Some of the things I finally got around to canning this month were some chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, and coconut from a shopping trip a bit over a month ago. I also canned some dried onions and dried carrots from my garden.
I’ll admit, while some people are not thrown off by the dried onions and carrots they see in my pantry, many are often perplexed when they see the chocolate canned.
If you are familiar with oven canning, then you know many dried goods (rice, pasta, nuts, etc.) can be bottled using an oven. But you’ll also be a bit confused about the chocolate chips, and wonder how I keep them from melting–if that’s what you’ve envisioned.
I don’t use my oven to can–ever. I have a much better and definitely much faster method to bottle my dried goods.
I have a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer as my secret weapon. It was a gift many years ago that quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I would ever use. After seeing how much of the plastic roll (it came with two) was used to seal small amount of food and meat, I didn’t know if it would be economical, and it certainly wasn’t self sufficient to be purchasing the rolls all the time.
But then I discovered the jar sealer while looking at Amazon one day. On a whim, I purchased the regular sized adapter. My food storage has never been the same. My only regret was getting the regular sized adapter first. I later decided that I use the wide mouth one more often, and should have got that one first.
Moving on, let me tell you how I can dried goods.
I start by using very clean (as close to sterile as possible) room temperature canning jars, and fill them with my dry food item (let’s use chocolate chips for this example). Give yourself at least one inch of headspace, and after you’ve made sure your rim is meticulously clean and dry then place your lid on the bottle.
Carefully place your attachment over the lid (without the band in place). Twist the grey part of the hose while inserting
to ensure a tight fit. Now push the “seal” button and wait until the cycle finishes. It will turn off by itself.
Remove the sealer attachment, and check the seal.
I’m not going to lie to you. I do not put them away right away. They all seal right away, but I let them sit on the counter for 24 hours. I don’t know why, but about 25% aren’t still sealed after 24 hours. I’ll do these ones again and check in another 24 hours. They usually all seal the second time. (I’ve asked other friends, and this appears to be common.)
Q: Can you reuse the lids?
A: Yes! I love it! As long as the lid has not been used for canning via a pressure cooker or water bath, it can be used again and again. When using the metal lids, you can label them (just so they don’t accidentally make their way to the pressure cooker lid batch) and use them over and over.
You just have to make sure to use the spoon-twisting opening technique on them so they never get twisted, bent, or dented. Any misshapen lids won’t work again.
This means if you pull out your chocolate chips for baking, you can use what you want and immediately reseal them again with the same lid. It’s wonderful.
Q: Can you use Tattler reusable lids?
A: Yes again. I personally have a higher rate of lids that will need resealed after 24 hours when I use them in this manner, but they work as well.
Q: Can this method replace water bath or pressure canning?
A: No-Never. It can never be used to pressure can any wet ingredient, or any ingredient that must be brought to a certain temperature in order to kill potentially harmful microbes.
What else do I dry can?
All my dried herbs go in jars and are sealed. I have found that I only have to grow certain annual herbs, and harvest my perennials every so often as I can (and do) often harvest and preserve enough of each to last a couple years (this oregano? two years ago–and it might make it a third year).
When I store my herbs each year, I don’t have to grow all of them every year anymore. I am not superwoman–I can’t do it all every year–and I don’t really know how some people do. But for us to be able to be self sufficient, we’ve needed to learn some easier ways to do things–this is one I would never want to do without again.
Oregano, dill, wormwood, garlic, onion powder, basil, parsley, mustard seed, celery seed–you get the idea.
Pumpkin powder, kale powder, orange powder, lemon powder, tomato powder, the list is endless really.
I have nut trees in my orchard. I love that the sealer works on the half gallon jars as well. I don’t have to use tiny jars for all the nuts, and I don’t use valuable room in the freezer for them either.
Dried fruits and veggies
Mostly, dried berries like serviceberries and currants, but also fruit leathers like my apricot coconut rolls.
When we find pineapples for a great price when we go shopping, I’ll get a few of them to bring home. Once they are cut and dried, they go into jars as well.
Really. Here’s a holiday idea for you: this year make a batch of play doh for kids for Christmas. When you make it, divide it in half. Color one half red and leave the other white. Mix a couple drops of peppermint in them, then roll them long in glitter. Wrap them around each other, and then coil them into a regular wide mouth jar.
When sealed tightly, this “candy cane” play doh will stay fresh until it’s opened up and enjoyed.
I hope you’ll try it one year.
Premixed dried meals
The possibilities are endless.
A family favorite of ours is a jar of dehydrated soup veggies. When we’re headed outside for winter chores, nothing beats opening a large jar and putting it in a large stock pot of water on the wood-stove. Dump in some barley and we’re off. There’s little work involved and when we come in from the snow, a meal is ready.
Think also about granolas and trail mixes.
Other pantry items
Powdered eggs, powdered milk, Parmesan cheese (or other dried cheeses), beans, rice, pasta, the list could go on and on…
There are many other food (and non food) storage items that can be kept for a very long time using this method. While at one time we got along fine without it, now that I’ve had it for a few years, I’d never want to go back to the way things were without it.