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newchef

Help me understand vacuum sealing foods

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Hello!  I'm a single home cook who's giving the weight loss thing a go (yeah, yeah:D).  Losing weight while cooking appealing meals for one is a formidable challenge. Then it hit me: wouldn't it be fantastic if I could stock my freezer with vacuum-packed meals that I make on Sundays to eat on weeknights?  Good question.

 

I'm completely new to vacuum sealing and only have a general idea of what you can and can't vacuum and then freeze (dairy and fresh herbs seem to be the main ones that don't work very well).  Certainly, I'll be sealing/freezing a lot of stock, casseroles and pasta sauces but I'd like to see if other dishes could work as well.  I'll most likely be using the Foodsaver FM2435-ECR

 

I recently bought The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen and there are some recipes in there that I think would make good freezer fodder.  Below I've given a summary of the ingredients and prep notes of some of the recipes and would love to get some feedback if they would vacuum and freeze well for long-term (3-6 months) storage.  Thanks in advance for any tips!

 

1) Herbed Basmati Rice and Pasta Pilaf:

    -basmati rice

    -Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    -vermicelli pasta (this will be simmered with rice in chicken broth along with the onion and garlic)

    -chopped onion

    -minced garlic

    -chicken broth

 PREP NOTE: Essentially you just add all ingredients into a saucepan and let simmer until tender.  I'd then vacuum seal the finished dish into portioned bags and freeze.

 

2) Spiced Baked Rice with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fennel:

    -sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

    -Extra Virgin Olive Oil

    -Fennel, chopped fine

    -onion, chopped fine

    -white rice

    -minced garlic

    -ras el hanout (a ground spice mix of stuff like coriander seeds, cumin, anise, allspice berries, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon)

    -chicken broth

    -brined green olives

PREP NOTE: Basically you roast the potatoes and add them to a pot with sauteed fennel and onion along with the rice, garlic and ras el hanout.  Then you stir in the broth and olives, bring to a boil, and put the pot in the oven to reduce the stock.  Finally, you add the roasted potatoes to the pot with everything else.  I'd then put this finished dish in vacuum sealed bags in the freezer.

 

3) Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Romesco Sauce

    -white sandwich bread torn into pieces

    -toasted and skinned hazelnuts

    -extra virgin olive oil

    -sliced garlic

    -jarred roasted red peppers

    -sherry vinegar

    -honey

    -smoked paprika

    -cayenne pepper

PREP NOTE: Here I'll toast the bread and hazelnuts in a skillet with the oil and then add the garlic to the pan.  Then I'll put it in a food processor and pulse and then add then add the rest of the ingredients to the processor to make the sauce.  I'll then transfer the sauce to the vacuum bags and freeze.  

 

4) Chicken in Turkish Walnut Sauce

     -extra virgin olive oil

     -onion, chopped fine

     -paprika

     -minced garlic

     -cayenne pepper

     -white sandwich bread, torn into pieces

     -toasted walnuts

     -chicken broth

  PREP NOTE: Onion will be sauteed, and paprika, garlic and cayenne will be added to onion in the pan until fragrant.  Then I'll transfer the onion mixture to the food processor and add the chicken broth, bread, and walnuts and pulse until smooth.  I'll then vacuum and freeze the sauce into individual serving bags.

 

5) Sauteed Cauliflower with Turmeric

     -cauliflower

     -chicken broth

     -turmeric

     -extra virgin olive oil

     -lemon juice

     -minced garlic

   PREP NOTE: I'll add cauliflower to heated broth in a skillet and then cover for a few minutes.  I'll then toss the cauliflower with the oil, garlic and lemon juice.  Then I'll vacuum and freeze in portioned bags.

     

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Those should freeze just fine. I use my foodsaver a lot, but more for leftovers and for staples -like, I make a slowcooker full of beans from dry beans and freeze them in  12 oz portions, like canned beans (except no slime!). Or I will make a big pot of rice, eat some for dinner and freeze the rest in individual portions. (or smaller, so I can just toss s handful of cooked rice into a soup or stew) The main thing that I have discovered is that potatoes do not freeze well, they come out with a weird texture. Soupy things tend to freeze well, the way I handle them is to freeze in a square or rectangular plastic container then a day or two later (when I have time, hahaha!)  I pop the frozen cubes out put them in bags and seal. If you use all one size containers, you can do some very efficient stacking. You'll figure out what size is best for you.

