I like to learn new things, but I hate to change. Can anyone else relate? I was exited to learn about the newest method in preserving food--vacuum sealing--and enthralled to discover that I DO NOT HAVE TO CHANGE ANYTHING TO USE IT! Vacuum sealing is the process of removing all of the oxygen from a package to aid in food preservation and can be used in conjunction with any other method of food preservation, thus making the other methods better! As you can see, with the use of this method, I am simply bettering my techniques--not necessarily changing them!
WHAT VACUUM SEALING IS NOT
Arriving home from a shopping trip late one night, I did a quick search of my grocery bags for the cold items. I needed to get all of the freezer and refrigerator items where they belonged before I laid down for the long task of nursing my screaming baby. Satisfied I had gotten it all, I retired to my bedroom where I fed Rebekka and, almost immediately, fell asleep.
The next morning, much to my chagrin, I found that I had left a package of Polish Sausage setting in an unexplored bag of pantry items. Would it be okay to keep it? Would it still be safe to eat? After all, it was vacuum sealed... That has to count for something... Right? Wrong! I did a Google search, which is my fall-back for everything. I quickly learned what vacuum sealing is not.
Vacuum sealing is not a preservation technique in and of itself. Any food that is vacuum sealed must be dried or pickled beforehand or frozen or refrigerated afterwards. Vacuum sealing does keep the oxygen out, which kills the bacteria responsible for making food appear slimy and smell spoiled, but it does not kill the bacteria responsible for deadly food poisoning! In fact, this bacteria grows faster in vacuum-sealed foods that are not stored properly since it does not have to fight with other bacteria to thrive. Since this food can be harboring food poisoning, yet smell and appear to be "good", vacuum-sealed foods can be dangerous to someone who is ignorant about how to properly store them!
Just to recap: If a food needs to be refrigerated before it is vacuum sealed, a food must be kept refrigerated after it is vacuum sealed--maybe even more so. Due to the rapid growth of bacteria that causes food poisoning, vacuum-sealed food should not be left out for any longer than a total time of two hours!
WHAT CAN I VACUUM SEAL?
You can vacuum seal just about anything, making the shelf life of any food three to five times longer! Vacuum sealing food before freezing it prevents freezer burn by keeping the freezer's dry air from touching the meat or produce you are freezing. Dehydrated foods last longer when they are vacuum sealed, since they cannot absorb moisture from the air. Vacuum sealing foods you are planning to refrigerate keeps the moisture in and the bacteria that causes rancid tastes and smells out!
Steaks or roasts, which can normally be frozen for up to six months, have a (freezer) shelf life of two to three years! Softer berries will normally last in the refrigerator for one to three days, but, if they are vacuum sealed, they will last one week, and firm berries will last two weeks! When vacuum sealed, cookies and crackers will last three to six weeks, flour, sugar, and rice will last one to two years, and nuts will last two years!
HOW DO I VACUUM SEAL?
**As with the use of any equipment, follow the instructions carefully for your particular product and brand!
Before beginning, thoroughly wash your hands and all surfaces that will be used. If you are vacuum sealing a powdered food, place it in another bag and place that bag inside the bag to be vacuum sealed so your powdered food does not get sucked out of the bag along with the air. For foods with sharp edges, it is best to wrap them in a paper towel before vacuum sealing them to keep the sharp edges from puncturing the sides of the bag. Pre-freeze liquids, meats, and prepared food before vacuum sealing them.
You can vacuum seal food without a vacuum sealer, although the bags used would not be as thick or sturdy. There is a quick and easy method for vacuum sealing ziplock bags on this website. This can be done easily and quickly. Place the food in a ziplock bag, and close it until there is only a small opening. Place this ziplock inside a larger ziplock, and close it around a small vacuum cleaner hose atatchment or cheap Handheld Vacuum Sealer. When all the air is sucked out, press the seal of the inside bag shut, and *voila!* You have vacuum-sealed food!
When using a vacuum sealer, measure and cut the bag (bags for a vacuum sealer are actually one long bag). Seal one end of the bag, and place the food to be vacuum sealed inside. Place the open end of the bag back into the vacuum sealer, shut the machine, and turn it on! The machine does all the work! Simple!
There are also Vacuum-Sealing Food-Storage Containers that you can purchased to be used with your sealer. It is possible to use a vacuum sealer to seal glass jars as well. These are more beneficial for storing crushable items, such as potato chips or crackers in. See your manual for information of these.
**REMEMBER TO STORE YOUR VACUUM-SEALED FOOD APPROPRIATELY!
For the Love of Vacuum Sealing,
Author of "The Fanatics"