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jeffshoaf

Retort canning?

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Any of you chamber vac owners tried retort canning using the retort bags? May be my next rabbit hole... Seems to be a bit less meticulous than canning in jars since you don't have to do all the sanitization steps that you do with jars before filling.

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I have done some Mylar/Retort sealing in my chamber machine yes and it works very well. I will say though that for Jar canning you don't REALLY have to sanitize the jars/rings/lids before filling them. The recommendations on that have changed a bit over the past 10-15 years. It used to be accepted you had do a full sanitize cycle on the jars before filling but now it is generally accepted that you only have to make sure the jars are CLEAN before filling, not sanitized. The processing of the jars (either water bath or pressure canning) takes care of the sanitizing along with the food. 

Also I am pretty sure retort pouches MUST be pressure canned, they are not for water bath canning items so you can't do jams/jellies/high acid foods in them for instance. 

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Posted (edited)
47 minutes ago, Jadeite said:

I have done some Mylar/Retort sealing in my chamber machine yes and it works very well. I will say though that for Jar canning you don't REALLY have to sanitize the jars/rings/lids before filling them. The recommendations on that have changed a bit over the past 10-15 years. It used to be accepted you had do a full sanitize cycle on the jars before filling but now it is generally accepted that you only have to make sure the jars are CLEAN before filling, not sanitized. The processing of the jars (either water bath or pressure canning) takes care of the sanitizing along with the food. 

Also I am pretty sure retort pouches MUST be pressure canned, they are not for water bath canning items so you can't do jams/jellies/high acid foods in them for instance. 

Hmmm... I was researching canning a while back and everything I looked at still had the whole jar sanitizing thing as part of the process. It would be difficult for me to find the space to do the sanitizing and keep the jars isolated between sanitizing and filling. Without that requirement, I'd be able to do the actual pressurizing out on the screened-in deck and not heat up the kitchen. My folks always had a huge garden when I was growing up and my mother did a lot of canning in the kitchen of our non- air conditioned house and it was pretty swampy in the whole house during that process!

I think the canned bags would be more convenient to store than jars as well. I tend to keep my freezers full of meat so I'm looking at alternatives to freezing for fruit and soups/sauces.

Yes, I'm aware of the pressure requirement; pretty much every source I've referenced has even recommended using the jar canning pressures and times, but stress the need to add additional time (30% more time). I think you got it backwards tho (typo?) - jams/jellies/high acid foods can be water-bath canned since the acid helps kill the bad stuff that the higher temps take care of during pressure canning.

Edited by jeffshoaf
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2 hours ago, jeffshoaf said:

Hmmm... I was researching canning a while back and everything I looked at still had the whole jar sanitizing thing as part of the process. It would be difficult for me to find the space to do the sanitizing and keep the jars isolated between sanitizing and filling. Without that requirement, I'd be able to do the actual pressurizing out on the screened-in deck and not heat up the kitchen. My folks always had a huge garden when I was growing up and my mother did a lot of canning in the kitchen of our non- air conditioned house and it was pretty swampy in the whole house during that process!

I think the canned bags would be more convenient to store than jars as well. I tend to keep my freezers full of meat so I'm looking at alternatives to freezing for fruit and soups/sauces.

Yes, I'm aware of the pressure requirement; pretty much every source I've referenced has even recommended using the jar canning pressures and times, but stress the need to add additional time (30% more time). I think you got it backwards tho (typo?) - jams/jellies/high acid foods can be water-bath canned since the acid helps kill the bad stuff that the higher temps take care of during pressure canning.

Yeah I think you can pretty much safely skip the sanitizing part. A good hot soapy wash and just keep them covered with a tea towel and ready to fill. Most of the time now I use my dishwasher to wash them (with or without the sanitize cycle) and just leave the door closed until I am ready for them. In a pinch though I'll just wash the jars I need by hand and I am good to go. 

No I meant that because retort canning basically equals pressure canning you wouldn't put jam/jelly/high acid foods in the retort bags because the bags aren't meant for water processing. I didn't mean that you can't water bath can jams/jellies etc. :) It also isn't so much that the high acid kills the bad stuff (well for acid perhaps) it is more that Jams/Jellies/HAFs are always hot packed (which has killed any potential pathogens during the cooking process) and the high sugar/high acids is not an ideal growing environment. Processing then takes care of the rest so they stay that way. I'm actually going to be doing some Cherry Pie filling soon and I wanted to do some marmalade too if I can ever find the time.

