Preserving and extending the life of food is important when you are planning on what food to add to your food storage . Food is expensive and if there is a way to extend the shelf life by a couple of years, it's worth looking into. There is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to prolong the life of food, and it's called a Foodsaver. I'm sure a lot of you have heard of, or even use a foodsaver, but it is also a great little appliance for sealing dried foods. I use my foodsaver and mason jars (or other food safe jars that have a metal lid, like spaghetti sauce jars) to seal up dried foods like candy, spices, chocolate chips, food from #10 cans, rice, beans, wheat, dehydrated foods...the list can go on and on.
I bought my foodsaver a few years ago on Ebay for around $50, and the tall canister I found on Amazon for about $20. The canister is designed for sealing food inside of it, but it also works to seal mason jars. It acts like an air chamber that eliminates all air from the mason jar. Today I am sealing candy, a must have in our food storage. A store in my neighborhood is closing and all candy was 50% off. I couldn't pass that deal up and ended up buying a bag to store for later chocolate cravings. Besides cravings, it's important to have comfort foods, normal foods, in your storage. This will give your family a sense of normalcy in an emergency. Plus it also comes in handy when you need to make a treat last minute!!
When looking for a Foodsaver, make sure it has a port on the front of it. It is necessary to connect a hose from the base unit to the canister to suck all the air out. I don't use my foodsaver for sealing using foodsaver bags, which most people want it for, so I bought the smallest unit I could find.
The port holds the hose that will attach to the Foodsaver canister, which sucks all of the air out of the glass jars.
Now the fun begins. Decide what you want to seal and put it into mason jars. Every jar size will work. I have sealed every size, from tiny jelly jars to half gallon jars. And it is quite simple to do, unlike the teenage girl in the photo. She's in a dramatic phase! My 6 year old had no problem stuffing candy into the jars. And don't worry about empty space in the jars, this isn't like canning, it will still seal with air pockets.
Some candy will already be in packages and filled with air. I make a small cut in the bags to enable air to escape while sealing. Otherwise the bag will fill up with air, like a balloon, and take up too much space in the mason jar. Yes, you could just pour the candy into the jar, but I think it stays fresher when they are in the original packaging.
After filling the mason jar, add a lid and band. This is really important...Don't tighten the lid too tight!! Twist the ring on until just tightened, not any tighter.
Place the jar into the canister and attach the hose.
On my machine there are stars on the corners and that is where you press, with both hands, to start the machine. My 6 year old is the one using the machine in the photo. She loves to help!
The machine does all the work for you. It will make a loud humming noise while working but just let it do its thing. It will almost be over when a green light goes on. Wait for the green light to blink, then hit cancel, and take the hose off of the canister, not the machine end.
After taking off the hose, press the grey button on top of the canister and hold it down until all the air has escaped. You'll be able to tell by sound when the air is done. It sounds like a balloon losing air.
Your mason jar is now sealed! Check the lid on your jar to see if it clicks when you press on it. If it still moves up and down you will have to re-seal it.
Problem Solving When a Jar Doesn't Seal
- Check the rim of the jar and make sure it is clean, check the underside of the lid too. You don't want any food particles or dirt/dust to be on a jar or lid.
- Always check glass jars for nicks or scratches especially along the rim of the jar. Jars with defects shouldn't be used for food any longer.
- Old or used lids may not seal very well. Use new lids for best results.
- It you still can't get a seal, place a lid upside down on the original lid and try sealing again. This usually solves the problem.
- Your ring may be screwed on too tightly. Check how tightly you turned the ring on the lid. Finger tight, not screwed on all the way.
- If you are sealing powdered items, such as spices, flour, baking soda, cake mixes, etc. place a muffin liner, or cut-to-fit paper towel, in the top of the jar before putting the lid and ring on. This will create a barrier between the powdered item and the foodsaver. You don't want fine food particles getting into your foodsaver hose. It WILL ruin your foodsaver.
- When using pickle jars, spaghetti sauce jars, and other food safe jars, clean them well! If the lids aren't clean it may not seal. I like the smaller pickle relish and jam jars for sealing extra spices in.
It only took about 10 minutes to finish all the jars in the picture. I take the rings off and store the jars on a shelf in my storage room. And I have been know to hide the candy jars where they aren't easily accessible. That helps the kids forget that we have them. Ok, it helps ME forget we have them :) Once on the shelf the jars should have a life of 2-5 years. I have read varying time frames for the shelf life of sealed food in mason jars. I always go with my own intuition and my sight, smell, and taste of something before eating it. If it passes those tests, we eat it. Most of the time food will lose nutrients, but won't be bad and make you sick.
A simple and affordable way to preserve food and extend the shelf-life. All in one little machine! Check your local thrift stores and garage sales for these amazing little contraptions. People love to try the latest craze and the foodsaver was one of those crazes a few years ago. I found a large canister, brand new in the original wrapping, at a second hand store for $2. Just make sure the foodsaver unit has a port on the front and you'll be ready to start sealing!