Packaging, Keeping my Dehydrated Foods Fresh
Vacuum sealing is the process whereby you take specially made plastic either already in bags or in rolls and make your own bags and then add the dehydrated food and suck all the air out of it while sealing the end of the open bag.
This is a fairly simple process which takes seconds to complete if you have everything ready. What I mean by ready is this: all bags are made to the size that you wish to use; all food is dehydrated and measured out into the quantities that you know will work for your adventure calls for, and you have a place to put everything once it is dehydrated.
In my case for my current adventure, I have measured all meats, vegetables and fruits into four cup quantities. That will get me through a week. Half cup (1/2) of any of it will do me for a meal. The extra half cup per bag will be for those days where I feel I need to add a bit more.
Plastic bags and rolls that are vacuum sealer friendly comes in various shapes, sizes and thicknesses. The thicker the better as it will help protect from pin pricks, mice chewing on your plastic, and the food from punching through the side of the bag. Sometimes you have to get creative. Most bags come in 3 mm, 4mm and there is the 12mm bags and rolls that sous chefs use when they put the meat in the bag and basically steam or boil the meat within the bag. I have found that they work well for crispy critter meat that tends to dry with points sharp as needles or corners that won’t bend after being dehydrated. This is also where my husband got creative and came up with some fantastic solutions.
I am not dehydrating my breakfast and lunch meals only the evening meal or the main meal for the day. If I were going to be out on a shorter journey, I would actually construct the meals ahead of time and vacuum seal all the ingredients together to simplify my cooking out in the field. However, with this adventure, I want to allow myself the opportunity to cook like I would at home just with dehydrated foods.
So, I have 22 weeks of meats and more than 22 weeks of vegetables dehydrated along with noodles, wild rice, white rice, potatoes and sweet potatoes. I know I will go through the vegetables rather quickly as I tend to eat a lot of vegetables and I am counting on my husband to supplant my veggies with fresh when he comes up to visit.
I have store purchased dehydrated fruit that is not sulphured as I am allergic to sulphur. My list includes figs, apricots, cherries, cranberries, and raisins. Again, I figure fresh fruit will be one thing that I will want to splurge on when I finally get into town.
So, I cut the rolls into the equivalent of a little larger than a gallon bag size. This allows the dehydrated foods to spread out and lay someone flat within the bag which I am hoping will allow for better storage. In some of the cases, I double bagged the meats or vegetables if I thought there was room to be concerned about the item actually puncturing the bags. I also found that the 3mm food saver bags have had the highest rate of failure and no longer will be purchasing that brand of bag.
Where my husband had to get creative was for the dehydrated chicken, turkey and fake crab meat. Those items are pointy, sharp and do not mix with plastic bags when the air is being sucked out of all the little crevices that exist. What Philip did was to take some file folders and cut them to size to fit inside the bag. We then cut the original bag down to just barely hold the four cups of meat inside and stuffed that into the bigger 4mm bag. Success!!! Other than not being able to see what is in the bag and creating the opportunity for mystery meal opportunities, it has worked!! Brilliant, just brilliant! Three large blue barrels that are normally used for canoe trips will now have five months of food divvied up between them. This will provide the most protection for the dehydrated food and it is something I can keep in the car as need be.
Our vacuum sealer is one we purchased from Cabela’s and works very well. We have had to replace the sealer tape a few times but then we vacuum seal not only our dehydrated meat but our meat that goes into the freezer as well.
The key to all of this is thinking it all through, making some practice runs and then implementing the plan. Do your research – get the thickest, best rated plastic bags or rolls that money will buy – you can’t vacuum seal out on the trail and your well being is depending on the plastic holding its own. You can’t afford to have spoiled food!