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49 minutes ago, Jadeite said:
No I meant that because retort canning basically equals pressure canning you wouldn't put jam/jelly/high acid foods in the retort bags because the bags aren't meant for water processing. I didn't mean that you can't water bath can jams/jellies etc.

I'm confused by thIs statement - why would they not work for water processing? I've found several references that indicate they're fine for water bath processing. The only concern I've seen is that you shouldn't placed the bags directly on the bottom of the pot for water bath or pressure canning (be sure to use a rack).

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I've read about this. Not all chamber machines are capable of handling retort bags, I thought. In particular, mine.

On a different note, I learned recently that one can ferment chiles for hot sauce in a vacuum chamber bag. I am definitely trying this in the Fall; my hot sauce is in demand, but carboys are a pain. I happen to have some bags that are too big for my machine; they'll clearly handle a ferment without blowing up.

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This is a helpful thread.  It would be good to know if anyone thinks there is danger in the way that I currently bottle (or can) jars.  It is a method I read up ages ago and I use it all the time with no issues so far.

Once my jars have been washed in the dishwasher I store them with their lids on.  When time comes to fill with hot produce I put the jars in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 120C.  I also put the rubber rings or lids in a bowl of hot water.  To avoid cracking the bottles when I pour in hot chutneys or pickling liquid, I put a spoon into the jar touching the bottom of the jar.  I fill up, leaving a small air gap, take the spoon out and put the lid on.  I sometimes also turn the filled and sealed jars upside down while still hot and that seems to help the seal.  I don't use a water bath or any other method.   When the jars are cool I check to see if the lids are able to be tightened further and I also tug at the seals on kilner jars to make sure that they are solidly held in place.  This works for me and I have never had any spoilage.   

Any flaws or unnecessary steps that you can see?

P.S.  I don't know that I would go for retort bags.  We have stand up vacuum pouches for sauces and liquids which store very compactly in the freezer for the type of thing I think you are talking about @jeffshoaf

Edited by tekobo
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I pretty much do the same as tekobo but I use Mason jars, skip the spoon in the jar trick and never tighten the lid after I hear that "click" of the seal. If you tighten after that you can break the seal, in fact you don't even need to leave the rings on. Never had a jar go bad, knock on wood.

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Posted (edited)

@tekobo , I don't think your method is considered safe by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) for low acid foods. The 120° C hits the botulism-killing temperature; if your produce is also hitting that temp, you're probably safe as long as no botulism spores find their way into either during the filling process but there is a risk there. By heating after filing, that risk is eliminated. I assume you're doing relatively small quantities; at the volumes I remember my mother canning when I was young, it would have been very difficult to keep things hot using that process.

The USDA has published time/pressure charts for canning in jars for years; these are based on extensive testing to insure that all the "can" contents reach the appropriate temp to kill any botulism. Of course, the USDA has not published similar charts for canning in retort pouches, supposedly because the lack of controlled testing.

Edited by jeffshoaf
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13 hours ago, Syzygies said:

I've read about this. Not all chamber machines are capable of handling retort bags, I thought. In particular, mine.

From my research, I've found info indicating that some bags will seal in some machines but not others and some machines won't seal any of them. I've found references that would indicate that there are bags the work with my machine but I haven't narrowed it down to any specific bags yet. I'm not adverse to testing myself but the little looking I've done had only found bags in quantities of 25 or more and I'm working on borrowing a pressure canner before spending $30 on bags that may go to waste.

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18 hours ago, tekobo said:

This is a helpful thread.  It would be good to know if anyone thinks there is danger in the way that I currently bottle (or can) jars.  It is a method I read up ages ago and I use it all the time with no issues so far.

Once my jars have been washed in the dishwasher I store them with their lids on.  When time comes to fill with hot produce I put the jars in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 120C.  I also put the rubber rings or lids in a bowl of hot water.  To avoid cracking the bottles when I pour in hot chutneys or pickling liquid, I put a spoon into the jar touching the bottom of the jar.  I fill up, leaving a small air gap, take the spoon out and put the lid on.  I sometimes also turn the filled and sealed jars upside down while still hot and that seems to help the seal.  I don't use a water bath or any other method.   When the jars are cool I check to see if the lids are able to be tightened further and I also tug at the seals on kilner jars to make sure that they are solidly held in place.  This works for me and I have never had any spoilage.   

Any flaws or unnecessary steps that you can see?

