I’m pretty well versed in some things. Storing food for an emergency is one of them. Dad came from an Amish / Irish mix family, on a farm, so lots of DIY food prep and storage. I grew up in a Mormon town, so lots of cultural emphasis on having a year of stored food in case of crop failure (since they had almost died out in one such famine year after heading to Utah, IIRC the story). Folks canning, salting, drying, freezing, etc. etc. just about everything.
Given that, it is a bit unusual for something to surprise me. This did, it’s a ‘bit new’ to me… You can can crackers.
Seems there’s a technique called “Dry Canning”. Not “water bath”. Not “steam pressure”. Just dry.
FWIW I’ve stored dry goods like grains and crackers in jars for many years. Part of my “Quake Kit”. One “dry pound” of food per person per day is about right. Think it will take a month for ‘relief’ post disaster? Family of 4? You need 30 x 4 = 120 lbs of dry food. Beans, rice, sugar, flour, whatever. If storing ‘wet’ food, like canned chili, canned stew, or frozen meat, it will take about 4 to 8 times that much (depending on how much of the food is water).
The best way I’d found “so far” was in 1/2 gallon Mason jars with a small vacuum pulled via a device made mostly for freezing food in vacuum pouches. I have one of these things that came with an adapter to suck the air out of canning jars:
Dry goods stored that way last longer than in ‘just air’. Not enough for me to regularly use it since things rarely stay in storage for ‘a few years’ to have the staling show up, but in testing it was significant. (IIRC, it was about year 4? that it was different for noodles and such. Salt and sugar just don’t care ever…) It is just a plastic cover over the regular canning lid that sucks the air out, then when you remove it, the usual ‘suck down’ of the canning lid happens and you tighten the ring.
Well, seems there’s another way. Drive the air and moisture out of the food in the jar by heating in your oven (and kill a lot of bugs / bacteria / whatever too) then tighten the lid down. Let it cool to pull a partial vacuum.
I hate that “well duh” moment… OTOH I really like learning new tricks… I guess overall it’s a win ;-)
Ran into it here:
(Had a polite popup, but seems to go away on reload, so I’m not seeing one now)
THURSDAY, APRIL 7, 2011
Canning Crackers! Say What?
A couple of days ago, a friend dropped by and I was busy canning crackers. Say what? That was exactly her reaction. They had a big sale on Premium Saltines and I stocked up. Before I share with you the easy method for preserving food this way, let me introduce to you how and why I know such things.
Well, that was my reaction too!
As long as I can remember, I have been preserving and raising food. As a child, I spent long hours with my mother and grandmother picking, snapping and canning beans and lots of other things too. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have been taught that is both frugal and provident to store and preserve food, water and other commodities for times of trial.
Golly, similar background too ;-)
Dry pack canning is the method I used for the crackers. Living in the Heart of Dixie has it’s perks, but heat and humidity are not among them and items like crackers have a very brief shelf life in this climate.
My first experience with dry packing in my oven was when I found oyster crackers on sale a few years ago. We opened up the first jar about a year later and they were as crispy and crunchy as if I had just opened the bag.
OK, has done duration testing. Good.
You can also preserve any other type of cracker and most cookies using this method. Other food items that dry pack well include: pasta, grits, cereals and other grains, beans (except for pinto beans and I don’t know why that is), rice, popcorn, cornmeal, flour, instant potatoes, powdered milk, and many more items. You can also use Macaroni & Cheese, Hamburger Helper, Rice-A-Roni, etc. by putting the pasta or grain in first, placing the seasoning packet on top and also include the directions.
Now here is how easy it is. Fill clean canning jars with the food. Place the lid on top but do NOT tighten it. Place in a cold oven and do NOT let the jars touch. Use the middle rack if possible. Set the oven to 225° F. and use the following time table:
Start timing when the oven reaches the desired temperature.
Pints – 20 minutes
Quarts – 30 minutes
Half Gallons – 45 minutes
Tighten the lid on each jar, being careful not to get burned, and set on a towel to cool. The shelf life of these items is about 10 years if stored in a cool, dry place.
I’m just slightly dumbfounded. So simple. So direct. So logical. So… why didn’t I ever think of it?
Essentially a drying and pasteurizing process for already dried goods, with a ‘small vacuum due to cooling’ removing some of the oxidation from air, finally a sealed glass container preventing future oxidation (once the oxygen inside is used up) and acting as a vermin barrier.
What’s not to like?
