Friday, November 9, 2012

Food Storage Friday #13: Ideal Conditions for my Food Storage

One of the most frequent questions we get here at Honeyville about our products is their shelf life. When you offer a large amount of products geared towards long term storage, it only makes sense. While many of our great products (including our entire line of foods sealed in #10 cans) have the shelf life printed on them, that shelf life can depend on where and how you store that product. Because of this, we thought that for today's Food Storage Friday post, we'll discuss what the best conditions are to ensure extended shelf life of your food storage, and also what we should do after we open a sealed product.

Where should I store my food?

If you're like me, the first thing you think of when you hear of food storage is a large basement with shelves to the ceiling stocked perfectly with #10 cans, 6-gallon buckets, and sealed mason jars. While this is probably the food storage set up we all dream about, most of us may never get to that point. So for the rest of us, when it comes to our food storage needs, taking maximum advantage of minimal space is key. Some ways to find an ideal food storage pantry (when you don't have a basement) is to take a quick survey of your home and how space is used. Is there a coat closet full of old clothes or boxes not being used? How about that extra space under the bed? What about that space in the garage just in front of the cars? Places like these, with the addition of a few shelves or shelving units, can make an ideal food storage spot.

What are the best food storage conditions?

What you need for food to store properly can be summed up in two words: Dry and Cool. Nothing helps shelf life more than a dry, cool location away from direct sunlight. This is the reason why (besides space) we always see those photos of amazing food storage pantries located in people's basements. What is more dry, cool, and away from direct sunlight than a basement?

Not only does dry, cool, and out of the sun apply to the pantry location, but also whatever the food is sealed in. Are you a fan of our 50 lb bags of wheat, rice, or grains? We are too, but throwing a few bags on the bottom shelf of your food storage pantry will only give you a year or two of storage life, and that's if the bag itself doesn't get moist or break open. Taking them from the bag and sealing them in one of our 6-gallon buckets, with oxygen absorbers, extends your shelf life for grain from 1-year in the bag to 15-20 years in the bucket. Placing a Mylar bag in the 6 gallon bucket and sealing your rice and beans in the bag, in addition to the bucket, helps give you some added security.

What do I do after I open my product?

One big question we get, especially in regards to our products sealed in our #10 cans, is what to do after the product has been opened. Once the can is open, the seal is broken, and oxygen is now in the container. When it comes to food storage, nothing kills your shelf life quicker than oxygen, so the thing to remember is the quicker you can seal up that product, the longer the shelf life will be.

One thing to do would be to put the remaining product in a few 1/2 gallon mason jars, then placing an oxygen absorber in each jar. This will allow the shelf life of your food to stay strong even after it's been open.

Use a canning funnel to pour the remaining product from the package into the jar. Pour as much product you can in each jar. This will eliminate room for oxygen. Remember to keep a little room at the top for the Oxygen absorber.

Once the jar is full, drop the oxygen absorber in and screw the lid on. The oxygen absorber will not only seal the jar, but also absorb any remaining oxygen left in the container. Remember that oxygen absorbers begin to work as soon as they come in contact with oxygen, so make sure that your jars are full and ready to be sealed before you open up a pack. Oxygen absorbers are also not reusable, so once you open up a jar, the absorber is done!

Check the lid a day after to make sure it sealed. If the middle of the lid doesn't push down, you'll know the oxygen absorber did it's job and sealed the lid tight. Remember to use the proper size and number of oxygen absorbers for the container. One 100cc oxygen absorber can be used towards 1/2 gallon of Grains, Flours, or Rice, or a 1 quart of Pasta and Beans. We offer oxygen absorbers in 100cc, 300cc, and 500cc packets.

Another great way to store your Grains, Rice, and Beans, as we mentioned above, would be in a 6 gallon bucket with a Gamma Lid. Just remember with all products, the more you open them, the more time you lose off of the shelf life of that product.

Though we may not all have our dream Food Storage Pantry, we can all take the steps needed to better our own food storage and extend its shelf life by taking the steps to store it correctly.


Carla said...

I've been putting quite a few things in canning jars using the Food Saver vacuum, instead of the oxygen absorbers.
Just opened a jar of pecan halves I had sealed 18 months ago, and the pecans were perfectly fresh.

Darlene said...

Do you have to use canning jars? I was thinking of reusing spagetti sauce jars. Would the lids reseal when using the oxygen absorbers?

Also, could you store extra product in the freezer if you put it in smaller containers?

And one last comment: Could you make the oxygen absorbers in smaller containers? I'm not sure I could use 100 at once. Packages of 25 or 50 would be useful.

Thanks for a great blog!

Cookin' Cousins said...

Darlene, we've never tried reusing old spagetti jars, so I wouldn't be very comfortable saying they would work just as good. You can store product in the freezer, but without an oxygen absorber, your shelf life would be dramatically shortened. In regards to the large amount of oxygen absorbers in one container, one trick that many of our customers use is once they are open, they put the remaining oxygen absorbers in a mason jar with a lid and then stick them in the freezer. This helps keep them fresh for uses in the future!

Sue said...

Darlene: I've reused spaghetti sauce jars for HOT things like extra soup, etc and they do reseal so my GUESS would be they would. IF you were to do this, I'd test it with one or two jars perhaps with something without a long life anyway (so you don't have to wait as long to find out),but definitely put in an oxygen absorber.

NOW - I have a question. If you put your unused oxygen absorbers in a mason jar, vacuum seal it with your food saver, do you still need to put it in the freezer? I heard when you freeze things (like canned meats) as they defrost, there is condensation from the freezing process. Would this be true with the absorbers, and would it make them less effective?

Cookin' Cousins said...

Hi Sue!

We haven't ever had any problems with condensation, but I think as long as the jar is sealed, it should work fine. Thanks for the question!

Anonymous said...

Folks, it may seem like a big hassle to obtain, but it really is not that expensive in the long run. I have a bottle of Argon gas in my closet so when I open anything, or store anything even fresh fruits and veggies, I displace the air in the container with argon which is inert. It makes food last MUCH longer than just putting a lid on things. The gas is heavier than air, so it is easy to displace air in any container using a hose from a regulator and snapping the lid shut with it mostly in place after filling.