Food vacuum sealers are your go-to machines to prolong storage life and reduce food waste. They come in handy when preserving fresh produce items that don’t last for a long time. But without proper preparation, microorganisms and natural enzymes can defeat the purpose of vacuum sealing foods. So, to make the most of your food sealers at home, here are the things you need to do and keep in mind when you vacuum seal fruits and vegetables.
How Do I Prep Fresh Produce Before Vacuum Sealing?
Sealing your fresh produce mainly depends on its type and texture. Vacuum sealers may crush soft fruits, for example, while other vegetables still decay even when vacuum sealed. These specific measures can help keep them fresh and in perfect shape.
- Peel or core larger fruits like pear, apple and apricot. Cut them into smaller portions and leave fruits like berries whole.
- Wash fruits under running water. Make sure to drain them thoroughly and pat them dry using paper towels.
- For delicate foods like papaya, avocado and banana, lay them on a baking sheet then pre-freeze until firm. The flash freezing process will protect your fruit from crushing in vacuum sealer bags. You may skip this step for harder fruits.
- Place your pre-frozen or sturdy fruits in the bag then vacuum seal and label each before popping them in the freezer.
- Peel and deseed large vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and fennel. Cut them into smaller portions and leave veggies like Brussel sprouts whole.
- Wash vegetables under running water to remove dirt.
- To keep vacuum sealed vegetables fresh for longer, blanch them in boiling water for about 1 to 4 minutes. After blanching, transfer them in ice water, drain thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Aside from blanching, you can also roast root vegetables and peppers before vacuum packaging.
- After doing either pre-cooking technique, lay them on a baking sheet then pre-freeze until firm.
- Place your half-cooked, pre-frozen veggies in the bag then vacuum seal and label each before popping them in the freezer.
What Is Flash Freezing and Is It Necessary?
Pre-freezing your fresh produce not only protects it from crushing in vacuum bags. This process also prolongs the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables. Vacuum-sealed produce lasts for months in the freezer, but flash frozen ones can last for two years or even longer.
The best thing about flash freezing is that it works as an extra seal for your fruits and veggies. It turns nutritional and flavour components into small ice crystals. Once rehydrated, your pre-frozen will remain tasty and juicy even after months of storage.
When flash freezing, you need to lay your fruit or vegetable on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Make sure that the pieces have enough space in between to avoid sticking. Pop the tray in the freezer until your produce is firm enough and covered in small ice crystals. Alternatively, you can put ice on your fruit or veggie pieces before putting them in the freezer. This extra step ensures even freezing.
Why Do I Need to Blanch Fresh Vegetables First?
Fresh veggies have natural enzymes in them that promote ripening. Root vegetables pulled out from the soil are also likely to have surviving surface bacteria. These elements can affect the quality of your veggies if you vacuum seal them directly in the bag. Pre-cooking processes like blanching is then a must.
There are two reasons why blanching is essential when vacuum sealing vegetables. One is that the high boiling temperature kills harmful bacteria. The other is that it stops the vegetables from ripening further. When you’re ready to use or eat them, pre-blanched veggies take no time to cook, too.
Will blanching turn veggies to mush? Don’t worry. Blanching takes less than 5 minutes of cooking time, and shocking the vegetables in a bowl of ice water afterwards will keep them firm. You can refer to this chart for the recommended blanching times of specific vegetables.
Which Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Are Ideal for Vacuum Sealing?
Time-sensitive or highly perishable foods like fruits and vegetables last longer when vacuum sealed. Banana slices, all berries and halved avocados, for instance, are perfect candidates. Freezing them in vacuum seal bags also means they’re ready for your pies and smoothies any time!
Potatoes can be vacuum-sealed in wedges or French-fry cuts. You can also cook, mash and form them into patties before freezing and sealing. Lettuce, especially romaine, can be vacuum sealed as well. When you do this, use a salad spinner to remove all excess water from your vegetable. Then pack the leaves in vacuum bags and use the Pulse setting of your machine to avoid crushing. You can try sealing lettuce in vacuum canisters, too. Check out this food storage hack article for other ideas when storing fresh salad vegetables.
Some herbs like parsley, dill, basil, chives and mint are ideal for blanching and vacuum packaging. Just make sure that they are thoroughly dry before packing as even slight moisture can make them soggy. You can seal cruciferous vegetables, too, like kale, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli flowerets. However, these need to be blanched first; otherwise, they will spoil in your vacuum-sealed bags.
Which Fruit or Vegetable Should Not Be Vacuum-Sealed?
There are a few food items that are not suitable for sealing, though. These include garlic, onion and mushroom. All of these need air to breathe and stay fresh. Airtight storage will only result in toxic chemical reactions and bacterial growth that cause botulism. Soft cheese like brie, blue cheese and camembert may also be sources of the listeria bacteria, which grow in oxygen-free environments. Ingestion of vacuum-sealed soft and unpasteurised cheeses may potentially lead to listeriosis.
How Long Do Vacuum-Sealed Fruits and Vegetables Last?
Vacuum sealing can extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, in general, for up to five times longer. However, the time duration can vary, depending on how fresh the produce is before vacuum packaging, the preparation method and the seal quality.
Ideally, you should consume vacuum-sealed produce within 8 to 12 days. But, if you want them to last longer, do the blanching and flash-freezing techniques. When done right, certain vacuum-sealed fruits and veggies can last for up to 2 years.