As the family has shrunk (kids moved out) I’m running down the storage. It also needs some amount of ‘turn over’. As I refresh and restock it, this method will be used on about 1/2 the jars. Likely those things that kept least well in storage without oxygen absorbers (regular air) at room temperature and pressure…
Note that this will likely kill living seeds. Don’t expect to store wheat this way and then plant any of it. It may also have an effect on things with volatile oils (spices, brown rice – rice oil is fragile, then again, it goes rancid in air storage pretty quick) It will likely take a little experimentation to find all the best details.
FWIW, the site looks interesting and likely a good place to spend some hours. I plan to as soon as I have some spare…
Doing a search on “Dry Canning” showed lots of folks know about this, so I guess I’m just being a bit slow about it all ;-)
I’m adding some links to other pages here. I’ve not read all of them, some have popups and those must wait for my pop-up killing no-script browser (on Knoppix) isolated from anything I care about. (Clicking the ‘close box’ can activate scripts doing things you Do Not Want, so I never click the close box on a pop-up for sites I don’t know well…)
I’ve not done more than a cursory look at these pages, but note them for future investigation:
Yeah! Polite and without a pop up! Talks about using oxygen absorbers (that would be a good thing but I’ve not done it yet):
Nice polite site with no pop-up at the moment, well, after a while a small one in the lower corner out of the way shows up, but you can ignore it. Seems a bit more cautious than the others, and lists a 200F oven temp that seems too low to me:
Has an obnoxious pop up that keeps returning on reload, after a while, but looks complete:
Another one with an obnoxious pop up that won’t go away on reload. I’ll look at it later with my secure “no scripts” browser. For now, I can’t really tell what it says as the pop-up won’t stay gone long enough to see (and I don’t click on things as this is permission to ‘do things to my machine’… and I’m not giving that permission).
Here is a contrary point of view:
Advocating 5 gallon pails for dry goods and (rightly) points out sensitive things like nuts and brown rice are not going to take to this well. However, a bit ‘preachy’ IMHO in that things like white rice and crackers can benefit from some added drying especially in humid places, and their complaint about jars is exactly wrong, IMHO.
For one thing, open a 5 gallon pail of rice for 2 people and you have a brand new storage problem as you will NOT eat it all before it goes bad. I have enough trouble using a 1/2 gallon. I’ve used plastic pails, plastic jars and tubs, plastic bags, etc. etc. I’ve also had squirrels, rats, insects, and God Only Knows What chew through them if stored in, say, a garage or basement or on the patio. I’ve had their seals give out (more often than I liked), and I’ve had water get into them (including some seeds in baggies inside a freezer.) What is the ONE thing that I’ve never had fail? 1/2 Gallon jars. Even came through a 7 ish quake (in boxes with crumpled newspaper around them) and a minor water “problem” (that took the box, but not the jar). In any case, nice to know the ‘con’ point of view.
No sooner hit Post! than began thinking about DIY oxygen getters…
looks like someone else did too…
points out ascorbic acid works (vit C) and that is OTC in the canning department. Looks like vitC is the simplest as the iron wants humidity to work…
You can buy oxygen absorbers over the counter very cheaply but as you say nice to have other alternatives.
I have pasteurized a lot of spaghetti to make sure it is vermin free in storage.
Dump the spaghetti out on a cookie sheet, and place in oven on low (my oven stabilizes at 175 degrees F on the low setting) and leave it in there for about 45 minutes. That is hot enough to kill any food pests or their eggs. Pull out, and put the hot spaghetti in your chosen container and seal immediately.
You can largely remove the need to use oxygen absorbers by purging the container with CO2 or Nitrogen if you have a source. In the early survivalist days (1980’s) they would recommend you go down to the grocery store and buy a bit of dry ice and put a small amount in the bottom of the container until it evaporates flooding the jar/bucket etc with CO2. The carefully add the contents and you have removed most of the O2 present in atmospheric air by displacement.
I have a CO2 fire extinguisher bottle that I can take down to a fire safety shop and have filled with dry CO2, and a short length of hose that can just plunge into the bottom of a container and crack the valve for a few seconds to purge air and flood it with CO2.
You can make a simple rig to generate CO2 with various chemical reactions like bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and use the gas generated by that to purge the volume. One down side of that, is the CO2 generated is moist and you then need to reduce humidity. You either need to dry the CO2 by running the gas through a very cold volume so the moisture is frozen out of the gas or you can use a paper bag of table salt in the container, which will pull humidity down to below 3% humidity if the salt is dry (bake it for a while) when placed in the container.
