Food Storage 101

I know there are several of you who read hoping that I'll share more about my food storage, and recipes I use, for you, I have good news!  My sister in-law and her roommate have started working on their food storage and emailed me to ask me if they could ask me questions about what I've done over the years.  Of course I told them yes, and after I started thinking about it I decided I would answer their questions here on the blog, for any of the rest of you who are wondering.  I'm hoping to make this a weekly post every Wednesday.  For that to happen though, I'm going to need you to ask questions!  :)

For those of you who don't know, food storage is one of my favorite hobbies.  (I know, I'm kind of strange.)  Seriously, though, I get a thrill out of making things from scratch, and shopping from my own pantry.  I feel like it's my contribution to the family finances to cook and eat providently, since I stay home with the little ones.  I also enjoy following the counsel of the leaders of our Church to live providently.

Now, on to the questions.  

"You recommended brands of equipment but as I was driving I didn't write them down.  Can you tell me again, brands of water canner, pressure canner, pressure cooker, grinder and dehydrator?"

First, the canners.  Because of weight and space limitations that are a part of military life, I only have a pressure canner.  I can use it as a water bath canner simply by not putting the weight on it that causes it to pressurize.  I own an All-American Pressure Canner 921 (21 Quart).  I choose this because rather than a plastic seal that needs to be replaced, it has a metal on metal seal, and because it has a weighted pressure regulator in addition to the pressure gauge.  

The metal seal is important to me because I don't always know where I'll live, and whether or not I will be able to get a replacement seal.  If you are moving a lot, the weight is essential to your pressure canner.  With just a gauge every time your canner gets moved, bumped, etc. you will need to take it in to get it tested to make sure it is reading the proper PSI.  Since most people don't use canners anymore the only place I know that still tests them is the County Extension office.  (If you don't know what this is Google the name of the county you live in "extension office", and enjoy reading!)  Even if you're not moving frequently, if you have only a gauge it is recommended that you have it checked every year, because if it is inaccurate you could have food spoil, or a canner explode.
This is the lid of my pressure canner, on the left you can see the pressure gauge, and on the right the weight, there are three holes on the weight that determine the amount of pressure.
A pressure cooker can NOT be used to can, but it can be used for all sorts of cooking.  The brand I own is B-R-K, but I would guess anything made of stainless steel, that's the right size for your family would be great.

My grinder is a Nutrimill, and I LOVE it!!!!  It has a lifetime warranty, and yes, I have used it.  The motor on my first one went out, and within a week of sending it in to the company, I received a brand new one in the mail.  It is fairly quiet, has a large milling capacity, and a great warranty.  I can't say enough good about it.

The last piece of equipment is a dehydrator, I have a Nesco Gardenmaster Pro Food Dehydrator.  I like it because I can add and take away trays depending on how much I am drying.  Even with the heat coming up through the center I've always had things dry evenly.  One of the features a lot of them have now, that I wish I had, was a timer, that automatically turns the dryer off.  This is really helpful if something's supposed to finish in the middle of the night when you'd rather be sleeping than dehydrating.  :)

When starting my food storage, what recommendations would you make as far as storage options - ie, canning in jars vs canning in cans vs Mylar pouches vs buckets?

Before I answer this, this deserves a little explanation for those of you who don't belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  We have been counseled by the leaders of our Church for years to have as much food stored as possible, preferably a years supply.  To help us in this endeavor there are Home Storage Centers located across the U.S. where we are able to buy food, and can it into pouches or #10 cans.  We can also buy bulk 25lb bags of food as well.  These centers are open to the public, and you can see if there is one near you, and what they carry here.

I use canning jars for two things, one is to keep smaller amounts of foods and spices that I have in bulk in my kitchen.  As an example, I keep a quart jar full of cornmeal in the kitchen, while I keep the remaining 75 lbs. in my food storage area.  The other thing I use them for is fairly obvious I guess, and that's canning.
Some of this years canning
I think the answer to cans vs. pouches vs. buckets is fairly individual.  I did pouches once, because they take up less space when they aren't opened.  The trouble comes when you open them, you then you have to have a way to store the rest of the contents because you can't reseal the pouch.  I'm sure there are other pros to using the pouches, but for me they just didn't work out.
5 and 6 gallon buckets of bulk foods
Number 10 cans

I store most things in 5 or 6 gallon plastic buckets.  When buying buckets, make sure you get food grade!  I prefer the buckets because I can store 20-25 lbs of food in them depending on what the food is.  This takes up less room than the #10 cans, plus I usually get a better price on 25 or 50 lb bags of food than I can on the 2-5 lbs that's going to be in the can.  If you have plenty of space, and like the convenience of having the food stored in smaller containers than cans may work great for you.  

I hope this has been helpful to some of you.  Please remember, I'm by no means an expert.  The recommendations I make are based solely on my personal experience.  I've spent the last eight years learning how to store and use the food we have, none of this happened overnight, including the purchasing of the equipment I own.  It is something I feel passionate about, and I want to encourage others in any way that I can.

If you have questions you'd like me to answer you can email them to me at alrawlins at msn dot com or leave a comment, and I'll be happy to answer in a future post.

I'm also going to link this post up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Michelle  – (January 11, 2012 at 7:32 PM)  

Great post, Abby! I like using the buckets too - I use mylar inside with oxygen absorbers and it always smells so fresh when I open a new bag. :) Do you hide treats in your buckets? I like to stick organic lollipops inside. :)

How do you feel about storing large amounts of cornmeal? I am scared to store it - I keep a 50# bag in the freezer in the shop and bring in gallon size bags to put in the freezer in the house. Am I paranoid of meal worms or what? How long do you store it dry? And have you had any problems with it? I have the same problem with rolled oats.

Julie@teachinggoodeaters  – (January 14, 2012 at 10:10 PM)  

Thanks for all of the great information! This is something that I'd like to try but still find rather intimidating... This summer I'd like to start doing some canning. I live in Lancaster, PA and it is quite common here so I'm hoping to take a class or find a friend to help me get started.

JDaniel4's Mom  – (January 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM)  

Wow! You are so prepared! What wonderful treasures!

Suzi Q  – (January 18, 2012 at 11:00 AM)  

Thanks so much for this Abby! I did not realize that you could water can with the pressure canner, so that really helps us save money for another piece of equipment that we need. Apparently our cannery is going to discontinue allowing public canning, so I need to get up and see about it soon. Thankfully, we have a member with a canner, so if I can get the components, I can still can for a while. I want to learn how to glass jar can by the time the farmer's market is back in full swing.

I have sadly discovered that the pressure canner is not for use on the type of cooktop that we have, so I am not sure how I'll deal with that. Can't afford to replace it just now. I would prefer, honestly, to build an outdoor kitchen with a wood fireplace, bread oven and cooktop to can outside, but we'll see.

Thanks again!


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