Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Small Batch Retort Canning

Over the summer our little garden only produces a few tomatos, beets, carrots, and so on a day.  After we eat what we want for that day. There is never really enough left at one time to can an entire batch of sauce but far to much to consume right then. 

We use our vacuum packer to vacuum pack and freeze these small batches daily.  Then at the end of the summer when the garden is done we remove the frozen tomatos, cook them down, cool in the fridge, then retort vacuum seal and can them. 

We never waste from the garden this way and make easy work for canning retorts for a full canner batch. Then it becomes food storage for the winter months. All from our own garden or collected from the local Farmers Market. 

Here is some pictures of our Tomatillos this past summer. The picture shows them frozen just out of the freezer thus the frosty white look.

After we thaw the frozen tomatillo tomatos we will cook them down, add seasoning and cool the batch completely.  When the sauce has cooled we are able to put 16oz of the sauce in an 8oz pouch *remember retorts hold more liquids than solids*

They were then vacuum sealed in our Sammic 204T  then canned it at 10lbs of pressure for 45 minutes.  We want to make sure we start everything off cold so the entire mass comes up to heat at the same time.  We added 20 minutes to this process to make sure all bags were evenly cooked. 

This is the finished bags after they cooled to zero pressure for 30 plus minutes.  When we opened the canner the bags were still very hot but not so hot that they pushed out of the canner.  We put the hot bags in a sink of ice water. This process instantly shrinks up the retort bags and lets us see leaking bags easier.

We now have 16oz bags of Tomatillo tomatos to use in recipes until next year. 

Retort Bags vs Mylar for Canning

How does one know if they are buying actual retort bags designed for canning or Mylar bags not designed for canning? 

Although big companies have retort bags made in any size, color, shape they desire.  For those of us buying just the few hundred for our own personal use, there really is only one bag consistently on the market you can be sure is designed for retort canning.    The bag has this writing on it. It is gold and comes in 2oz, 4oz, 8oz, and 16oz no gusset, a basic flat pouch.

All other products you should ask for the specs from the seller.  There are many sellers now a days pushing foil bags in all types and colors as retort.  The concern here is chemicals in the bags that will be released with the extreme heat.  Retorts are BPA and chemical free.  Also the air barrier properties of the bag will most likely be far less than that of retort pouches thus lessening the storage time and increasing the spoilage ratio. 

Be careful when you buy if the bags do not have this FDA printing. Ask for the exact specs and information certifying it as a retort canning bag before using it. 

Retort Canning of non acid foods has NO Scientific data from the FDA or USDA for the home canner. Can at your own risk! We are expressing our experiences but by no way are these experiences authorized data.

Bad Retorts!

We have had several people ask how can one tell if a retort bag has gone bad? 

The answers are:
  1. Can you smell the product? There should be no odor just like smelling a can on the shelf. If you are able to smell the product good or bad do not eat it.
  2. Has the bag puffed up like a balloon?  The seals do not need to be open and the bag can be clean with out any moisture.  But if it has blown up puffy like a partially inflated ballon or even gone so bad as a tight ballon.  Do not open it or eat it.
  3. An obvious open seam that has been on a shelf for more than one hour do not eat it.
  4. To be extremely safe reheat all canned products back to a boil for 3 minutes before consuming. This will kill all harmful bacteria.  
Really the same principles apply for retort bags as any other canned product when in doubt don't eat it.

Call us if you have any questions about your retort canning projects.
Toll Free USA and Canada  800-227-3769 

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Retort Canning of non acid foods has NO Scientific data from the FDA or USDA for home canners. Can at your own risk! We are expressing our experiences,  by no way are these experiences authorized data.

Successful Retort Canning

Over the past 4 years since we were introduced to the retort canning bag. Here is a few tips for success.  The credit goes to our many customers who have reported back their process for all types of foods, temperatures, pressures, canners and most important vacuum packers. 

The excellent results and the disasters have made up the knowledge we currently use.  Here are a few quick tips. 
  1. Keep the pressure while cooking between 10-12 lbs. 15 plus lbs have higher failure or even exploded the bags
  2. Cook the product at least 20% longer then in jars or cans to insure the mass is cooked throughout.
  3. With liquids the retort bags can hold more. Example 8oz pouch can hold 16oz water.
  4. With solids such as meat. Cut the meat in thinner slices, load flat, do not put a big lump in the bag.
  5. Approximate 2 oz more meat can be put in the bag so long as it is flat.
  6. Load the bags snugly on their edge, off center of each other. 
  7. For double layers, cross the opposite direction for the 2nd layer.
  8. The caner must be snug but not over stuffed. To loose they failure rate doubles.
  9. Fold the edges of the bag into the center before putting on the lid to avoid cutting the bag with the lid.
  10. Use a vacuum sealer with domed and crimping heat wire one or two wires does not make a difference.
  11. Increase the seal time 3.2 to 4.3 depending on the unit.
  12. Flat band heat wires either one or two will have the highest rate of failure.  Upwards of 50% as they do not crimp the bag but rather burn it. 
  13. Let the canner cool to 0 pressure before opening it.  Usually this is 30 to 45 min or more.
  14. Open a properly cooled canner but still hot product and place the bags in ice water.  This will shrink and collapse the bag showing the still vacuum sealed product. Washing the bags will also allow you see if you have leaks. 
  15. Do not let the pressure off the canner with the cock pit.  An overly hot opened canner will allow the bags to pop out and burst open the side seams.  This is the biggest reason for failed bags after cooking. 
  16. Wash the bags check all the seams completely if a seam looks to be weak, place it in the fridge and eat do not store it.
  17. Use bags of water to fill a partial canner.  This creates sterile water for emergency uses and fills the canner to keep the other bags from expanding to much. These bags can be made new each time or reused over and over.
  18. Since the products can only be vacuum sealed when they are cold place cold water in the canner, allow for extra time to heat the entire mass before starting the clock for canning.
  19. Shelf life is looking like upwards of 6 years for meats in a cool storage area. 
  20. Rotate, Rotate and more rotation is best. 
If you have other ideas you would like to contribute to this blog please let us know.  This is a fun exciting new way of canning and storing foods. This information has come from the thousands and thousands of bags canned trial and error. 

Retort Canning of has NO Scientific data from the FDA or USDA for home canners.  The concerns come from non acid foods such as meats!  We are expressing our experiences, but by no way are these experiences authorized data. Can at your own risk!  
As they say, "Re-Heat before you Eat" on any home canned product in glass, cans or retort for best safety practices.  
All home canning is AT YOUR OWN RISK! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

SousVide-Cooking Site

We have a new web site.  The site has over 5,500 free recipes for the taking.  Add your recipe or take a few it is free enjoy.