Saturday, November 6, 2010

Long Term Storage: Canning Rolled Oats.



It may not seem noteworthy to think about stocking dry goods in bulk, but I'd like to make a note of it anyway. For the me who is now an urban dweller, the phrase "making hay while the sun shines" doesn't hold the same feeling as it did when I lived rurally. I think back to when I first moved to the city, and only went to the grocery store every 3 weeks or so. This was the way we always shopped as I grew up, and for many years, it didn't occur to me that I could shop a few times a week if I wanted. Rurally, there wasn't really an option of running to get one forgotten ingredient, or just swinging by the store on the way home. Well, as I grew older, there was the option, but the store likely didn't have what you needed anyway. The small community closest to our home during my teenage years was really a place to get the occasional banana or box of cereal, and even then was very expensive. We tended to live off the pantry, and one shopping trip "to the city" every month.

In my adult life, my personal focus on preservation tends to be on things that were staples to me growing up: most specifically dill pickles, applesauce and tomatoes. Every year, I seem to add things that I now can't live without, Marisa's dilly beans and candied jalapenos for starters. This year lacto-fermentation was on the docket, and depending on the shelf lilfe, which has yet to be determined, I can see doing a lot more of it in the future. But no matter how much I feel like I have already preserved, I feel like I can always do more, like I am a "hoarder" of good whole food. Bulk (dry) storage hasn't really even been in the back of my mind, but it is always nice to know that I have bulk grains and now even raw sugar stashed in the basement.

When most of the year, organic oats at the co-op run near $1.50 a pound, I now seldom bat an eye knowing full well that I have quart jars full and sealed, just waiting for my breakfast and baking needs. Between my Mom and I, we usually secure a much lower price by buying in bulk - usually 50 lb. bags from her co-op in LaCrosse. In years past, my Mom would can the dry rolled oats, and then I would barter them from her, usually with pounds of Alterra coffee and quarts of toasty granola.

But recently, I was able to secure the best price on rolled oats from my co-op, so I purchased 60 pounds at 89 cents a pound, and am dry pack canning 30 pounds myself for the first time. My Mom has dry canned oats for several years, and really it is the easiest thing. Simply heat the oven to a low 225 degrees, fill quart jars with oats to within 1/4 inch of the top, and top with lids and rings. The jars can "bake" on their sides for 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven, stand them carefully upright, and be patient for the "pop" of the lids. It takes just a bit longer (or, requires a bit more patience) to hear than the pop of the water bathed or pressure canned goods, but once sealed, it's a great feeling to know that the oats are safely sealed from moisture and pests. If you have some that don't seal, you can use them first. (My first batch of 12 quarts, or 10 lbs. of rolled oats had 4 non-sealing quarts. On my next batch, I plan to gently wipe the rims with a clean, lint free cloth to see if I can improve my sealant ratio.)


Outpost conveniently packaged the sale oats in 10 pound bags, easier on my back...

Upon a bit of research, I have found that dry pack canning can also be done in tin, and with any dry good that is less than 10% moisture. I like the idea of storing in glass, and have ample glass jars to use. Tin cans also require the use of specialized sealing equipment that may be available to rent in some areas. If you are interested in keeping the food "raw", this site recommends packing the jars with moisture absorbers, and avoiding any heating process. It seems to me that this method would be preferred for those trying to preserve the growing power in grains or beans, since you would not compromise their vitality.

Dry pack canning in the oven is also a good way to preserve nuts, though I have not tried it yet. I think I may try it with raw nuts and see how much "roasting" I get by the low oven temperature. Last year at Christmas, I made a few batches of these delicious nuts from Food in Jars - and I am curious if I could seal them using the dry pack method. I'll be sure to update this post after my experiments...



Update: 11/9/2010

Last night, I sealed another 12 jars (11 quarts, and 1 half gallon jar) using the same dry pack method described above, and achieved 100% sealing. Before fixing on the lids and rings, I brought the lids to a boil, and let them sit for 10 minutes to soften the seals. I also wiped the tops of the jars with a lint free cloth before topping them with the lids and rings.

