A few years ago I inherited a Food Saver Vacuum Sealer from my mother-in-law. It came complete with lots of plastic bags, a couple of canisters and a funny looking cap thing called a “jar sealer”.
I figured it was just another kitchen gadget that she saw on the TV and it looked like a big waste of money to me.
I was wrong.
The plastic bags and canisters that came with it I really didn’t have too much use for.
But the canning jar sealer attachment was another story.
Walnuts, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, prunes, raisins, crackers, shortbread cookies and candy are just some of the food items that I like to keep on the shelves of my long-term food storage pantry now that have a vacuum sealer.
The use of a vacuum sealer in no way replaces the proper processing of food for long-term storage such as home canning.
Vacuum sealers actually remind me a little of freezing.
Like freezing, vacuum sealers do not destroy the bacteria that can cause food borne illness.
When a vacuum is produced in a container the oxygen is removed.
It’s the presence of oxygen in the environmental air, that promotes the reaction of certain yeasts and enzymes that contribute to the deterioration in quality of certain foods.
Rancidity in nuts and the loss of quality in chocolate and other foods that contain a lot of fat, sugar or moisture, is caused by the presence of oxygen.
Remove the oxygen and the shelf life of those foods is increased.
With a vacuum sealer and the jar attachment I’m able to take advantage of sales and stock up on perishable pantry basics that in the past had to go to the freezer.
In my area of the country this is the time of year that foods like walnuts, raisins, dried cranberries, brown sugar, chocolate and other items that I use for baking come on sale.
So last week when I saw that the price was good on some of those foods I brought them home and broke out the vacuum sealer.
I have 2 Food Saver jar sealer attachments. One is for wide mouth canning/Mason jars and the other is for regular mouth canning/Mason jars.
I think it’s a good idea to have both sizes of jar sealers. Some foods pack better into a wide mouth jar (like crackers, some baking mixes or sugar), as oppose to a regular month jar.
Using a wide mouth jar can be overkill and a waste of space for things like chocolate chips or hard candy. I also use different sized jars for my storage needs. The small regular mouth 1/2 pint jars work good for things like raisins or prunes, and the large 1/2 gallon wide mouth jars are perfect for crackers or cookies.
The jar attachments are affordable. Last I checked they ran about $8-$12 depending upon where you buy them.
How I Use A Vacuum Sealer And A Canning Jar For Long Term Food Storage
I place the food into a clean Mason/canning jar.
I center a clean but used canning lid over the jar. Used canning lids seem to work best.
I next place the hose of the jar attachment into the special port on the vacuum sealer and apply the jar attachment onto the top on the jar.
The lid of the vacuum sealer is then pressed down with both hands to start the motor.
The vacuum sealer makes a weird noise as it sucks the air out of the jar. The closer the sealer gets to creating a vacuum in the jar the higher pitch the noise becomes. The vacuum sealer will automatically stop when a vacuum has been created in the jar.
How long it takes to remove the air from the jar depends upon the type of food and the size of the jar. Most jars will seal within 1 minute.
Some jars are stubborn though. They don’t seem to want to seal.
For those jars I use an extra canning lid inverted on the top of the lid that I want to seal.
I then put the jar sealer over both lids and remove the air again. It usually works every time.
Another trick is to heat a lid and allow it to cool and dry before using it. That will sometimes help if the double inverted lid method doesn’t work.
But be warned – some jars just won’t seal no matter what.
For those renegade jars the only thing I know to do is to remove the food and try another jar.
Once the jars are sealed it is important to mark and date the jar. This is an important part of long-term food storage and allows for the timely rotation of food.
Twice a year I go through all of my jars to check for seals. Any vacuum-sealed jar that has come unsealed should be checked for food quality. If the food is good you may either eat it or re-seal it.
With a vacuum sealed food jar, once the jar is opened you don’t have to use the entire contents.
Simply open the jar and take out what you need.
You can then re-seal the jar. It’s as if the jar was never opened.
Whatever you do don’t buy a vacuum sealer new. You can find them used in very good condition on eBay, at garage sales, thrift stores and at flea markets. Used vacuum food sealers will go anywhere from $10 – $55 in price depending upon the brand and model.
The only feature a used vacuum food sealer must have for food storage in a canning jar is the port for the jar sealer attachment.
I have found that foods like walnuts, raisins, dried apricots, prunes, dried flaked coconut, chocolate, hard candy and dry cookies will store very well for up to 2 to 3 years. With a vacuum sealer you can store all kinds of ready-made cake or corn bread mixes.
The shelf life of brown rice, sugar, pasta, grains, crackers, spices and most types of pantry staples can be extended many, many times their normal shelf life with a vacuum sealer.