After you have dehydrated and vacuum-sealed your garden's goodies, it's time to store them either for use during the winter and early spring months, or for those people who wish to have on hand an emergency supply of food — this post covers both!
I love to use Mason jars. Why? They are great for storing dehydrated food for daily/weekly use. It's so easy to screw off a lid, rather than having to cut the top seal off a vacuum-sealed pouch then having to re-vacuum seal it. Mason jars store easily in your kitchen cupboards making them a handy go-to while cooking your favorite recipe.
With the use of Mason jars, I still use oxygen absorbers (more on those coming up in the next post). An easy way to know if the oxygen absorber is defunct is to listen for a "pop" when you unscrew the lid. If you hear that, then you know there's still some life left in the oxygen absorber. When it's completely dead, replace it.
What Size Oxygen Absorber To Use?
In my quart-size Mason jars I use a 100cc oxygen absorber, just like we use in the vacuum-sealed pouches. For the smaller pint-size Mason jars, a 50cc oxygen absorber is ample. So why use different sized jars? For lesser-used veggies, such as garlic in my case, the slices of dried garlic fit easily into the smaller half-pint Mason jars. Sometimes I'll use an "almost dead" 100cc oxygen absorber for use in the smaller half-pint Mason jars, therefore bypassing the need to purchase the smaller oxygen absorbers.
It doesn't take long to fill a quart-sized Mason jar with celery, corn, peas, hash-brown potatoes — and these are the mainstays of great soups! Back to the garlic slices: They're easy to crumble up into soups and stews.
As an alternative to Mason jars — especially for long-term storage — I highly recommend storing your vacuum-sealed pouches in Mylar bags. They're rip-proof, water-proof, and block out the light. Yes, the three enemies to food storage: Air, light, and water. Do a search online for Mylar bags. Amazon have them (but then again, what does Amazon NOT have?) The size of Mylar bags I choose to use are 10" x 14". Many times, the Mylar bags are bundled with oxygen absorbers so take that into consideration while perusing.
A quick note about Mylar bags: DO NOT attempt to draw the air out of them. Only the vacuum-sealed pouches have the air removed — in fact, it's pretty darn near impossible to draw the air out of a Mylar bag because both inner sides of the bag are smooth. When the bag is clamped in the food vacuum-sealer, the air cannot pass through! (In contrast, the vacuum-sealer bags have one inner "side" textured to allow for air-removal.)
I attempt to put in four vacuum-sealed pouches of food into each Mylar bag at the most. Don't overstuff — there's less risk of puncturing the vacuum-sealed pouches.
The use of plastic lidded bins are great for storing pouches of vacuum-sealed foods that are contained in the Mylar bags. If the plastic bin is classed as "airtight," then by all means you can add a 2,000cc oxygen absorber before snapping on the lid. For the most part, these plastic lidded bins are NOT airtight (the handles usually leak air) so I don't recommend wasting a 2,000cc oxygen absorber.
So why use these bins? They're great for stacking and are well-suited for long-term food storage! In a future post I'll show you how I made a great storage area along a bare wall instead of taking over a closet.
Head on down to your local DIY store and pick up some FOOD-grade buckets (#2 food grade). Don't forget the lids! Or you can go to Amazon. These buckets are definitely air-tight so please feel free to use the 2,000cc oxygen absorbers in the bucket along with your Mylar-bagged pouches.
Do I have to use the Mylar bags? No. But they help segregate your food — keeps you organized. Also, the Mylar bags are great for writing on the date and noting what's in it! Use a fine-tipped black felt marker.
Regarding the buckets: Amazon also have some special lids that you snap on called Gamma2 Lids — and the interior of the lids screw out. The manufacturers claim they are air-tight. Hey, they are great — have you ever had sore fingers from trying to pry off lids (especially in cold weather). Ouch! These save the day (and your fingers!).
Folk also use these big buckets with the screw-out lid centers to store their bulk dry dog and cat food. A user noted that she stored flour too without any bug problems.
Oxygen Absorbers Up Next!
In the next post, I'll get into oxygen absorbers and cover why they are necessary to combat mold-growth.
To read all of Susan's posts, please visit this page on MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies too—for long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry full—whatever the reason or season!
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