You can also build an expedient vacuum chamber. Years ago when I was working with radiation detectors, I needed to fully dry the Ion chambers used in the detectors. I picked up a vacuum pump used for refrigeration recharging, built a flat board with an impervious flat surface and a simple barb tight hose fitting in the middle of it. Placed the Ion chamber on the board and covered with a large pyrex mixing bowl and a simple rubber gasket, and pulled vacuum on it. The pyrex mixing bowl made a very cheap and effective bell jar. That pump would boil water at room temperature so it would completely dry the chamber at moderate temperatures. To seal the Ion chamber I used the exact opposite of the method you mentioned, I would place them in a small freezer for a couple hours then pull them out and while still very cold, seal the bleed hole with a big 500 watt soldering iron. That would “refresh” the Ion chamber and make it as good as new.
Same sort of system could be used for your canning – – take a large stock pot tall enough to hold the jars, put a hose fitting in it and pull a pretty good vacuum on the stock pot and when you restore normal pressure it would vacuum seal the jars.
The vacuum pump I used, was similar to this item on amazon which will pull an ultimate Vacuum: 5 Pa (0.05mbar) (0.000725189) psi or 0.0375 millimeter of mercury [0°C].
There are also cheap hand operated vacuum pumps used in automotive testing which could be used in a pinch, or you could use the hot reservoir setup remotely with a compressor or propane tank (empty of course) which was heated to a suitable temperature, and then the valve closed and connected to your vacuum chamber once it cooled.
Here at high altitude, the low humidity makes most of those steps unnecessary I have stored things like rice and spaghetti for years with no observable change in flavor. Crackers do spoil how ever due to their fat content going rancid, but pure carbohydrate foods like white rice and pasta not a big problem in my experience.
Don’t forget that Silica Gel packs are very useful for keeping stored food and seeds dry.
Larry, beat me to the nitrogen blanket. But I will add, DO NOT USE PLASTIC!
Plastic is much more porous that glass. Think how a bottle of soda goes flat in less than a year.
Also plastic now is mostly recycled except for maybe food grade, though if it comes from China I would not bet on it. Recycled means the chain length is shorter and the plastic is weaker. It may also have some photodegradable mixed in.
Last is contamination. Plastics are a LOT harder to sterilize and keep sterile because they are so much more porous than glass.
For short term plastic is OK but I would never use it for long term storage except in the freezer, although in the freezer I wrap with wax paper and Al foil first when repackaging ‘family pack’ meat into two person servings.
@EMSmith; thanks for the post! A solution to a problem that was of concern. De-oxygenating dry material in 1/2 gallon jars for long term storage…pg
Regarding your statement:
(except for pinto beans and I don’t know why that is)
I think that is because old pinto beans get tough and never cook up soft like a fresh bean will. They are still edible but you have to cook them forever to get anything near a soft texture you expect in dishes like chili.
I store pinto beans but they are so cheap for the bulk you get I consider them a short shelf life expendable food item. Keep them for a while and when a batch cooks up harder than you like, toss them and get new stock.
More on beans — acidic water or hard water also has an effect.
Where do you find oxygen getters OTC? (And don’t say Amazon! ;-)
The pinto statement was in a quote.
I learned the “acid to harden, baking soda to soften” trick some years ago (when some beans in tomato acidic ‘stock’ were harder than expected and too much soda made mush beans ;-)
That experiment came after trying some stored peas and finding them perma-rocks…
FWIW, 16 year old lentils stored in jars were reasonable. The skins were darker (tannins as natural oxygen getter?) and flavor bland, but cooked up well AND germinated!
Lentils are now my preferred storage legume. Cooks with far less water and fuel too.
Expired product goes out to the squirrel and bird feeder…
Glad it was of help!
After a year or two, even well stored vacuumed food storage bags would often look like “seal failed” just due to air permiability. The vacuum sealed bags are for short term freezer only. IMHO. Glass jars with metal lids for long term… Plastic tubs fracture sometimes if dropped from the freezer, but metal bands slow rust. So I use more plastic in the freezer (though the glass or ceramic tubs with plastic rubbery lids are best).
I just made 2 test jars. Pints. One of noodles, one of white rice. Nearly trivial to do.
Lids were put on to just barely starting to touch (starting to snug). Roughly the same as I do with lids for regular canning.
At the end of 20 minutes at 220 F, grabbed with a thin mitt, other hand with pot holder, about 1/8 turn to tighten, set on stove. Done.
I reused old lids, and chose those with barely visible scatches on the inside. They are not suited to use in wet canning, as they can rust, so I normally use them for dry goods. Ought to be fine for “dry canned”.
In a week or three I’ll open one of them and see what I think.
Just heard a “ping!” from the kitchen as one lid pulled in… answers one question: Yes it pulls a vacuum on cooling!
I buy the oxygen absorbers locally but you can get them here as well as other places:
(they also have a full line of high quality dried food in #10 cans, I use their tomato powder rather than store bought canned tomato sauce/paste)
how much soda is “too much” and results in mush beans?