P.S.  I don't know that I would go for retort bags.  We have stand up vacuum pouches for sauces and liquids which store very compactly in the freezer for the type of thing I think you are talking about @jeffshoaf

This is a complicated question because depending on where (and when) you grew up the answer is very different. According to the USDA (and Canadian equivalent) what you are doing is NOT safe. Jars must be water bath canned or pressure canned (based on the recipe) and no other method is considered safe. The jars may seal with your method but they are not considered processed/preserved by modern North American standards. I had a friend YEARS ago that also did a variation of your method (he did full on Oven canning which is once again not USDA recommended) and we agreed to disagree and not talk about it as it was always a very strong point of contention between us. Personally I would never do anything but full water bath canning or pressure canning. I would never do Oven canning or hot pack/turn over sealing like you do.

Now having said this I don't always follow USDA guidelines. For instance I prefer WECK jars from Germany vs Mason jars but they are not USDA certified. I know using Water Bath/Pressuring canning though they'd be 100% safe if processed correctly. 

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On 8/4/2022 at 9:04 PM, jeffshoaf said:

I'm confused by thIs statement - why would they not work for water processing? I've found several references that indicate they're fine for water bath processing. The only concern I've seen is that you shouldn't placed the bags directly on the bottom of the pot for water bath or pressure canning (be sure to use a rack).

Perhaps it would be better to say I do not see the point of using retort bags for high acid/jellies/jams. I suppose space savings would be the only pro vs jars but given that retort bags are one time use and generally more expensive per bag vs jars I am not sure if I would consider the space savings enough of a reason.

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16 hours ago, Jadeite said:

Perhaps it would be better to say I do not see the point of using retort bags for high acid/jellies/jams. I suppose space savings would be the only pro vs jars but given that retort bags are one time use and generally more expensive per bag vs jars I am not sure if I would consider the space savings enough of a reason.

One advantage is that since the bags are vacuum packed, there's no need to add water or syrup to fruit, so you're not diluting the flavor or adding sugars - so you're preserving the fruit instead of making jam.

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Thanks @Jadeite, @jeffshoaf.  I did some research myself and found this article which helped me remember where I got the method from: https://www.healthycanning.com/why-old-british-method-of-bottling-is-unsafe#The_kicker_doing_your_home_canning_safely_is_actually_less_work  

They recommend the American "canning" method too.  I will try that.  That said, it is all about risk and I suspect the % risk increase between the two methods is not that great if you are careful with either method.  You can just be sure you have the 100%(?) safe stamp from the USDA if you go their route.  

So thank you for that insight.  

In return @jeffshoaf, I will share my storage methods.  For fruit that I don't yet want to process, I freeze loosely in vac packs.  The pic below is of topped and tailed pink gooseberries ready for making a pie in the depth of winter.  They could occupy even less space if I had frozen them loose on a tray and then vacuum packed them completely flat in a bag.

image.thumb.jpeg.9b93b2c6a5fc19811a55fed2b1e41425.jpeg

 

And this is our pouch solution for storing stocks and sauces - a perfect use for a chamber vacuum sealer.  

image.thumb.jpeg.8d6c473eacbd1139c731fe14e5dbd392.jpeg

 

 

 

Edited by tekobo
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I've found a bag that's been reported as being reliably sealed by my model chamber vac but it's currently out of stock except in the 100 count pack so I'm not jumping on it yet.

I'm having a difficult time finding a pressure canner; since a loaded canner is pretty heavy, most are made of aluminum and won't work with my stovetop or hot plate since those are both induction units. Presto does make a canner with a clad bottom that works with induction but it's bigger than I was hoping for. It looks like Fagor made a few small induction canners but Fagor didn't survive the Spanish financial crisis of a few years ago.

I do have a side burner on my natural gas grill that I could use with an aluminum canner but it's very aggravating to deal with - it doesn't adjust smoothly and it's prone to go out unless it's running wide open. My brother has several propane burners so I could borrow one of those to play with if I can borrow a canner from someone. While I do have several natural gas outlets outside that I could use with a natural gas burner for canning, I don't currently really have any other use for a gas burner - my brother generally does any frying for cookouts.

Presto does make an electric canner (kinda like an Instant Pot, but made specifically for canning) that looks interesting but it's a bit pricey ($350 US) - I'd spend that if I knew I'd get a lot of have out of it but I don't know that... It's also large for its capacity so presents a little storage concern. 

