal them down, and then freeze them in the marinating sauce. Other times I use the square FoodSaver container for marinating.

Foods can be marinated in foodsaver bags, canisters, as well as jars. Some here even use the gallon jars to marinate larger quantities.

I often vac bag items that have a fair amount of liquids or moisture. What I do is use quart size zip lock bags. I fill one up about 3\4 full then zip the bag from both ends, leaving about 1 inch open in the middle of the bag. Then I fold the zipper top of the bag over and squeeze the air out during the folding process. Then I place this bag, as is, with the 1 inch in the middle still unzipped, into another zip lock bag. I usually place the bag in sideways or insert it with the folded end first into the second bag. Then I zip the second bag, leaving the same 1 inch (or 2 inch for the second bag) open in the middle. Then put in vacuum bag. While drawing the air out, sometimes I massage the bags to help expel any air trapped. What happens is some liquid will escape from the first bag, however it will get caught in the second bag. Most of the time the vacuum bag remains free of liquids. When I have meat\fish or salamanders that are fairy moist, I wrap them in saran wrap then place in one zip lock bag, leaving it unzipped 1 or 2 inches. When placed into the vacuum bag the liquid stays in the zip lock bag, for the most part.

Sources for Bags

Please note that I don't endorse ANY of these companies. These are recommendations from different people on the Yahoo group. They are not MY recommendations. I simply have them here so you can check into them if you'd like to.

http://www.machinerunner.com/Packaging-Equipment/Vacuum-Packaging /Vacuum-Pouches-for-Non-Chamber-Machines.html

machinerunner.com: You have to click on the size you're interested in and the number of bags for each price is shown on the following page. Looks like the smallest number they offer is 50 in each size. When choosing a size, you'll lose anywhere from ½ to an
inch as they measure from the end of the seal, not the usable space, which may be common practice for all I know.

Best deal on FoodSavertype "non chamber" bags is still www.machinerunner.com , example 8x12 for 20cents ea + small frt charge. Costco's price is about 38 cents for the same size.

Best place to buy: Costco

http://www.highlandgear.com/catalog/default.php?cPath=22

From personal experience I have found the Black and Decker bags to be a pain in my FS, but the Seal-a-Meal bags have been great!

Machine Runner. Well, I have been pretty unhappy with them, but I live in California, so maybe that's the problem. Out of 3 orders, each took well over a month from the time they charged my credit card until the bags arrived. My first order of 8 by 12 bags was great. The second order of 10 by 14 (I think) didn't seal, so I emailed Machine Runner
who, in turn, emailed the people they drop ship from. It turns out
these bags work best if you snip the mesh portion of each and every bag prior to trying to seal. Apparently, there's a design flaw with the mesh interior. My 3rd order (arrived today) was supposed to be 7 by 18 but are a scant 6". I can't say I'm all that happy with this size, but maybe it'll prove useful. At any rate, when I did try to track my orders, there was quite a delay and hassle with Machine Runner. Still, the price is, what, around half of Costco's bags and if you're willing to have you money tied up for that long, it's a good deal. I bought in quantity, so having an order for $150 or so just languishing somewhere in their system was sort of alarming at first, but annoying at last. I doubt I'll order from them again, but what the heck, I've got 3000 bags now! I'd love to hear from the others who use them and see if there are any tips for working with them. Whatever it was I did wasn't very satisfying.

On the subject of bags, I tried one of the free samples offered by "The Sweet Attack" (I found them on Ebay) I was very happy with the sample they sent, sealed with no problem at all, held it's seal very well, and when I contacted them about shipping they were VERY helpful and co-operative.

I have been buying Black and Decker bags at Walmart lately because they are lots cheaper and do just as good of a job.

I used WalMart's brand bags with my FoodSaver with great success. Much cheaper than the real things.

Washing/Re-Using Bags

I do my best to avoid the need to do much washing of those bags. For raw meat I break up large packs into serving sizes, popping them into cheap bags as I go. I freeze the meat in those bags, and after they are frozen I bring the in and freeze the lot of them into one large FS bag. I always remove the meat to thaw leaving a clean bag. I use a variation on this for most things that I FS.

I hand wash my FS bags (like I'm washing dishes, rinse well) and use clothes pins to hang them on the curtain over my sink to dry.