IIRC it was a couple of TBS in a small pot… Did I mention I did QA for a while and that “destructive testing” is the only way to know when something fails? ;-)
Well, after cooling I was able to pick up a pint of the rice by the lid with the band off. That means there is a pretty good level of vacuum in the jar. More than I’d expected, really. (I ought to be able to work out just how much… but I’d have to convert everything to Kelvin or Rankine to do it … about 267 K ? vs about 380 K? so about 267/380 or .70 so call it a 30% vacuum or about 5 psi? over a 6? sq in lid would be about 30 lbs total? Golly, that’s a pretty strong sucker!)
Carbon dioxide is heavier than air so displaces oxygen (and nitrogen etc) meaning that most bacteria and practically all animals e.g. Weevils cannot survive in that atmosphere. Heating is usually sufficient to eliminate anaerobic bacteria providing it exceeds 110C but a low level of oxygen also suppresses any spores becoming active.
Multi-layer plastics are good at preventing the entry of water and oxygen into the enclosure hence their use as the liners for those cardboard boxes of (cheaper) wine. The metallic layer is intended as a partial barrier to oxygen and UV light, both of which are bad for oils, fats in storage etc.
Somewhere in there is the ideal method, but in the meantime what has been proven to work is best.
There is a faint possibility that Trump may turn out to be sane, sensible and intelligent contrary to the hysterical response of those who got the election wrong. On the other hand the reaction of the “intelligencia” would make the proposed preparations worth undertaking. Sane and sensible are not the adjectives I would choose to the likely behaviour of those surviving in local power. Good luck in the near future.
I remember canned crackers from the old C-Ration days, so I knew it could be done. Just never knew how.
I’ve been dealing with “issues” since before the word “prepper” existed. In my experience, THE most common use is natural disaster, followed by loss of income, followed by government stupidity. Everything else comes after that or hasn’t come at all.
Quakes, hurricanes, storm driven power failures, incessant rain and don’t want to go to the store, or just forgot to buy sugar, rice or milk. More than anything else those sent me to the food storage system.
Between contracts, or even swapped jobs and next paycheck is a month away, come in next. It can be remarkably comforting, when your company shuts down, to look over at 3 months of food and know you can skip the store and those costs for a while.
Finally, the generator got a good workout last time the Dimocrats decided to play with the electrical system / business. Governor Gray “out” Davis caused more powerfailures per quarter than anything or anyone else ever did. Note to Democrats: If you EVER want to be in power as a dominant force DO NOT MESS WITH THE ELECTRIC POWER SYSTEMS. I’m 100% against you simply due to Gray “Out” Davis and will be as long as you persist in a focus on electricity.
Now, The Current Circumstance:
I’m not seeing much risk. Trump was “playing a role”. You don’t get to be a multi $Billionaire with a Warton degree as a dummy or an idiot. He knew his audience and “pitched” himself to it. As he had decades of “construction site experience” he knew just what spot to hit. As President, he will be the type who runs a $Billions company as The Boss. I’m not worried about that.
However, the Clinton Machine is not gone (and will be inherited by someone eventually) nor will Obama go quietly into that good night, and the Soros Monster has plans for his kid to take over; so that threat will continue, and it is now pissed at being kicked in the rump. Expect the Street Theatre to be escalated and expect Soros to be pining for a Color Revolution here, too.
So, IMHO, while it is important to continue to track the Clinton Machine, Obama, Soros And His Spawn, and the Dimocrats, it is unlikely to need anything from a preparedness system. A quake, hurricane, or loss of electricity are much more important reasons to have one and keep it current.
Oh, and the UN / Climate Wars / “Trade Deals” that are really loss of sovereignty et. al. deserve honorable mention as similar parasites not going away soon…
FWIW, my major interest in things like Dry Canning, is monetary. I can buy big bulk for things like Rice Checks now and dry can them for use over the following year. Lets me live cheaper AND more conveniently since I don’t have to run to the store when we suddenly are out of breakfast cereal…
I knew them from MREs, but figured there was some secret sauce… which turns out to just be heat it and seal… Doh! (perhaps in an inert atmosphere).
I’ve never needed it (though understand it and know how to do it). I subscribed to the Mormon method – stock rotation. In my Mormon Home Town, pretty much everyone did this, and we did it in the restaurant (the major difference is the size of the stock). You buy new and stock the shelves. You consume from the old side of the stocking point. As a gap forms, you stock new. Eventually you cycle through the whole inventory and always have a full inventory supply (modulo the restock quantity). The only downside is that if you have a long duration inventory you are always eating old stuff. For the restaurant this was about a 1 week supply (in case the delivery failed). The Mormons tended to have a 1 year supply. Yet canned goods easily keep a year as do dry goods, so eating one year old just isn’t an issue.
