Every year I make a huge vat of tomato sauce and portion it out in Pyrex bowls. Then I freeze the bowls and the next day I run the bowls upside down under hot running water until the sauce drops out of the bowl. Next I stack the sauce "bricks" and put them in a big plastic bag and stick them in the freezer. This year, now that we are trying to go ZW I'm looking for an alternative for the plastic bag, but I will say that the "brick" method works really well. The sauce is individually portioned and fits in the freezer neatly with no glass to shatter. Best of all, I get my Pyrex back for my next recipe. I'm starting to do this now with homemade soup. In the past, I had been taking a can of soup to work with me everyday. Now I am switching to a frozen "brick" of soup. Now if only I could do away with the plastic bag...
FWIW I received a reply regarding replacement gaskets for the all SS containers @ lifewithoutplastic: "The silicone gaskets are replaceable, but we do not yet have replacements. We hope to have extra gaskets in all the sizes in the next few months. But we do have replacement lids, so that is an option right now."
Hey, everyone. This freezer container question is a difficult one, no? I haven't tried the stainless steel containers myself, but I'd be interested in hearing how it works out.
After my own experiment with different containers, I think I have to agree with Bea and her method of freezing things in hermetically-sealed canning jars. Both the lid and jar itself are made from tempered glass (similar to Pyrex), so the container is pretty sturdy and can withstand temperature extremes (it's designed to be boiled in a water bath or pressure cooker, after all). I also like how the lid is attached to the jar, so it's less likely that you'll lose the lid. (My kitchen must be a Bermuda Triangle for lids because I've already lost all the lids to my Pyrex dishes.) The rubber gasket seal helps prevent freezer burn because it keeps out moisture and food odors. I have a jar of Swedish meatballs that I froze two months ago, and it tasted fine when I defrosted it this weekend. To defrost a container of soup, I either move the jar to the fridge (defrosts in 1 1/2 days) or leave it in a bath of warm water for a couple minutes and let the soup 'brick' slide out the jar (works best with the straight-sided jars). Also, the lids are flat-topped so you can stack them on top of each other.
Drawbacks are that the canning jars are expensive. Maybe you could use the straight-sided Ball jars instead? Or search for them at thrift shops?
My mom makes tomato sauce all the time and uses any glass jar. When I was kid, she used wine bottles types and seals them with wax. As long as the bottles and the caps are sterilized and the containers stored properly, it just be fine. The whole point of canning is that you will use the product throughout the year, so the product will not get a change to go bad. When you are about to use it, smell it.
Canning food is dangerous, no matter how carefully done, whether at home or commercially. So, stick to excellent sanitation, aiming for sterility with jars and seals. Label, label, label with date, ingredients, etc (This isn't just so you'll know what's in it, it's so you'll use the oldest canned items first and you can tell if something is off because you know what it's supposed to smell like). And use common sense, if seals are broken, something is leaking, you open it and it's oddly discolored, it smells funky, etc DO NOT eat it!
That being said, I learned to can from my grandmother, and she never had a problem, both with mason jars and European style jars. For her mason jars, unless the lids (which can be gotten separate from the screw part, my grandmother used the two piece lids, I didn't see the one piece lids until college) are damaged in some way, she just cleaned off the wax/sealant and boiled them to use again.
As for a pressure cooker, not really necessary, but definitely easier. You can use a really large pot (but not a nice one, because this will leave rings on the bottom of the pot), places jars in the bottom, put something heavy over them, my grandmother liked bricks. Add water, until it covers the jars, should be about an inch over the jars. Bring water to a boil and keep boiling for at least 3 hours, preferably 4 hours. Don't let the water boil off, the jars must be covered at all times or they will explode. Yes, I've had this happen, not canning but making dulce de leche, and cleaning molten semi-caramelized condensed milk off your walls and ceiling is not fun.
side note- dulce de leche- If you want to make dulce de leche too, take can of condensed milk-goats milk preferred- and follow the improvised pressure cooking steps above, this definitely takes the 4 full hours. I love dulce de leche and it only comes in plastic, so this is a plastic vs tin can bpa debate. If you have a pressure cooker, you don't need a can, just take fresh goats milk-preferably the cream, add sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt and pressure cook as usual.
