Favourite Kitchen Tools Series
There is one question that I am often asked: “What are some of your favourite kitchen tools?” This question provides me with an abundance of material for future posts. My Food Saver is at the top of my list of favourite kitchen tools, and the chosen item to start my Favourite Kitchen Tools Series of posts. I have used this brand of vacuum systems for over a decade. There are many benefits to using a vacuum system for your food storage needs.
While most chefs are not huge fans of gimmicks and gadgets (actually, to be honest, pastry chefs might be the exception), there are certainly some items that I would not and could not do without!
I believe that I have single-handedly increased the sales of Food Savers in Canada as result of my demonstrations to family, friends and relatives, extolling the virtues of this amazing appliance.
No more pitiful dried out pork chops, freezer-burned beyond recognition in a week’s time; no more frozen blueberries in a bag of crystallized “snow”; no more stale nuts or dried up bits of cheese.
How did I ever live without it? The Food Saver will easily pay for itself when one considers the amount of waste occurring from food spoilage and freezer burn. That is why I decided to write about this appliance and why it is my favourite kitchen appliance. It is a:
Money Saver – Life Saver – Food Saver
My mom and daughters now have Food Savers and use them regularly. This is not an appliance that sits at the back of the cupboard. I use mine on a daily basis for sealing homemade soups or prepared entrees or even for storing dry beans, lentils, rice, and many other items.
I live in an area where local farmers’ markets are abundant. It is marvellous to take advantage of all the seasonally fresh apples, apricots, plums or berries to freeze in the handy pouches. I can pull them out of the freezer at any time for that fresh-picked taste.
It is very satisfying to take a bag of perfectly stored, frozen halved apricots or plums and make a frangipani tart for dessert in the middle of February, or a batch of jam in March.
My Food Saver has made buying foods in bulk much more efficient and cost-effective. I generally buy a family sized pack of chicken breasts or pork chops. I separate the bulk items into smaller portions, seal and freeze them.
It is so easy to go into my freezer and remove a bag and place it in the fridge to thaw. If I am in a hurry, I place the item in a large measuring cup or bowl filled with enough cold water to cover the frozen pouch and place in the fridge for a quick thaw. It will thaw and be ready to cook or reheat in less than 30 minutes.
Another revelation: I found that I could store ten times more in my little freezer with the flat frozen food bags than I ever could with rigid stackable containers.
Examples of foods you can make individually are items such as Shepherd’s Pie, Chicken Pot Pie, lasagna or desserts. Just freeze the prepared foods (uncovered) on a tray until firm, then seal either in individual portions or family sized portions. When life gets busy and chaotic, you will find that having a reserve in your freezer is a lifesaver!
Those are not cupcakes you see in the photo. They are individual portions of Cottage/Shepherd’s pie. Or, Australian Meat Pies, pre-made and ready to bake at moments notice from the freezer to the oven to the table. A light salad is all you need for a light lunch or dinner.
I make little food packages for my Mom. When I visit, I pack as many frozen packages as I can into my suitcase to place into her freezer. She loves having smaller portions of nutrient dense food packages prepared and ready-to-eat in her freezer for the days when she does not feel like cooking. For example, I prepare the shepherd’s pie, place the mixture into paper-lined muffin tins, pipe the potato topping on top, then freeze the portions on a tray, uncovered; once they are frozen, I seal in family portion bags and freeze. You do not have to thaw the little shepherds’ pies – just remove from the bag and reheat in the microwave or oven and enjoy.
Money Saver – Life Saver – Food Saver
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with a food vacuum system, together with time-saving techniques and countless possibilities for you to consider:
1) Chill the food thoroughly first, then portion into bags and seal. Freeze flat on a tray, then store in the freezer.
2) Label your sealed item clearly at the top of the bag (date, portion size, instructions, etc.)
- Creating Convenience Foods: freezer labels
3) Turn a “cuff” down on the bag to ease food neatly into it, fill, and turn the cuff back up to seal. (see top photo)
4) Keep in mind that a space allowance at the top of the bag is necessary to seal properly.
5) When filling bags with soups or other liquid items, use a large glass measuring cup or similar vessel to hold the sealer bag while filling. I usually double seal liquids.
6) Do not overfill your bags – it makes it difficult to seal them. My general rule of thumb is to fill the sealer bag only halfway for liquids. For thicker foods, such as stews, fill the vacuum sealer bag two thirds full.
7) Flatten the food items in the bags (to even out the contents in the bag) before and after sealing (for example, chicken breasts in a single layer rather than all in a lump in the bottom of the bag; seasoned taco meat flattened after sealing to keep packets flat and fill the space for effectively.
8) Lay the sealed items flat on a cookie tray; then freeze them until firm. Once they are frozen solid, store them upright like little soldiers, label side to front, ready for action! (see photo)
9) When sealing fruits such as apricots or plums, wash, dry and halve the fruit. Place the bag on a flat surface (close to your sealer). Place the fruit in a single layer in the vacuum sealer bag, seal, label and freeze. (see photo above).
10) When sealing items such as soups, sauces, stews, stroganoffs or bourguignon, make sure the food is thoroughly chilled. I typically seal these dishes the next day to allow the flavours to marry.
11) When freezing berries, wash and dry the berries, placing them on cookie trays (parchment lined). Freeze the berries in a single layer; then seal them in desired portions (essentially, I.Q.F.). Fill the bag halfway, flatten to fill the space, seal carefully, label and freeze.
12) Store cheese in the refrigerator beautifully sealed.
13) Try this: Place your favourite marinade in with a flank steak in a vacuum sealer bag, seal and freeze. When ready to use, thaw the still sealed bag in the refrigerator overnight. The flank steak will be deliciously flavoured and ready for the grill.
14) Cook more pasta or rice pilaf than you require and seal the rest in family portions. When ready to use, a quick reheat in the microwave or a dip in boiling water, and voila – pasta or pilaf in a flash.
15) Our family is quite fond of stir-fry dishes: make an easy meal by slicing extra raw beef or chicken or pork thinly ahead of time, seal and freeze in family sized portions. When ready to use, thaw in cold water for a few minutes while you are preparing the stir fry vegetables. Stir-fry the sliced meat first, add vegetables and seasoning. Enjoy a quick, healthy and delicious meal in minutes.
If the quality of frozen food and its storage is a concern, you will find that a food vacuum system is a “must-have” appliance. It is a:
Money Saver – Life Saver – Food Saver
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