It is a timeless truism. Give someone a fish and feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish and feed them for a lifetime. The only thing better than having something is having the knowledge and means to make that something for yourself from scratch. When it comes to shelf-stable food that axiom applies in spades.

Nowadays, food is expensive, the store-bought stuff is filled with who knows what sorts of chemicals and every now and then the weather just goes nuts. In times like these, sensible Americans can benefit from having the capability of preserving food that will remain fresh for long periods without refrigeration. As with so many other things, American ingenuity sees this need and fills it. That’s where the VacuCanner comes in.

The VacuCanner system allows the typical independent American to easily prepare a large supply of the appropriate foods for long-term storage. It is also great fun. The basic system is terribly clever.

Vacucanner

Dried staples like these beans are perfect for the VacuCanner. Ideal raw materials are dry and oil-free.

Nuts And Bolts

At its heart, the VacuCanner is a high-quality pressure cooker outfitted with a ball valve, a pressure gauge and an electric vacuum pump. The system requires mason jars with two-part lids as well. These jars in my neck of the woods run less than a buck a piece in quantity. In a nutshell, you put whatever you want preserved in a mason jar and just set the lid in place without tightening. You then place the mason jars in the cooker and seal it. At this point you use the vacuum pump to evacuate the air from the pressure vessel and create a partial vacuum. This process takes maybe two minutes.

As the air is evacuated from the VacuCanner it escapes from the mason jars as well. You can follow the progress on the attached pressure gauge. Once the atmosphere inside the pressure vessel is a functional vacuum, you open the ball valve quickly and allow air to re-enter the device. This process forces the jar lids to seal and very efficiently captures the vacuum inside the jar. You then remove the jars, tighten the lids and write the date on the outside with a permanent marker. The pressure is so substantial that it takes a fair bit of effort to get the jar lids off.

Foods to be preserved need to be dry and as free of oils as possible. Dried fruit, white rice and beans are splendid. Spices, flour and similar dry goods are great candidates as well. If the food to be preserved is a dusty powder like flour or corn meal, you can place a coffee filter inside the jar, on top of the material, to keep any of it from spilling out during the vacuum process. The neat thing about owning your own machine is that you can experiment with it. If something you grow or have on the shelf seems an appropriate candidate, just seal it up, then wait six months and pop it open to see what sort of results you get.

VacuCanner

Preserving all sorts of scrumptiously good eats for long-term storage with the VacuCanner is not only a speedy way to get things done, but a fun way, too!

Enemies Of Food Storage

Paraphrased a bit, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in the absence of outside forces, all natural systems drive toward a state of greater disorder. This is the reason you can put a wristwatch in a safe and find that it likely won’t run a century later when your great grandchildren happen upon it while scrounging for your will. It is also why we all age. In the case of foods, this simply means that, unless preserved, food will spoil and become inedible.

There are countless chemical options for  preserving foods, but that just seems to be an intuitively unhealthy idea. Whatever those preservatives might do to your food, they likely do the same things to your gut. In the case of food spoilage, there are six major factors.

Oxygen is the critical piece of any oxidation reaction. Rust on steel is an obvious manifestation, but oxygen contributes to the breakdown of foods as well. The VacuCanner removes virutally all of it from the jars it seals.

Moisture facilitates the growth of parasitic entities like fungus and mold. Without moisture, these gooey contaminants cannot gain a foothold and the VacuCanner removes the humidity along with the air. 

Insects are ubiquitous throughout the world and serve a critical role in our ecosystem. It is fairly icky to ponder, but there are bugs (and their eggs) pretty much everywhere and in everything, including the foods we eat. In the absence of oxygen, bugs and their eggs simply die and we process them as protein when we ingest them. It sounds kind of nasty, but we do it every day in cooked foods without even knowing it.

Rodents are comparably ubiquitous and extraordinarily resourceful. However, no matter the circumstances, a sealed glass jar is impervious to any assault from vermin—unless a pesky raccoon gets to knocking mason jars off of your root cellar’s shelves. 

Light is bad and sunlight is even worse. UV radiation photo-degrades most anything and sunlight translates into heat, which is another critical enemy of long-term food storage.

Heat is bad for food storage, and 60 degrees Fahrenheit is the critical point. At 60 degrees, most dry food staples sealed with the VacuCanner can be expected to be useful for about 25 years. A good rule of thumb is that for every 10 degrees above 60 degrees that a food is stored, you can take 10 years off of its effective shelf life. For every 10 degrees below 60 you can add 10 years. At around 38 degrees, vacuum-sealed foods will remain stable almost indefinitely.

The VacuCanner takes care of the tough stuff—removing the oxygen. Store the prepared jars in a dark basement or in the back of a cabinet and the preserved foods will likely outlive you.

The Can-Do Canner

The VacuCanner is unbelievably efficient. I vacuum-canned everything in my house that would fit inside a jar in less than half an hour. Garden seeds, ammunition, matches, medicine—anything dry that will fit in a mason jar is a possible candidate. A single VacuCanner could serve an entire community with ease.

Laying in some store-bought, shelf-stable food is a good idea for any American interested in self-sufficiency and independence. Making a supply of your own out of inexpensive, suitable foodstuffs is even better. With the VacuCanner, you can do all that and more. For more, visit vacucanner.com or call 479-997-5583.

This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Fall 2014 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here

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