Last summer, I canned ~35 pints of crushed tomatoes using the European style canning jars (Le Parfait), and they worked out just fine. I, too, was scared of deviating from the USDA/UGA's strict guidelines until I learned more about the canning process and how the Euro style jars worked. Here are some things I look for when inspecting a jar:
- You can tell very easily when the vacuum seal on the Le Parfait jars is intact. The lid should stay firmly in place, even when you unhook the metal clip and attempt to lift the lid. I've been storing the jars with the metal clip unhooked so it's easier to see immediately if the seal is broken.
- I check that the color and overall appearance of the contents is okay (no discoloration, no liquid spurting out, no bubbling).
- When you pull the rubber tab out to open the jar, you should hear the distinct sound of air being sucked back into the jar.
- Finally, if I'm still not sure about any of these safety cues, I don't consume what's in the jar.
I personally prefer pressure canning because it takes less time, less water, and the higher temperatures that a pressure cooker can reach are more likely to kill off the scary organisms that cause botulism poisoning. I also added the tablespoon of lemon juice that the UGA recommends for each pint of canned tomatoes to ensure a low pH. Before canning, I inspect each rubber gasket for cracks that can prevent a good seal. I've reused gaskets if I see that the rubber is not cracked, broken, or warped in any way.
Alexa, you can remove the hard water rings that appear at the bottom of a pot that you've used for canning by rubbing lemon juice on the area. Let the lemon juice soak for a minute, then wash with soap and rinse. Should be good as new.
Actually, they weren't hard water rings, it's were the heat from the cans melted away the porcelain coating on my pot. I've also had them leave permanent scarring on copper bottomed pots, again, not hard water rings. I wish it'd had just been that, because you're right, that's relatively fixable. I didn't realize "til after I'd ruined several pots, that my grandmother always used a heavy duty stainless steel pot just for pressure cooking canning jars (and making large batches of pasta). No worry about destroying copper and porcelain bottoms, especially considering we don't have hard water here.
Nope, that would have been a really good idea on my part before I ruined several pots. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll definitely do that next time. I wish I'd thought of something so simple beforehand. Funny how sometimes the most obvious and simple solutions just don't come to us.
I just scored about 100 Ball jars off of ebay for $5! I was really excited to can until I learned that the medal lids have BPA in them. Ball supposedly is working on the issue. The only other option that I could find was the Tattler lids that are reusable but they are plastic. And who knows what other estrogen type chemicals they leach when they get hot because unfortunately BPA is only one of many bad chemicals in plastic. I did see that Bormioli Fido, the company that I buy my Le Parfait style jars from because they are SO much cheaper, does make lids that are BPA free. But they are about $2.00 for two compared to $3 for twelve of the Ball. And you would need to replace them each time you can. Plus they use the metric system so only their large ones fit on the large ball jars. They don't work with the pints. Any ideas folks???
Thanks for any help you can offer. Oh and I freeze all the time in my jars. They work great. Just have to remember to move it over about a day or a day and half before to my fridge.
Dear lady, with La Parfait jars you check the seal in exactly the same way as for any other vacuum sealed jar. Flip the wire closure off, (gently, so you don't jar the seal!) and lift by the lid, just half an inch. If the lid is tight, the jar is sealed. If it isn't, eat the same day if it is fresh, compost if not.
Can I recommend Putting It By for all preserving worries? Such a carefully researched book! and covers everything.
So far have only canned jams and stewed fruits. Here we just wash old jars with metal lids in hot soapy water or dishwasher, rinse dry place on baking tray in oven for at least 15mins at at least 120 degrees centigrade then remove and fill with hot jam etc, place lid on and tighten. Leave on. Counter to cool then store in press.
Just go for it and try canning- follow the directions on a specific recipe that someone else has tried so you are safer.
A note on the tattler lids though...
Just because a plastic is said to be BPA-free doesn't mean that it will not affect you in the same way BPA does. All plastics have BP_ , such as BPB, BPS, etc. In other words, even though a plastic says it is BPA-free, it will still affect you in the same way that a BPA-containing plastic will. So, either way, you are exposing your food, whether with the normal "disposable" ones or the tattler lids. Maybe just don't tip your jars if possible? :)