Not a recipe today, but I want to talk about my favourite kitchen gadget. Not the food processor or blender, nor the slow cooker or mixer. Not even the garlic press. I’m talking here about a machine that has saved me money, saved lots of room in my freezers (yes, I have two) and a machine I could not be without. I’m talking about a vacuum sealer machine.
There are many brands on the market; some basic, some fancy and expensive, but I’m more than happy with my basic Andrew James model. It has served me well over the last 4 years despite being used practically daily and is still going strong. Bags can be easily purchased from stores or the internet, and come in various sizes or on large rolls so can be cut to any size required, and tough enough to be washed and reused several times over. They are also good for other things besides food and are completely watertight (as long as you have ensured you’ve sealed it properly!).
We buy our meat in bulk from a wholesaler, and grow the majority of our vegetables, plus I hate to see any food go to waste. In the past, I’ve always used zip bags for freezing but found they were never completely air-tight and food often became freezer-burnt or leaked everywhere when defrosting. The bacon we buy comes in a sixty rasher pack – I can readily portion into 6 rashers a bag and seal away. The same with chicken breasts. When jointing the sides of beef we purchase, it used to be such a chore using zip bags which I could never find in large enough sizes, then zipping shut, bags often needing several attempts to seal, after having removed the air with the aid of a straw. Those days have gone. Thankfully.
I also found normal freezer bags awkward for liquid food, such as soups, which we make a lot of, or stock or gravy. With the vacuum sealer, you can fill the bag (I stand it in a bowl or jug when filling), then carefully lay the bag down onto the machine, ease as much air out as possible then seal without using the vacuum before freezing. Once frozen, I open the bag and reseal it using the vacuum. Thus, liquids are flat and thus take up far less room in the freezer and thaw out a lot quicker when using.
I never throw away gravy – I always make my own – and freeze any left over from a meal for use in casseroles or pies. The vacuum bags make light work of freezing as the bags can be cut down to as small as needed. Why waste good nourishing food? Left over pie or cake? Freeze loose, then pop into freezer bag, vacuum seal and put back in freezer. Simple. We grow a lot of broad beans. I never blanch before freezing any more. I simply put them loose on a baking tray, freeze, then transfer into a freezer bag, vacuum and seal.
Have you ever opened a bag of frozen veg, ie peas, sealed it up only to find it’s come open or spilt in the freezer, and spend forever finding loose peas everywhere amongst the other bags or lurking in the bottom of the freezer? Annoying, isn’t it? I don’t have that problem now. With the sealer, you can reseal a bought frozen veg bag several times, although often they don’t seal thoroughly on the machine, usually a flimsy plastic, so I transfer the contents into a vacuum bag, flatten and seal, seeing at a glance what is in the bag and how much is left, again saving room, and the bag can be cut down each time to cut down on storage volume.
The same is true for packets such as pasta, rice etc. Those resealable bags rarely ar,e and then oops… rice or pasta shells all over the cupboard and floor. Take sugar, comes in paper bags which don’t last, lets in damp and, yes you can transfer contents to a jar or container, but by storing in a vacuum bag, it can be stored flat or upright and takes up far less room in the cupboard as well as keeping food fresh and dry.
Of course, you don’t need to use the bags only in the freezer. Foods such as lettuce, mushrooms, cheese are transferred to vacuum bags and stored in the fridge. Parmesan cheese lasts for a lot longer when stored in a vacuum-sealed bag in the fridge, as does any cheese and smells and tastes are not transferred.
Have I sold it to you yet? Let me make it clear I’m not being paid to sing the praises of my sealer. I love the machine, I couldn’t be without it in my kitchen now as it’s saved me a lot of time, space and food. And made for one very happy cook.