Q. Can FoodSaver Bags be washed and reused?
A: Yes, but it depends on the previous contents of the bag. Bags that previously contained fruits, vegetables, breads, dry goods, and many desserts can be washed and reused. Bags that contained raw meats, fish, eggs or un-pasteurized cheese should be discarded after use because they may contain invisible bacteria that will remain after washing. Bags that contained greasy or oily foods should also be discarded, as they may be difficult to clean.

FoodSaver Bags can be washed by hand, or in the top rack of the dishwasher. Use a wooden clothespin or a clip to hold the bags in place. Dry completely. They can then be re-vacuumed.

Storage

For all of you that have a small kitchen and have a hard time incorporating your vacuum sealer, I thought I'd share what I do. I installed a decorative shelf about 8 inches under my upper cabinets near an outlet. It's out of the way, off my counter, and is real handy when I need it. I definitely enjoy using a full size vacuum
sealer.


Misc.

Avoid vacuum sealing anything that is still warm. Cool first.

Q. Can celery be vacuum packaged then frozen?
A: No. Due to the high water content of these vegetables, it is recommended that you do not freeze them. Instead, wash and dry them thoroughly, vacuum pack them in canisters, and store in the refrigerator until needed. They will last up to 6 weeks in this manner.

Q. How can berries be vacuum packaged without crushing them?
A: Wash the berries and dry thoroughly. Pre-freeze the berries by placing them on a cookie sheet, and put them in the freezer for about 2 hours. Now, you can vacuum package them without crushing them. To store fresh berries in the refrigerator, place them in a FoodSaver Canister and vacuum package it. The berries will last up to a week or more this way.

Q. Why does my vacuum packaged meat turn brown? Is it safe?
A: When red meat is vacuum packaged, it tends to turn a darker shade of brown due to the lack of oxygen in the bag. The contents are perfectly safe for eating.

I think Food Saver prices are pretty price controlled so unless a store is having a sale or a clearance, the prices will probably be pretty much the same.

Turkey should last 2 weeks without getting slimy. The problem with taking out one slice and then resealing is that you use up 3 inches of bag each time you seal it. It makes more sense to vacuum seal individual serving sized portions and just open and use one of these each time.


The only problem with putting lunch meat in one bag, is that you DO have to reseal it every time you get some out. That usually means a whole new bag, since you have to cut the top off, and you don't have that 2" of space at the top anymore.

I seal a lot of leftovers for my DH to take to work. A couple of tips on that if you think you might do that. I use a decent quality (microwave safe) paper plate for the main plate, put the food on the plate, and then put another one on top so that it sort of encases the food. I write the contents and the date on the top plate. Then I cut a bag and seal one end and slip the container into the bag and then stick it in the freezer for an hour or two before sealing. It helps keep the food from getting so squished and the top plate helps it from being so messy to open when it is thawed.

Having the sealer on your counter is the key. Counter space is at a premium around here, but if it's not out, you won't use it.

I just found out that you can make your own ice packs with them too. One version is to use Dawn dishwashing detergent. You will want to use the seal function and NOT the vacuum. Can double bag it if you want then freeze. It's suppose to have a gel
consistency like the store bought ones.

I've even used it to cut down the Ziploc bags in half.

A tip...NEVER NEVER use marshmallows that have been air sucked on a sweet potato casserole!!! The marshmallows will be HUGE HUGE and overflow in the oven! *laughs* That was our Thanksgiving tragedy.

Get rid of those chip clips, Use the SEAL ONLY option to reseal Chip bags. Cut off a majority of the bag then seal it. Even though you didn’t remove the air it helps to keep them fresh.

Make your own Snack size bags of chips. After you buy a big Jumbo size foil type bag of chips at your local warehouse club store. And have eaten the chips or most of them. Empty the bag. Wash it out. Cut off the top and bottom nice and straight. Turn the remaining portion inside out. Cut the bag into four even parts. Use the SEAL ONLY feature to seal up the sides (leave one open). Fill with chips. Seal. And now you have 4 shiny silver snack size bags.

Ice Packs

When I did this I used just a little alcohol (we also added a drop of food coloring and a little glitter- just for fun) and I've sealed them two different ways. The first was to put the liquid into a zip-top bag
and then sealing that inside. The second way is to hang the FS bag over the side of the counter. I put the Food Saver near the edge of the counter and let the bag hang off (I usually open a drawer to support the weight just in case) The liquid leaves only the air at the top of the bag and as soon as the air is out I hit the instant seal button. I also seal soups this way all the time.

