Welcome to Step 5 of our Six Simple Steps — this post covers the vacuum-sealing of food especially for long-term storage. I really like vacuum-sealing dehydrated food over other methods for a few reasons:
1. Lightweight for toting (if an emergency situation arises)
2. No wasted electricity (no freezer storage necessary)
I'll be the first to admit that vacuum-sealing is the noisiest of our six steps, but it's the step where the kids can join in and have fun!
Tools Needed for Vacuum Sealing
Obviously you'll need a food vacuum-sealer and I highly recommend the FoodSaver brand. I've had mine for years and it gets the job done. Tools you'll need:
• Food Vacuum Sealer
• 3-Mil thick Vacuum Sealer Bags
• Black Felt-Tipped Marker
• Oxygen Absorbers
Regarding the vacuum sealer bags: I know that the FoodSaver™ comes with bags upon purchase, but the bags are a little on the thin side. What we're looking for are bags that are at least 3-mil thick. My supplier is DC Sales Enterprises, Inc. — take a look at their site and Duane Collins will fix you right up! The link will take you to his 6" x 10" bags which are perfect for the job.
Important: Use oxygen absorbers. (I will cover this topic in greater detail in future posts, so stay tuned!) What are oxygen absorbers you're asking? These little food-grade plastic packets are filled with ingredients that absorb water — kind of the same way cotton wicks away body moisture. Even though we have taken the time to do Step 4: Conditioning, we know that some of our foods will still contain a little water. This is where the oxygen absorbers come in.
Please note, prior to vacuum-sealing our dehydrated food, we pop in a 100cc oxygen absorber — along with our food — into a vacuum-sealer bag. Don't forget this important step. Also, when you have taken out the amount of oxygen absorbers you need, immediately vacuum-seal the remaining oxygen absorbers. (Much more on this in a future post, I promise!) In the interim, you may read more here.
Now we're ready to draw the air out of our bags!
Vacuum Sealer Bags Have Textured Sides
When you get your vacuum-sealer bags, take a close look at the insides. One side is smooth, and the other side is textured. Why? Well, if both sides were smooth we wouldn't be able to draw the air out of the bags
When you have your food and oxygen absorber in the bag, place it on the vacuum-sealer (see photo above). Notice that the bag's edges are in the center of the oval vacuum-chamber. In front of the oval chamber is a dark strip. This is the heating element that seals the bag after the air has been withdrawn.
OK, with your bag in the right position, gently lower the lid (practice a few times so that you don't trap your fingers!) and then use the clamping lever to lock the lid. At this point, pat the bag gently to smooth out the dehydrated food. This small step probably won't be regarded as the same magnitude as walking on the moon, but it will aid greatly in saving your bags from puncturing during long-term storage!
Check to see that your machine is on the "dry" option (mine defaults to this). Press the "vacuum and seal" button. When the air-removal step is done (takes between 6-10 seconds), the machine automatically switches over to the "seal" function. A red light comes on and this step takes about six seconds to complete. Wait until you see the light go off before removing the bag. This allows for the machine to cool a little and to make sure you get a good seal.
TIP: wait at least 20 seconds between bag sealings to allow your machine to adequately cool down after the sealing function.
If you have been using vacuum-sealer rolls that may have come with your machine — to make your own custom-length bags — and they have the white print on them, you may notice some white residue on the sealing strip. No worries! Use a clean damp cloth to wipe this off.
Coming Up, Step 6: 'Store It'
The next post's topic will go over the various means of storing your packages of dehydrated food. I'll go over Mylar bags and mason jars, along with plastic lidded bins and food-grade buckets with lids. See you soon!
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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