I love my vacuum sealer more than my other appliances. It’s not fair, because it doesn’t have to work as hard to please me. It rests on the counter, hardly requiring any upkeep or cleaning. It doesn’t have to be on all the time, but when it is, the results are nearly immediately satisfying. All it does is perform one final step in food preservation, but it gets a lot of credit because of it’s placement at the end of the workline.
I only discovered vacuum sealing last year. A friend recommended it with the tantalizing promise of fresher tasting freezer vegetables during the winter. I really didn’t understand what it did, even after researching it, but everyone that had one, loved it. I took the plunge.
The first time I used it, I thought it might explode. It makes a noise like a sick cow when it is operating. But like all sounds associated with worthwhile communication, I spent time becoming familiar with it’s nuances. It’s like learning when my dog is telling me a stranger is at the door or a family member is home. I can tell if the vacuum sealer is sealing the packages correctly or taking too long.
I found myself always looking for something else to vacuum seal. For someone who is not all that keen on harvesting the garden, this is a step in the right direction. I cannot think of any rational reason why I find vacuum sealing so much more fun than sealing things with the canning process, or just zipping up a freezer Ziploc. But I do. Here are some things that I use it for and techniques I have learned to apply:
- I use the recommended plastic bags for freezer items. They shrink when the air is sucked out, making them space-efficient for the freezer.
- I use canning jars for dehydrated items because they are reusable and easy to stack on shelves. Bags are not. Even the flat canning lids used as seals are reusable with vacuum sealing. I have successfully reused lids that were previously used to water bath can something.
- Since the whole point is freshness, I have begun using much smaller jars. I have mostly quart jars from years of canning, and they look nice all full of stuff, but a LOT of dehydrated vegetables fit in a quart canning jar. Most things seem to work better in ½ cup, ½ pint, and whole pint jars. And they are cute and make good gifts at that size. Using jars does require a couple of approximately $10 accessories that fit over the top of the jars, and a vacuum sealer with an accessory “hose.” They are super easy to use.
- Freezing and dehydrating are my preferred food processing methods to complement vacuum sealing. Okay, I don’t really know of any others. If you do, please tell me!
- I put the vegetables right in the bags to freeze them for a while before vacuum sealing. This is much faster than freezing them on a tray, then moving them to the bags. There is a moisture setting on the machine, but it required constant emptying of a tray that seemed to get filled up before a single bag got sealed, so it didn’t work for me.
- Peppers can just be washed and frozen. My husband prefers them frozen, rather than dehydrated. If they are large, like bell peppers, it is space efficient to to slice them. Since they are very dry veggies, they can often be vacuum sealed right away.
- Onions are another garden item that can be frozen without pre-processing, but they tend to be a bit juicier when chopped. Anything that has much moisture in it will vacuum seal easier if frozen before sealing.
- Grated zucchini is another that I freeze, then vacuum seal, then put back in the freezer.
- Broccoli and green beans get blanched and frozen before vacuum sealing.
- I did dehydrate some broccoli and beans last year, but they are in the quart jars. The larger jars make it harder mentally to open them since I don’t think I will use it fast enough. I forget that I could reseal it, though. Right there in front of me, new opportunities for vacuum sealing that I hadn’t realized! The broccoli is also in need of better rehydration methods. The beans work well in soups and stews.
- Onions can also be dehydrated, then vacuum sealed. My husband likes these a lot. He says they are sweet and nice on salads.
- Dehydrated garlic fascinates me and I love how it looks in the little jars.
- Tomato slices are a good snack or addition to spaghetti sauce and work well for storage in pint jars.
- Tomato leather sometimes turns out as tomato flakes, but either way, it is a good option for thickening up recipes. I put it in ½ cup and ½ pint jars.
- Fruit leather was vacuum sealed in plastic bags last year, because of the roll shapes, but it is hard to stack and not easy to access. I think next time I will tear it into pieces like I did the tomato leather and put it in small jars. I will be more likely to eat it if I don’t have to combat cling wrap.
- Dried herbs are perfect for vacuum sealing.
If you run out of garden produce to vacuum seal, or just need to vacuum seal something in the middle of winter, you can repackage any number of things that you buy in bulk from the grocery store. Nuts are a handy quick fix for the addicted vacuum sealer. Already dry and easy to pour into jars. But my absolute favorite is marshmallows. If you have any trouble with depression, you should just keep a few bags of marshmallows around to vacuum seal in small jars. They expand and look like they are becoming one blob in the jar during the actual sealing. Afterward they relax some, stay rather plump awhile, the get a tad bit wrinkly. When you open a jar, they taste perfectly fluffy. One way or another, I hope vacuum sealing makes you as happy as it makes me!