 

I also do things like make spaghetti sauce from scratch then freeze in the large size Tovolo King size ice cube traysir?t=egulletcom-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00395I60 where each compartment holds a little over 4 liquid ounces. I live alone. These cubes give me just enough sauce for my liking. I freeze in the trays overnight, then pop out the cubes and place in a larger bag. If I know I will eat them within 6 months, I just use a zippered freezer bag. If they might stay in longer, I vacuum seal a big bag of them, leaving a long tail for re-sealing.

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@newchef, this may be an obvious point but I'll make it in case you haven't thought of it: I find that portioning dishes with liquids or sauces into the bag, then freezing the bag, and THEN vacuum sealing makes all the difference between a mess and a good seal.

 

@Lisa Shock, is there anything special that needs to be done with the cooked beans before freezing and vacuum-packing them?  I know that cooked potatoes must be mashed before freezing to avoid the weird texture you describe, and I wonder whether there are similar things needed for beans: for instance, freezing with the pot liquor or making sure they're well-drained. I may be able to use this trick in the next couple of days, in preparation for a trip. 


Edited by Smithy Clarity, I hope (log)
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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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When I make a big pot of Cuban style black beans I usually have  leftovers and freeze in a plastic container.  No weird textures when thawed 

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Wow, thanks to everyone for their advice.  So helpful!  I think I'll take the plunge and order the Foodsaver.

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23 hours ago, Smithy said:

 

@Lisa Shock, is there anything special that needs to be done with the cooked beans before freezing and vacuum-packing them?  I know that cooked potatoes must be mashed before freezing to avoid the weird texture you describe, and I wonder whether there are similar things needed for beans: for instance, freezing with the pot liquor or making sure they're well-drained. I may be able to use this trick in the next couple of days, in preparation for a trip. 

 

 

I drain the beans before freezing, generally because I make them pretty plain (simmered with salt and a dash of toasted cumin) and don't usually want any liquid in the end product if I am using them like I would use canned beans (tossed into a mixed vegetable Indian dish, for example). I have frozen lots of chile stews and such as well. It's just a matter of thinking about what's convenient for you when thawing. I do like to freeze them first in the rectangular containers, then pop out the frozen mini-brick and vacuum seal after a day or so.

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3 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

@newchef if you have the means you might consider a chamber vacuum sealer rather than a Foodsaver or similar.

 

The means and the space.   They take up more counter space and at 50lbs or more you aren't going to be moving it to often.   I can justify the cost but it would take up to much real estate on my  kitchen counters.  But I really want one 

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7 minutes ago, scubadoo97 said:

The means and the space.   They take up more counter space and at 50lbs or more you aren't going to be moving it to often.   I can justify the cost but it would take up to much real estate on my  kitchen counters.  But I really want one 

 

You won't look back!

 

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Thanks to you guys, I took the plunge and bought the Foodsaver FM-2435 ECR and played around with it over the weekend.  Can definitely see the potential.  So far it's been (mostly) great.  It excels at medium/large solid foods (frozen cubes of sauce, big hunks of frozen ziti, chicken breast, and hazelnuts).

 

However, it has not worked well at all for fine/powdery foods, like ground paprika, cayenne and chili flakes.  The bags don't really "seal" these items well -- if I upturn the bags, I can see the powder fall to the top of the bag -- doesn't seem vacuum sealed to me.  This is a problem, as these pantry items are a majority of what I want to seal -- dried herbs in particular (oregano, parsley) seem to go flat before my eyes.

 

Would a sealed mason jar work better for this kind of stuff?  My gut says yes, but I found this page that suggests sealing powders in a jar may pose problems. However, the site also mentions some tips/tricks to ensure the jars seal such as aerating the powder with a few jabs of the back of a spoon and putting a coffee filter over the spices and then sealing.

 

PS: I will be using this jar sealer kit for sealing the spices in mason jars.

 

Thanks!

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With the problematic items you mentioned I find it's a good idea to bag them in sandwich-type bags, leaving a small opening for the air to escape (I fold the tops over, then turn the little bags upside down inside the Foodsaver bag), then vacuum.  Try that next time...it works fine for me.

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Thanks lindag!  By "small opening" do you mean a small hole (like from an icepick or something) or just leaving the zipper open a little?

  

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6 minutes ago, newchef said:

 leaving the zipper open a little.  That's what I do.  The foodsaver can then suck all the air out of the little bag without pulling out the contents.

 

  

 


Edited by lindag (log)

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