I used 100% dawn dishwashing detergent-no water. I know that seems like a lot, but it isn’t that bad. It's like one small bottle for a medium sized pack. When it freezes it's more like a stiff gel consistency
instead of a slushy water one. More like the freezer packs you'd buy at the drugstore. It was really hard when I first took it out, but after a few minutes out of the freezer it softened to gel & molds well to elbows, etc.

I needed an ice bag and my home health therapist suggested I make one, much cheaper than the purchased kind......put 1 cup rubbing alcohol to 3 cups water in a zip lock freezer bag then into another freezer bag, squeezing as much air out as possible.... worked great but leaked a bit......I remembered my foodsaver....made sure the ice pack was frozen..put into the large foodsaver bag, sealed and had a wonderful ice pack.

16 comments:

Laurin said...

There are probably several reasonable priced plastic containers that could be converted to the pump n seal method if the lids fit tight enough but I have not see this done. What do you think?

oh yvonne said...

I just have to thank you for such a FANTASTIC, detailed write up on the whole foodsaver/vacuum subject. I just purchased a deep freezer for our garage and I'd remembered a while back on two peas you'd posted about 20+ meals. I love all the informatin,and the recipes you have here, your blog is fantastic! Thanks a million for sharing all your knowledge!

Anonymous said...

I'm embarrased I can't figure it out, but on the cannisters do you push the rubber flap down with the hose tip or take it out?

The Vak Shack said...

If you are looking for cheaper Foodsaver bags, I sell them on my website (www.thevakshack.com) I would be curious to see what you think of the pricing and quality. I have over 5,000 positive feedback on eBay so far. Let me know where you saw this and I'll give you a 20% PROMO code. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Can you buy canned goods at the grocery store and then food save them? The cans always have an expiration date and food saving would seem to extend that date.

Amos Kenda said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful and most useful tips about vacuum packing and foodsaver. These tips can be great source for homemakers to know that how they can pack their food items in right way and save its for long time.

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Anonymous said...

I also use the seal function to re-seal regular bags. Things like cereal, crackers, etc. It works great to keep them fresh.

Brad Knowlton said...

Try this next time you seal your meat! I make my own dry rub. I sprinkle it on the meat as I would before I BBQ then I put it in the bag & seal ot like any other time then freeze. When it is time to thaw it out the juice that comes from the meat wets down the dry rub & acts as it's own marinade tastes great & is easy to do.

Anonymous said...

super article, thanks

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your very informative information. Question: I am not clear about how you seal with the electrical/scotch tape. When you reseal wouldn't you have to press the tape down on the container to keep the pressure in the jar? Please review the process again, thanks. Can you take an ordinary
jar put the tape over it and put it in a cannister and seal? I am confused. Thanks again. Use my
FS many times everyday........

Anonymous said...

**My lettuce lasts at least a week in a canister! Sometimes longer.**

Why not put the lettuce in mason quart jars and seal in the canisters??

celine sanderson said...

These vacuum sealer machines would be so helpful for all the meat we get. My husband always goes hunting, and we can hardly eat all of the meat before it goes bad. I'm loving this idea of vacuum sealing all of our food that will go bad.
Celine | http://www.allpacktech.com.au/vacuum-sealers

Guinan said...

What to do with foil bags (jumbo size chips etc):
Cut off a strip of 1-2" from a FS bag or roll, cut off the side seals and discard the smooth strip.
Place the "rough" strip vertically in the foil bag you want to seal, so that only a tiny bit of the narrow end sticks out. Then when you vacume the foil bag with the FS, the strip works like a funnel to give the air an escape-route.
If using for delicate stuff such as chips, be sure to hit the "seal" button as soon as most of the air is out, so you don't end up with a crumbled mess.
You can use the same strip till the foil bag is empty.
This method allows me to divide a 300-gram bag of chips into 6 single servings!

Guinan said...

P.S.
This also works with cheaper bags, that are made only out of smooth plastic.

bob morrison said...

Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... Packaging machine manufacturers

Thomas Stok said...

i have used your information to store oats and cereals, and it has worked wonders