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.