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Cooking with Your Absurdly Expensive Chamber Sealer


Chris Amirault
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We've got a Kitchen Consumer topic on chamber sealers themselves, but we don't have a topic on all the stuff you can do with them. Let's get started.

Last night, I began learning how to use my VacMaster VP112, focusing my attentions on a watermelon. The compression was only fair to good, sadly, but I did have an excellent experience making my first vacuum cocktail, infusing seedless watermelon cubes with a Negroni cocktail (equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari). They were excellent.

So what are some other fun things you can do with a powerful vacuum? There's much in Modernist Cuisine to mine, I know that....

Chris Amirault

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It depends on the degree of compression, though: I definitely compressed that watermelon yesterday; I just didn't get it down to fruit leather thickness.

ETA: Can you do it, Edsel? What does "do it" look like?

Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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How about eggplant?

For those looking to add a little more oomph to the compression, could you try putting the thing in a pressure chamber after vacuum sealing it? This would get a greater pressure differential between inside and outside the bag, presumably leading to better crushing. I would think a corny keg filled with water and attached to either a tank of compressed air or even just to a bike pump would get you another 100psi of pressure. And used ones are super-cheap, at least compared to chamber sealers (most other inexpensive pressurized container are bottles that have mouths too narrow to be useful for most things).

Edited by emannths (log)
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It depends on the degree of compression, though: I definitely compressed that watermelon yesterday; I just didn't get it down to fruit leather thickness.

ETA: Can you do it, Edsel? What does "do it" look like?

So would you say it was about as much as in

? Where it shrinks in size some but takes on a MUCH deeper red color/flavor?

I'm curious to see someone try the Curry Apple from MC as well as the strawberries with basil/creme. (I don't think my sealer will be here for another 2 weeks or so)

Edited by Phaz (log)
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For those looking to add a little more oomph to the compression, could you try putting the thing in a pressure chamber after vacuum sealing it? This would get a greater pressure differential between inside and outside the bag, presumably leading to better crushing. I would think a corny keg filled with water and attached to either a tank of compressed air or even just to a bike pump would get you another 100psi of pressure. And used ones are super-cheap, at least compared to chamber sealers (most other inexpensive pressurized container are bottles that have mouths too narrow to be useful for most things).

Yeah, I was wondering about repeated pressure application. Maybe I need to get another watermelon...

Chris Amirault

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So would you say it was about as much as in

? Where it shrinks in size some but takes on a MUCH deeper red color/flavor?

Yes. Exactly like that. I'll take photos tonight with another watermelon. The kids are going to love you guys!

ETA: I'll do two batches and leave one in the fridge unopened to compare to the bag I open.

Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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That doesn't look compressed to me. In the final shot, it seems they had a before and after comparison. They both seemed to be the same size to me. But one was clearly redder than the other. I wish the person filming was showing eating it.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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It definitely compresses and is much denser than uncompressed watermelon. The question is a matter of degree. For example, the watermelon leather in the MC book is deep red and mighty thin. I'll have to check the recipe tonight to see what's what.

Chris Amirault

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Yeah, I was wondering about repeated pressure application. Maybe I need to get another watermelon...

You beat me to it. I was going to mention that most of the recipes I've seen involving compression from people like Johnny Iuzzini, Heston Blumenthal, the Ideas in Food folks, etc. usually mention compressing the item more than once. I'm thinking the most common number I see is three times.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Just to compare, the compressed watermelon in this sousvidecooking.org page looks pretty much like what I had, though mine definitely shrunk in size too. Ditto this Chadzilla post -- where he states that the fridge only chills it.

Chris Amirault

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So I was thinking about Chris' disappointment in not reaching "leather" density. I think this will be impossible using just a vacuum sealer. Here are a couple pieces of data to consider: Watermelon has a density of about 0.96 g/cm3. Watermelon juice is about 9 Brix, or 1.03 g/cm3. So assuming you're just getting rid of air, you can only compress watermelon about 10% by volume, which is only about 3% in any linear dimension if we assume isotropic compression. I think the only way to get "leather" is going to be by using a dehydrator to remove water.

