Category Archives: storage

Storing Half-used Ingredients

Half Used Ingredients

Do you throw away half-used ingredients such as the remaining portions of a carrot, cabbage or a big plump tomato? There are easy ways to keep them fresh and use them later. Food waste is a huge problem in this country and many people do not plan how to store or use their leftovers.  This contributes to increased landfills, economic loss (you paid for that food didn’t you?) and a waste or resources.  Before putting those half-used ingredients in the trash, let’s learn how to keep them fresh.


Canning…not That Kind

Recently I was invited to a canning event where I could learn about dry pack canning.  It was loud, fascinating, fun, and definitely a bit of work.

We assembled in the early evening at the warehouse.  We were instructed on the different stations on the assembly line and how to operate the machine (for those who were doing that).  We then all trooped over to the sinks to wash our hands and put on nets (two for the guys with beards), gloves and aprons.  Next we lined up in our spots along two different assembly lines.

The responsibilities were:

  1. opening the large containers that the dry goods were in
  2. filling the #10 cans almost to the top
  3. adding an oxygen absorber for long term storage
  4. running the machine to seal the lid
  5. labeling the cans
  6. checking the inventory
  7. boxing the cans. 

My spot was at the end of the line and my responsibilities went something like this:

  • write the date on the label
  • put the label on a can
  • check inventory to see how many of that particular can goes in a box
  • put the cans in the box
  • label the box
  • do it again

While the canner was running it was very loud in the warehouse and all conversation either stopped or was limited to the person standing next to you.  Otherwise it was not too noisy.  Although there was an occasional lull in the process as one part or another of the line got backed up, we spent a fairly solid couple of hours processing dry food.  While it was obvious that many of the others had done this before, they were very supportive of those of us who were new to the process.  Overall we still managed to be quite an efficient team and the lines moved along fairly smoothly.

The items that we canned were:  rolled oats, rice, macaroni, dried apples, black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, non-instant milk powder, dried carrots, and dried onions.  I was fascinated to learn that the shelf life for these dry good in this type of can is quite long.  Some of these foods, because they are so dry, and with the use of an oxygen absorber, can last for up to 30 years in the can.

Many people use these dry goods as part of their pantry system, rotating the cans through as needed.  Instead of purchasing their dry goods in bags or boxes, they purchase them in cans which are vermin proof and watertight.  Other people purchase these items as a part of an emergency food storage system.

It was work, but it was also fun.  I had the opportunity to chat with a number of the people there and really enjoyed our conversations.  I also learned something new that I hadn’t known before.  Maybe next time I can run the canner.

Food Storage

Becky wrote and asked about storing food.  She’s starting to make more of her own foods and would like to purchase in bulk but is not sure how to store things.  This is a brief post but one that shares my experience and what I do.  The storage that I am talking about here is dry storage, I’m assuming that if you have a freezer or even two freezers you are already using them to full capacity.

dry beans in jars | photo: dancesincreek

For smaller items (seeds, beans, herbs, etc) I collect glass jars.  Lots of them.  I confess that I have aspirations of being one of those wonderfully well organized people who has all their jars coordinated and they are the same so they all fit neatly on the shelf.  The truth is, well, let’s just say a little more practical.  It’s a mis-matched hodgepodge of jars.  I use smaller jars for smaller things and bigger jars for larger quantities.

If it is something that requires a good seal (such as agar agar) I will sometimes cut a piece of wax paper to put over the top of the jar before placing the lid on it.  Obviously things kept in jars do better stored in a cool dark place.

I like using glass jars, even though they are more breakable, because I feel that they are the best, least contaminating containers.

For large quantities I use five gallon buckets.  Although they are plastic, it is not possible to store very large quantities in other containers.  Many people can get five gallon buckets for free from their local grocery store.  In the bakery section simply ask for their buckets; the grocery stores throw them away.  These are food safe buckets.  Sometimes they come with some of the contents (frosting, etc) still stuck to the inside, but washing them out is a small price to pay.

For the lid I use something called a gamma seal.  This is a great thing to create a water-tight, air-tight, vermin-proof seal.  I like them in part because they are spin-on/spin-off rather than a rip-off-your-fingernails-prying-the-lid-open.  Essentially there is a threaded plastic ring which snaps onto the rim of the bucket.  The lid then threads into the ring.  If I am planning on very long term storage (more than six months) for the contents of a bucket I will add oxygen absorbers to help the contents last longer.  The trick with the oxygen absorbers is to figure out how much airspace is left in the bucket so you know how many absorbers to use.

I find that a five gallon bucket easily stores twenty-five pounds of dry goods.  I use mine to store grains such as hard wheat, barley, oats, and buckwheat.  I also use these buckets to store sucanat and evaporated cane juice crystals.  Due to the weight I don’t stack them more than three high.

In order to make sure that I am staying on top of my large scale dry goods I write the contents of the bucket on a piece of scotch tape with weight and the date it needs to be used by.  This piece of tape is placed on the rim of the lid.  This way the buckets are clearly marked and when I go into them and I can see how much I still have left.  The tape sticks well enough to be used but comes off easily enough if the information needs to be changed.