When canning in a water bath or under pressure, you should never disturb the jars as they cool. But since we are talking about sealing a dry good, there are no such issues to be concerned with. When the jars were nearly room temp, and some still had not sealed, I borrowed a technique no longer recommended for jam making: I turned them upside down. I think I had 5 jars that I inverted, and by this morning, all of them had sealed. (My sealant test is to lift each jar by the lid only.)

26 comments:

  1. This is great - I've never thought of dry pack canning. I do use all of my jars to store dry goods, but in small amounts. Glad I found you!

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  2. Always learning something new from you, my dear. I'm still on the hunt for some good, local oats -- but when I find them, this might be a solution for storage!

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  3. This is a great idea, although I'm a little confused as to why its necessary. I always thought of dry goods such as grains as having a long storage life on their own in sealed bags. What's the benefit of canning vs keeping in ziplocs?

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    Replies
    1. mice, moths, and more can get into bags, not jars.

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  4. So you can do this with ANY dry goods? My hubby is a trucker and sometimes brings home LARGE bags of sugar and I go to Sam's and get rice in bulk. That would be wonderful. Right now I put them in large dill pickle jars and just tighten them to keep the bugs and moisture out of them. I need more shelves. Hubby won't like that :D

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    Replies
    1. figure out your price per oz.
      for instance we found that sugar in 4 lb. bags
      at Dollar General were cheaper per oz than 40 lb.
      bags at Sam's Club....my 2 cents worth

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  5. Would a similar result be obtained by using glass jars and a FoodSaver vacuum lid sealer? That seems much easier than heating and sealing....

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  6. Firstly, "G'day from Australia". Secondly... we have a huge pecan nut tree that is very productive. This year, I think I'll can pecan nuts with your dry canning method!
    thanks muchly,
    Heidi

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  7. Tami:
    Dry goods do have long storage on their own. I like the idea that if I have a lot of something like oats, that I can seal them (then I don't need the rings) and then leave them on the shelf. Sealed dry oats have an 8-10 year shelf life... though I'm sure my 30 lbs will be long gone by then! I also prefer to store in glass rather than plastic, and have a good supply of jars, and this is the way my family preserved - so that is why it appeals to me.

    MusicTatter:
    I am currently buying all my sugar in bulk, and I store in glass canning jars, without heating and sealing. Heating sugar even at a low temp would likely make a mess... Sugar in and of itself is a natural preservative, so I don't worry too much about it. But if you have bulk dry goods that are less than 10% moisture, you could use the method.

    ~nerak:
    I'm unfamiliar with the FoodSaver, but I'd bet it would work fine, and be quicker!

    Heidi: Hope the nuts can up well for you! My Gram used to can nuts this way, and I'd like to try it sometime if I run into lots of nuts. Lucky you to have a pecan tree!!

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  8. Wow, being a city girl I've never even heard of dry canning. How enlightening! Wish I had read this before the Great Indian Mealmoth Outbreak of 2009! I had to chuck tons of cereals, nuts, flour, etc...

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  9. Why didn't I think of this! I have a new bag of rice and a new bag of cornmeal sitting on my counter waiting to be put away. I told myself I needed to buy a couple of Tupperware containers since I recently found a few bugs in a box of dry ingredients I had in the cupboard and didn't want that to happen again. You just saved me a few dollars!

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  10. mgupchurch: I'd be a bit careful with the cornmeal... I know most cornmeal likes cold storage. A quick google search told me that if you have steel cut cornmeal, it's shelf stable for a year - but stone ground should be refrigerated or frozen. I think the moisture content varies? If you are not talking about preserving a large amount, I'd probably try making room in the fridge or freezer. I keep my cornmeal under refrigeration - and only buy a quart at a time (it's not a grain I use a ton of!). Hope that helps you!!

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  11. I've never heard of this - interesting.

    ~nerak - I have a Foodsaver, and yes, you can do this with the lid sealer and it works well. I've had mixed results reusing lids - sometimes I can't get a seal on a used lid (i.e. - one that has been heat sealed previously). New lids are much more consistent, do not need to be heated, and, if you're careful, can be used more than once for this application.