ETA: Assumptions: watermelon is air + watermelon juice (ignore solid content). Watermelon juice is incompressible.

Edited by emannths (log)
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Lost my post somehow...?

My compressed watermelon looked like the pictures too. Nice and red (probably even better if the melon was ripe as it would be at peak of season rather than this time of year).

If you wanted to do multiple compressions couldn't you vacuum the bag without having the end of the bag over the sealing bar (would need to prop it up with something so liquid doesn't boil out). Then do two or three compressions and finally seal it the final time.

Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta

Canada

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It's impossible to get the color right, but this comes close:

DSC00063.JPG

Compressed on the right.

Tonight, I tried a new project: french toast. I sliced up some challah, made the milk and egg batter, and sealed up two bags. The vacuum on the first batch ran too long so I think the bread may be a bit deformed; the second batch I ran for much less time. Results in the a.m.

Chris Amirault

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So I was thinking about Chris' disappointment in not reaching "leather" density. I think this will be impossible using just a vacuum sealer. Here are a couple pieces of data to consider: Watermelon has a density of about 0.96 g/cm3. Watermelon juice is about 9 Brix, or 1.03 g/cm3. So assuming you're just getting rid of air, you can only compress watermelon about 10% by volume, which is only about 3% in any linear dimension if we assume isotropic compression. I think the only way to get "leather" is going to be by using a dehydrator to remove water.

You're completely right. I missed a line in the recipe.

Vacuumed french toast! I'll bring the Blis syrup & frozen sphere-ified bloody marys

The technique is from Modernist Cuisine (4-98): you make the custard base (I eyeballed it; their recipe is about 5:2 milk to eggs), add your flavorings (for me, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract), then vacuum thickly sliced bread with the custard until the custard just boils. When you release the seal, the bread will have absorbed all the custard. I let the bags sit overnight in the fridge and then cooked them on the stove in a ton of butter. (Next time: finish in a 300F oven as MC instructs.)

"Sweet Jesus!" my wife yelled. "That is the best thing I've ever eaten." She loves her custard but... well, you get the idea. Crisp on the outside, like a soufflé on the inside. Maybe not the best thing I've ever eaten, but if you're asking that question about french toast, you know you've nailed it.

Chris Amirault

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French toast sounds great - I usually soak the bread in custard overnight (or at least a few hours) in the fridge to get similar effect but the more spontaneous version with vacuum makes sense.

Did the first batch that you thought was over-compressed still puff up when you cooked it?

Llyn

Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta

Canada

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I've been on a bit of a rampage this weekend, with a spiced chili oil about to finish its 24 hours in the Sous Vide Supreme, some young rhubarb getting infused with liqueurs (St. Germain and Marie Brizard Raspberry de Bourdeaux), making bags from old FoodSaver rolls... on and on. I gathered a few tips that might be useful to some folks out there.

I'm finding that a curled-handled metal bench or pastry scraper -- you know, this thing -- is very useful in the chamber. Here it is preventing a small bag of bacon from sliding around:

DSC00004.JPG

It can also act as a slight incline. Here it is sitting underneath that (heavenly) bag of spiced oil getting ready for sealing:

DSC00006.JPG

DSC00007.JPG

Finally, when you've got something that's just too much liquid, a tortilla rolling pin works just fine to prop up the entire machine on an incline:

DSC00009.JPG

Chris Amirault

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Chris...

Thanks for the updates. Overall it sounds like you are pretty happy with your purchase. I think probably for most (and I know that you have said this already), the price of admission with this machine is worth it just for being able to bag liquids. Mine should be here on Tuesday, can't wait!

Todd in Chicago

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Given the amount of activity around here this weekend, I think that I had simply naturalized the extent to which I avoided bagging stuff with liquid. I mean, I'd do it with the FoodSaver if I have to do it, but it was at best a drag and at worst a failure. Now, well, it's as easy as pie.

Chris Amirault

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