Help me understand vacuum sealing foods

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by stirfrychef, Jun 29, 2017.

  1. stirfrychef

    stirfrychef

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    Hello!  I'm a single home cook who's giving the weight loss thing a go (yeah, yeah).  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    

    I recently bought      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.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 30, 2017
  2. chefross

    chefross

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    Upon first reading, I can tell you right now that potatoes and cauliflower do no freeze well at all.

    As for the rest of your recipes there should be no problem vacuum sealing any of it.

    I have been doing this for years. 

    I suggest after making the dishes, you portion them first into Ziplock bags, then freeze overnight. The next morning remove from freezer, and vacuum seal then you're good to go. 
     
    jasmine subba likes this.
  3. stirfrychef

    stirfrychef

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    Thanks so much for your reply.  I knew about the trick of freezing sauces and then sealing them, but thanks for the reminder.

    And I certainly did not  know that cauliflower/potatoes don't freeze well.  Could I seal and refrigerate the cauliflower dish instead of freezing? Hopefully that would keep it fresh for a couple weeks.  

    Finally: is it possible to freeze fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, oregano, etc?  Those are the most wasted items I cook with.  
     
  4. chefross

    chefross

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    Cooked cauliflower will keep fine in a sealed bag, but remember it is not the same as for canning and should be consumed within a few days.

    As for the herbs. I like to chop them up and place them in ice cube trays with a little water or stock. Then freeze. The little cubes can be stored in a plastic bag or vacuum sealed and kept frozen.
     
  5. nickinri

    nickinri

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    Herbs in ice cube trays with water/stock, as mentioned above, does work well.  I have also done it with olive oil.  Olive oil cubes also work well for chopped, fresh garlic.  Just pop one out and throw it into your fry pan and you're off!
     
  6. brulo

    brulo

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    Wow, love to check random posts here and always learn something new! Awesome tip! :D
     
  7. maryb

    maryb

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    When I make a big meal I portion out the food onto disposable plastic plates with 3 compartments. Place in freezer, freeze for 4-6 hours then I vac bag them. Thaw in the microwave and as they thaw they start to reheat. Cut a corner of the bag to let steam escape!
     
  8. summer57

    summer57

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    That's what my great-aunt did years ago with leftovers from big family dinners. This was pre-microwave, so she wrapped them in foil.  Worked great! I still do it today! but, like you, I vac bag them.
     
  9. stirfrychef

    stirfrychef

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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!
     
  10. maryb

    maryb

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    I vac seal powdered spices all the time. Trick is to tap the jar on the counter to pack them down then put the jar in the freezer for a bit. Residual moisture in the spices will make them stick and I get little to no powder being drawn out. Never tried it in a bag with powdered herbs, those I pick from the garden, put in a bag with a little olive oil. Rub the oil around until all the leaves are covered. Make sure to not get any oil up around the seal area and do not use enough oil that you see it pull to the top of the bag. In case some does just hit the seal button and call it good. Basil done this way tastes like fresh and most things I use it in use olive oil so it works well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2017