Given that, and given that I’ve got closer to 3 months than a year, I’ve never needed the inert atmosphere treatment and just avoided that fuss and cost. Were I storing things (other than experimental) for 5 years+, I’d bother and do it.
(I do have some experimental storage where I put things away for “deep time” ;-) just to see how they do. So those ‘hard peas’ and 16 year lentils … )
I do strongly recommend that folks just get (or make, you can use a closet in the guest room…) a large pantry. Put in it about 120 lbs or 50 kg per person of ‘dry goods’. Whatever you like to actually eat. I’m fond of rice, lentils, noodles, sugar, salt, flour, and cereals. Also smaller quantities of various beans and things like dried fruit. Now add to it about the same amount (3 months) of commercial canned goods. Fruit, vegetables like Asparagus and Corn you are not likely to can yourself. Add the things you like in packages like scalloped potatoes or Mac & Cheese (the commercial stuff) for about 3 months worth of each. (If you eat Kraft Mac & Cheese once a week, that would be 12 boxes) and any canned milk or powdered milk needed to make those packaged things. At that point, you have about a 6 month “supply” that looks remarkably like an ordinary but well stocked pantry. A dozen of this, a dozen of that. When you go to the store (which can now be about once a month, other than milk, bread, and eggs…) to buy, you buy about a month or 2 worth of “whatever” and put it in the pantry. Sometimes you will have 4 months of “something” and sometimes only 2, but the average of everything is about 3 months for the dry goods and 3 months for the ‘wet and packaged’ goods, or 6 months total.
The only thing it requires is some space. It saves money as now you can buy bulk and / or on sale, so ‘no money’ is not an excuse unless you are really living hand to mouth (but even then, popping $20 each for a big bag of beans and rice can get you ahead enough to start the virtuous circle of the rest…) I’ve seen one example where folks built a large pedestal of canned goods and put a door on top of it to make a living room coffee table. (Cloth cover over cans). Nobody realized their coffee table was a food storage system…
THEN you can get into things like canning your own beans and making canned soup and canning crackers and … First off, you have the goods to do it with. Second, you can now start accumulating jars and equipment to do it with using the money saved on food. Now you can start to rotate in some of your own canned goods for the stuff in the pantry… ( I just converted the soup section to home canned, joining the beans and some of the vegetables… and I’m working on canned meatloaf… It works, but I’m making it with turkey and getting the spice mix right is taking a bit of work…)
Once all that is done, IFF one is actually interested in all this stuff, you can get into the “how to store rice for 10 years” business… Mine never gets stored that long as I eat it inside a year or three… I’m mostly interested in things like canning crackers and putting rice in jars as ways to make it vermin and water proof…
I was being sarcastic about Trump; I worked in industry (counting school holidays) for 40+ years. I have a literary trending friend (multiple published author) who was a ‘socialist’ at 20 and went to work in a factory to ‘spread the word’. He quickly found out that the workers weren’t interested and instead changed his world outlook. He is now an avid Spectator reader if that means anything in California. I have no fear that Trump will be a bad President, but I was worried, as was Putin obviously, about Hilary’s mental stability.
As for electricity the local Premier is a turbine hugger and we had a State wide blackout recently (as distinct from several ones earlier in the year which only involved a lot of people) and the reaction is deep but determined that he will go. Unfortunately the electoral cycle means that his party will remain in power for another 15 months. My generator has arrived but isn’t connected yet. This will help maintain a freezer for food storage.
On the political side I don’t know what will happen except that in the First World there is a growing move to the right (except Spain & Portugal). What are the chances of Obama and the Clintons fighting for control of the Democratic machine, with Soros adding his bit?
Since we were talking about cooking beans here this is interesting. Of course they did not link to the actual studies so you could examine the actual beans tested. It also raises the question is the better nutrition retention a result of the type of bean or the length of cooking (ie if cooked quickly in a pressure cooker would the slower cooking beans be comparable to the bean varieties which naturally cook quicker (presumably due different seed coats on the beans more permeable to water and the cooking process.)
Larry, per beans:
at the bottom of the article you cited as “download full text” that implies it is the article you are reading but really is the article they cited…
philjourdan says: “I remember canned crackers from the old C-Ration days…”
When I was in Germany we bought C-Rations by the case for use on caving trips. They also had # 10 cans of preserved beef (irradiated?) that could be re-hydrated to like fresh. I used a good white wine and soy sauce for re-hydrating…..