Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How I Preserve Food......Using Mylar Bags

I love having options when I preserve food.  Certainly many people use Canning, Dehydrating, Smoking, etc.  I use many of these methods myself.  However, when it comes time to package some of the foods I wish to preserve, one of my favorite ways is to use Mylar Bags.

You can purchase these bags (individually, or an entire box) from your local LDS Home Storage Center (i.e. Cannery). You can also order a box from the LDS Distribution center. The box contains 250 bags, so you will have plenty on hand. There are also other distributors that you can find by doing an Internet search.

Traditionally, these come in a 10x14 inch size from the LDS sources. However, the bags do not have to remain in this size to be useful. You can re-size and seal these at home. Please see the following for a "tour" through photos:

Begin by folding your bag in half and to make a crease. You can fold it again to make quarter-sized bags, or can fold again to make them 1/8th the size of the full-sized bag. We will discuss reasons why you might want to do this later in the post.

Now cut the bag along the crease(s).

See the different sized bags I have made from one 10x14 inch bag? The next logical question is...."How do I seal them?" Many of us do not own a sealer outright, but you may be surprised about your options. Some of the LDS Home Storage Centers will let you check one out and use it at home for a short period of time. However, if you don't wish to do this please know that there are other options. You may be surprised that they may already exist in your home!

This is a Food Saver. Now, traditionally, a Food Saver is used to vacuum-pack foods in specialized bags and then seals them. For our current purposes, we will just use the sealing function. You will need to seal the edge 2-3 times with just a little space between the seals. If you do not have a Food Saver, there really are other options.

If you want to use "Oxygen Absorbers" during the filling of your bags, after sealing them, they will typically shrink and wrinkle a bit after these packets have activated. 

How do you seal them?

Yes, that really is my Flatiron that I used to "try" and style my hair daily. Please practice with the different temperature settings on your Flatiron to find the right temperature that will work successfully with the Mylar bag. Also, you can use a traditional clothes/pressing Iron to seal the bags as well. In that case, consider using the side of a Construction level (they often have texture) or something like it and place the edge of the bag on it. Press with your iron. Again, practice using the settings on your iron to find the correct heat setting for this task. There is even more options which I will show you at the end of the post.

Image Courtesy of Amazon.com

This is an Impulse Sealer.  As with anything, you can purchase a basic model such as this one all the way up to the Automatic Impulse Pouch Sealer, 110 Volt

Why Re-size bags?

Now, why would you want to resize the bags? In my case, I use them to seal mixes that I have made. I seal soup mixes, spice mixes in individual bags within the mix, and I even used the 1/8th sized bag to put samples of sprouting seeds in and included them with a Sprouting set that I gave as a gift. The 1/8th sized bag is also great for putting in spices.

Mylar protects your food from light and moisture. They are also very inexpensive. This is why they are a great option for storing food. However, if you live in an area where rodents are a problem, you will need to put them into a very sturdy container that is pest-proof.

Here is an example of using a resized bag to store a soup mix that I made.

I cut the bags in half lengthwise and sealed them. I then put them into tall containers with the top open. Using a canning funnel, I put the contents of each mix into a bag. I later sealed it and put a label complete with directions of how to prepare the food right on the bag. My labels are really very simple. I make a document in a Word Processing program. I make a table. The instructions are written in one cell and copied and pasted into the other cells on the page.  I print, cut and use packing tape to put the label/instructions on the bag.  

Here is my "mix" sealed in my Mylar Bag. You can use these mixes for yourself, as a gift, or to give to a neighbor in need.  If, as a parent, you were not able to cook for your family, your children could hopefully follow the directions and make the mixes.  Wouldn't this be a huge relief for you as a parent?

Sealing Mylar Bags is really not difficult. These bags come in different sizes. Some are large enough to line your plastic buckets. At a class taught by Leslie Probert at Education Week (at BYU Provo) taught that plastic buckets are porous and do not fully protect the food. She recommended lining buckets with Mylar bags to protect your food investment. Now, some Mylar liners are now coming with a Zip lock closure, so they are easy to open and close. However, the price is often considerably higher, so decide what works for you.

There are many 'methods' of sealing a Mylar Bucket liner.  You can find many videos on-line that show how to use a flat iron, a clothes iron, a Food Saver, and an Impulse Sealer.  Here is one video, although a bit rough, that shows a good method and the way to check to see if the seal is holding before closing up the bucket.  You can find that video here. 

