Friday, January 8, 2010
freshsaver + homemade tab-chek style valves
The FreshSaver is a gadgety looking handheld doodad but seems to work well. I've secured one in my attempt to keep stuff fresh longer so I can minimize food waste. [This method works well with dry storage or short-term refrigerated storage].
So far I've been using some FoodSaver canisters I got on sale and a manual pump with a gauge. Works ok, but the pump is small and causes hand cramps when evacuating the larger canisters. It has worked so far but I need something I can use more often.
Most FoodSaver sealers have accessory vaccum ports and are reported to be The Best but new ones are not in my price range during this time of challenging underemployment. I haven't been able to snipe one off eBay in my range, either. They are a bit bulky/heavy to ship, and total out to $50 or more. I've been sniffing around Craigslist but no luck so far. FoodSaver will seal mason jars using a regular or widemouth jar sealer. Or if you already own a canister larger than the jar you can just put the jar in the canister evacuate it; will take longer due to the additional volume but it does work.
I don't really care much about bag sealing (I already have an industrial grade impulse sealer) but I would like to leverage some of my existing canning jars. For this purpose the ludicrously named Pump-n-Seal (PNS hereafter) gets wildly enthusiastic reviews from real users and gets highest vacuum but they are currently only available from the manufacturer. After shipping they are $37.90; $15 is the point I'd buy one but they're even harder to find used than FoodSavers in my price range. BTW, be very careful when searching eBay for "vacuum pump" if your spouse's family is in the room.
The PNS option is interesting because you can seal basically any kind of jar that came vacuum packed in the first place. You pierce the lid, apply a little one-way air valve (tab-chek) and apply vacuum to the outside. The valves are inexpensive but I dislike any kind of proprietary product. So I was pleased to read you could make your own out of wax paper, a trashbag, and electrical tape. [Note: scroll down to the Valves section of that page. The instructions will make more sense if you translate Britspeak "plaster" as "bandaid"]. I made a little diagram to the right so you can grok how it works. The valves are built here but not yet applied to wax paper for storage. When you need one you snip off a bit, peel it off the wax paper and apply to the pierced lid.
So when I found the FreshSaver doodad for $17 at Target (on sale) I figured I'd try it out and see if it worked with my homemade tabs/valves; it does, as you can see in the top pic*. It says it comes with an adapter to let you evacuate regular foodsaver canisters but there was none in the package. A quick call to FoodSaver's tollfree number (they answered immediately) got an adapter in the mail to me in less than 5mins. I'll report back when I get it.
The instructions say to pump for about 10 seconds; I have been doing it by ear based on the air volume in the jar. Is it worth $17? Probably, but I won't know until I get the adapter so I can try it out on the containers. But for my main focus (jars) it works well.
* I recycle "used" lids that I've already used for canning since they cannot be reused for canning purposes. If you look carefully in the middle of the valve you can see where the suction has pulled the valve material into a little dimple. The valve looks ratty because I made that one about a year ago and some of the wax paper came up when I peeled off the valve. Function was not impaired. I used a pushpin to pierce the lid (from the top to ensure a smooth seal surface).
[Forgot to mention: if your used lids are malformed and don't want to seal or stay down you can spin the lid ring down on them and that will generally work. The ones that are still stubborn can be marked and used for other purposes. I lift lids with the edge of a butter knife instead of a bottle opener; less distortion.]