One of the single most useful things I have in my kitchen is completely unattractive to look at and completely unattractive to talk about, and yet it’s really valid (I’m looking for another word for useful and I cant’ think of one). Especially at this time of year if you have lots of produce to freeze. It’s my vacuum packer. I got it last year when I briefly considered getting into sous vide cooking (to cook sous vide – or under vacuum – the food needs to be vacuum sealed). Of course to begin with, I was looking at vacuum packers that were all gorgeous and stainless steel. Until I discovered that the reviews on them were not good.
So I got this one. Which I’ve been using for nearly a year now and can report is excellent. But it has, from what I can see, two features that this one doesn’t and I don’t think you need these two extra features (the extras being that the more expensive one holds the bag in the machine – you don’t really need this, and it has an extended vacuum button which I’ve never used).
So I would do yourself a favour and buy the cheaper one. They are ugly, ugly machines. But that doesn’t matter. What they do is useful and I promise you that if you get one, you will be vacuum sealing everything in your path.
Why do you need a vacuum sealer? Why let me tell you.
By taking the air out of food, it keeps longer. But I don’t really vacuum pack food for the fridge, because no food in my fridge really stays there for that long (although I did once vacuum pack a doorstep of parmesan cheese which I kept in the fridge). No, where vacuum packing comes into its own is for food you store in the freezer. By sucking the air out of a bag of food it takes up less space, you end up with a freezer of what looks like industrial space food which I think is COOL and it doesn’t suffer from freezer burn. Seriously you will be vacuum packing every single item in your freezer.
Here are a few tips. You can’t vacuum pack liquids unless you have a chamber vacuum sealer. These are expensive. So you do need to have a bit of technique if you seal something with liquid in it or that’s soft. You can either just seal it, vacuum part of it but stop before it’s squashed your bread rolls into pancakes (this takes practise), or freeze the item in a normal container first, and then vacuum pack it (I did this with the blackberries you see above, I froze them on a tray first and then vacuum packed them). You can’t seal anything if there is any liquid breaching the seal.
You can, if you are so inclined, also vacuum pack stuff like shampoo bottles before you go on holiday so they won’t leak. But that’s a step too far even for me. I have, in the past, vacuum packed some nuts that my partner couldn’t stop eating with the words STOP written on the packet. And I have vacuum packed jumpers to stop moths getting at them. It works brilliantly.
You do need special bags for vacuum sealing – and the most economical are on a roll, so you can cut them to size. Just make sure they will fit into the width of sealer you have (most do). But you can also ‘seal only’ so you could seal a packet of peas, for example, in their shop bought bag rather than clipping it shut.
Those of you with whom I’ve shared my sourdough starter in the last year, have also had it sent to them vacuum packed. You lucky, lucky bastards.