Please know that you will get a better seal with an Impulse Sealer instead of the Food Saver. Oxygen Absorbers will activate when they encounter air.  Even with multiple sealing lines with the Food Saver in a small area, over time the seal did not hold as well and at times failed. Knowing this fact, you can still use Mylar to preserve your food stuffs at home. Primarily, you can still use this method with very, very dry foods such as mixes for short term storage.  Pliable dehydrated fruits would not be a good option using the Food Saver only.  Use the Impulse Sealer or make a very good seal (up to 1/2 inch) with one of the other methods mentioned to ensure the food is protected.

Beware, try methods of sealing with Mylar before counting on them.

Finally, I have seen several video's online that show a how to use a Food-Saver bag insert to attempt to seal Mylar Bags.  Here is my attempt at it.

You need a Food Saver, a Mylar Bag, Scissors, and a length of a Food Saver bag that can slip into the width of the Mylar Bag.

The instructions say to cut a piece of the Bag "fabric".  I cut one about 3.5 " in width.

I choose to use Chocolate Chips because I have a lot of them on hand right now. Fill your Mylar Bag.

Next, insert the Food Saver piece inside of the Mylar Bag.

Line up the Mylar Bag edge over the Seal Bar.  I tried to seal this bag multiple times without success.

Here is the result.  The Food Saver Bag insert sealed, but the Mylar did not.  The lesson I learned with this experiment is that you need to try methods yourself before relying on them.  

Take Home Message...

  • Mylar is an inexpensive method that can be used for Long and Short-term storage.  There are many sources to purchase Mylar. It comes in different thicknesses, so be sure to get a good quality Mylar when you purchase it.
  • To get a good seal, test you equipment before you seal a large amount of food stuffs.  The best sealer is an Impulse sealer, all the other methods that you can find require practice.
  • Using your Food Saver can help you re size bags for things like mixes. However, after putting in the Oxygen Absorbers and using double seals, not all of the seals were air tight.  This is a concern for Long-Term storage.  However, for Short-Term storage such as mixes or camping trips, this is a great option.
  • Mylar liners are a great option for your buckets.  I would recommend a seal of at least 1/2 Inch in width and then waiting to ensure your bag is sealed and the Oxygen Absorbers have worked well.  Waiting 12-24 hours should allow you to observe to see if the seal is holding.
  • Mylar keeps light out, which is necessary for food storage.
  • Foods in Mylar bags need to be stored in a sturdy container (preferably metal or really thick plastic) to protect your food from vermin.
  • Mylar is readily available to purchase.
  • Mylar can be re-used if the food is not protein based.  Cutting the sealed edge to have access to the food will make the bag smaller, but it can be re-used knowing that a smaller amount of food will be stored in this re-purposed bag.

Try it!

The Prepared Bloggers - How We Preserve Foods 
Join us as we share different reasons and methods of how we preserve food to create a long-term storage plan for our families. Click on each link to be taken to a new blog with helpful information and tips. 

Mom with a PREP - How to Dehydrate Ginger and Make Ginger Powder Preparedness Mama - Make Jam Without Pectin
Mama Kautz - Dehydrating
Busy B Homemaker - Freezer Jam
Ed That Matters - Anyone Can Do It: Fool Proof Food Storage
The Apartment Prepper - Easy Marinated Mushrooms
The Homesteading Hippy - How to Use Your Pressure Canner
Montana Homesteader - Making and Preserving Cherry Pit Syrup
Are We Crazy or What - How to Dehydrate Cherries
Your Thrive Life - How I Preserve Food: Meals in a Jar 
Melissa K Norris - Re-Usable Canning Tattler Lids-Do They Really Work?
Real Food Living - Preserve and Store Grains wiith Dry Ice
Cooke's Frontier - Smoking
Homestead Dreamer - Water Bath Canning
Evergrowing Farm - How to Preserve Red Chile
Survival Sherpa - Modern Mountain Man MRE's
The Backyard Pioneer - Fermentation
Trayer Wilderness - How We Preserve Food
Living Life in Rural Iowa - Vegetable Soup
The Organic Prepper - How to Make Jam without using added Pectin Homesteading Mom - How I Preserve Broccoli and Goat Cheese Soup
A Matter of Preparedness - How I Preserve Using Mylar Bags

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