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4 hours ago, jeffshoaf said:

I've found a bag that's been reported as being reliably sealed by my model chamber vac but it's currently out of stock except in the 100 count pack so I'm not jumping on it yet.

I'm having a difficult time finding a pressure canner; since a loaded canner is pretty heavy, most are made of aluminum and won't work with my stovetop or hot plate since those are both induction units. Presto does make a canner with a clad bottom that works with induction but it's bigger than I was hoping for. It looks like Fagor made a few small induction canners but Fagor didn't survive the Spanish financial crisis of a few years ago.

I do have a side burner on my natural gas grill that I could use with an aluminum canner but it's very aggravating to deal with - it doesn't adjust smoothly and it's prone to go out unless it's running wide open. My brother has several propane burners so I could borrow one of those to play with if I can borrow a canner from someone. While I do have several natural gas outlets outside that I could use with a natural gas burner for canning, I don't currently really have any other use for a gas burner - my brother generally does any frying for cookouts.

Presto does make an electric canner (kinda like an Instant Pot, but made specifically for canning) that looks interesting but it's a bit pricey ($350 US) - I'd spend that if I knew I'd get a lot of have out of it but I don't know that... It's also large for its capacity so presents a little storage concern. 

I also have induction and what I am most likely going to do (when I get around to wanting to pressure can) is I will be buying an outdoor Campchef propane stove (probably the single burner model) and using that until we eventually remodel our kitchen. At that point my grand plan is to have our induction top but install a single gas burner just for canning/non-induction cookware.

The outdoor campchef option apparently has its pitfalls too depending on who you ask. The Presto Pressure canners do not recommend ANY outdoor burner solution as the BTUs are far too high according to the company. I've read numerous people online have used them but it seems to be a 'the risk is on you' situation. The All-Americans aren't quite as specific in their warnings and from what I've read if you stick to an outdoor burner between 15,000-30,000 BTU you should be fine. As you also said there is a Presto Induction Capable Pressure canner (which I also have owned) but it only comes in the 23qt size.

I personally own two All-American Pressure Canners but A: They are MUCH more expensive than Presto and B: They are SEVERELY backordered right now from the manufacturer (6-9 months+ depending on model) but they are to my understanding the Rolls-Royce of pressure canners. I luckily got mine earlier this year before they ran out for the year AND before the price went up. 

Until I can figure out if I want to do the Campchef route, I will be sticking to water bath canning.

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13 hours ago, tekobo said:

Thanks @Jadeite, @jeffshoaf.  I did some research myself and found this article which helped me remember where I got the method from: https://www.healthycanning.com/why-old-british-method-of-bottling-is-unsafe#The_kicker_doing_your_home_canning_safely_is_actually_less_work  

They recommend the American "canning" method too.  I will try that.  That said, it is all about risk and I suspect the % risk increase between the two methods is not that great if you are careful with either method.  You can just be sure you have the 100%(?) safe stamp from the USDA if you go their route.  

So thank you for that insight.  

 

Thanks for linking the article. I know I've read the "You don't have to sterilize as a separate step anymore" a number of times but it is good to have a source readily available. :)

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One of my concerns with buying a canner is not disliking it enough to deal with storing it between rare uses. Yes, not disliking it - I'm ok with being neutral on the canning process, but if I actively dislike it I just won't use it. I've not found one to borrow and try.

So... I think I have a solution. I've had an Instant Pot for a long time and use it a lot for dried beans and occasionally for soups and stews. The newest model Instant Pot has a pressure canning function. It doesn't meet the USDA criteria for a "safe" pressure canner due to size (will only hold 4 pint jars and USDA criteria specifies 4 quarts) and it doesn't have the required weighted pressure valve to give a visual indicator that it's at pressure but it has been tested by an independent agency that verified that it does hit and maintain the appropriate temps. I think it'll hold 6 to 8 pint-sized retort bags; that should be sufficient for me to play with as well as what I think will be my normal canning batch size. If I get the new model IP, I can stash my current one back for the rare occasion that I need 2 or need to take beans somewhere for a pot luck; its smaller than a 20+ quart canner so storing it isn't as onerous as a big canner.

Unfortunately, the new IP is US $200 (or more) everywhere and I have some pending expenses that are making me hold off. I wish I'd found this before Amazon Prime Day! Maybe I can hold off until Black Friday... And maybe they'll introduce an 8 qt version before then.

If I like canning well enough to want to do bigger batches, I'll invest in a "real" canner later.

 

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