    What you can't seal with the Foodsaver is anything very fine, like sugar or flour. It'll get sucked into the vacuum. I have used it for oats, and dried fruit, veggies and herbs.

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  12. vac seal flour, sugar in foodsaver bags by first putting in brown lunch bag. seal with small piece of tape. slip into sealing bag, then vac seal without problems. can also add oxygen absorber packs for increased shelf life.

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  13. If want to pack in bulk, you can go to you local hardware store and purchase a 5 Gal. bucket with lid (make sure lid has rubber gasket) also purchase clear plastic bag,(Make sure bags do not contain anti-bacterial agents) put bag in bucket and fill with Sugar or Rice and before you tie bag place on top a hand warmer like a hunter would use in the field (wal-mart or any sporting goods store) these are the same as an Oxygen absorber. Then seal on lid.
    My wife and I have done several of these with no problems....Note if you don't fill the bucket all the way, the next morning you will find the sides sucked in from the absorber.

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  14. We just got the jar sealer attachments for our Food Saver...these are a cheap MUST HAVE for anyone putting up food......for those not familiar....it allows you to seal a canning jar with a regular canning lid with you food saver....like for storing DRY oatmeal in Quart or 1/2 gallon jars .....so bugs can't get to them......works on just about any low moisture food....LIKE I SAID....A MUST HAVE !!!!!!!!!

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  15. Hi,
    I have just found this site on the internet whilst looking for a means to store rolled oats. This method sounds ideal for keeping weevils out of my oats. One question - how hot does the oven have to be and how long do you keep the jars in the oven.
    Years ago, as a child, I was in a room when a jar of bottled fruit was taken out of the oven and it exploded in my aunts' face. Naturally I have been afraid to preserve anything in the oven - ever.
    I look forward to your reply

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    Replies
    1. The oven should be about 225, and "bake" for 45-60 minutes. I actually canned some lemon marmalade according to the Blue Chair Jam book's instructions to "bake" them, and had no trouble with broken jars. My Mom always taught me to work with the jars away from you, even when putting them into and taking them out of a hot water bath, just in case of breakage...

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  16. I have read that you can use old spaghetti jars with the lid that came with them to follow the oven canning method for rice and oats. Has anyone tried this and what success or failure did you have?

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  17. can i do this with my whole grains that i will grind for flower? wheat etc? please please tell me yes! i am using a vaccume sealer for now, and storing the bags in large garbage cans, which is great in the winter, frozen is good, but now it's summer, and i have no way to keep them cool..what do you think? also, can i do this with any other dry goods? cereals, pancake mixes, cake mixes, etc. i have those stupid cabinet moths, and am throwing out so much!

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    1. I would think that it would be fine, as long as you don't mind the grain being heated to 225. I think if you are trying to seal any dried good with less than 10% moisture, you'll be ok. Good luck!

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  18. Hi, Is this ok for me to pin on Pinterest?

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  19. 09-14-2012

    I did my first batch of "dry canning"; Basmati rice today, using 7 wide mouth quart jars and 7 spaghetti jars and lids. EVERY ONE of them sealed perfectly. However, I used a 250 degree oven, and I boiled the lids and dried them well before applying to the jars. I also wiped the jar rims with a damp paper towel as even rice dust can prevent a seal.So to answer another persons question, YES, spaghetti jars and lids do work. I figured if they did not seal, I would just use them for storage and use that rice first. Nothing to lose by trying.

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  20. Why do you lay your jars on their sides. All others that use this method just stand the jars on a cookie sheet or shallow cake pan. Thanks.

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  21. Since jars take up so much room, and since I store a lot of bulk foods, I generally use 5 or 6 gallon BPA-free buckets. I then put the dry good in a mylar bag that is large enough for the bucket and then add the appropriate amount of oxygen absorbers. Then I seal the bag while sucking out the air. Then I close the bucket with a gamma lid. Dry goods will keep (pest-free) for years using this process. This is for long-term storage. For shorter term storage, I use glass jars, an oxygen absorber, and my Food Saver to suck the air out. I keep all kinds of dry goods, including pasta, beans, grains, sugar, grits, etc using both of these processes. I've never had a problem with pests and the food has always been in excellent condition when opened.

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