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Coastal 101 | Country Kitchen

Vacuum Sealing Basics

July 8, 2016

Saving Time and Money with Food Preservation

Canning is, by far, one of the best ways to preserve your food for the long haul. Preppers know this. So do your mom and grandmother. However, not everyone has the time to cook and can their way to a well-stocked pantry. Thank goodness for vacuum sealers.

The air around us is comprised of nitrogen (78.03%), oxygen (20.95%) as well as argon and carbon dioxide (1.02%). With vacuum sealers, you are eliminating the food spoiling oxygen, making it hard for bacteria, fungi, and insects to spoil your tasty vittles.

To do that, you need a powerful machine and special plastic-type bags. Your two basic choices are chamber and external suction vacuum sealers.

External Vacuum Sealers

Whether you choose a handheld or countertop sealer, you’ll find plenty of bag and machine options at all kinds of prices. Bags come in quart and smaller sizes, allowing you to seal almost anything.

Here’s the thing with handheld and clamp-style external vacuum sealers: the seal is only as good as the machine you use. While a good seal will preserve a slab of beef for up to 3 years (if you store it in the freezer), and even a bag of sugar can last up to 2 years in the cupboard, a small hole in the bag can make that food inedible quickly.

While these do take up some counter space, you’ll love the convenience and simplicity of vacuum sealing and then refrigerating or freezing your food for long-term storage.

Chamber Vacuum Sealers

These machines are quite a bit larger than external sealers, and do a great job at preserving your food. With a chamber system, you put your food into specially designed bags, place the whole bag into the chamber, and then close the lid. The airtight chamber then eliminates the air for the bag and your food.

While the bags for chamber vacuum sealers are quite a bit cheaper than those for external sealers, the machines can cost quite a bit more and take up a lot more counter space.

Sealing Your Favorite Foods

Once you start vacuum sealing, you won’t want to stop. That’s because it’s easy, fun, and can save you a lot of money.

Just be careful not to vacuum seal liquids before freezing them. Powders are difficult to vacuum seal as well. To do powders (sugar, flour, etc.), first put them into a standard, zip style bag and poke small holes into the top just below the bag’s zipper. Now, place your vacuum bag over the top of the zip bag so that the end with the holes is at the bottom. Now, you’re safe to vacuum seal your powdered goods.

Did you go berry picking recently? Instead of vacuum-crushing your blueberries, wash and freeze them first. The hardened berries won’t crush under pressure and you’ll have well-preserved goodness to enjoy this winter.

Coastal tip: vacuum sealers are great for non-food items too, such as matches, medication, and paperwork.

Staying Safe

Storing food for an extended period of time can expose you to some dangerous bacteria. That’s because bags aren’t 100% perfect. To reduce the risk, keep your workspace clean when you are sealing, and be sure to clearly label your bags with a vacuum date and best-by date based on the chart below.

Know Your Shelf Life

Ready to start preserving your family’s food for a later day? Coastal has what you need, whether you’re preparing for the big one, or simply storing berries for next winter. You’ll find canning and other supplies at your nearby Coastal location, along with knowledgeable folk who know what you need to get started.

Food Storage Normal Storage Vacuum Sealed
Meats (cuts) Freezer 6 months 2-3 years
Meats (ground) Freezer 4 months 1 year
Fish Freezer 6 months 2 years
Dry Goods Pantry 1 month 2 years
Cheese Refrigerator 2 weeks 8 months
Berries Freezer 1 month 1 year

Safety First

  • Keep all utensils, cutting boards and countertops clean to reduce the risk of bacteria.
  • Be sure the meats and other foods you are storing are fresh and bacteria free before preserving them.
  • Vacuum packed foods should be kept in a freezer or refrigerator unless they are dry goods that do not                 require refrigeration.
  • Do not touch the foods you are preserving with your bare hands. Wear protecting gloves or use tongs.
  • Vacuum sealing is not a replacement for pressure canning, but an alternative with a drastically reduced shelf        life.