Last week I shared the success I had with preserving our leftover Easter candy. A few people asked me how I did it and, lucky you, I'm more than happy to share!
First, a disclaimer...I have no idea if this is the "right" way. There are actually several methods out there to dry packing and preserving food. This is just the way my sister and mom showed me how. They are pretty darn smart and resourceful women. I think we are in good hands.
You are going to need a few supplies to do this:
Leftover Easter candy (or Halloween or Christmas or chocolate chips or pretzels or cookies or whatever! Sky's the limit! Just nothing powdery; It gets sucked up in the tubing and out the lid and prevents sealing.)
Canning jars (Kerr, Ball, Mason are the best. I stock up on these at 50 cents/bottle every time I go to my local thrift store.)
Canning lids (You can find these at Walmart, other grocery stores, online, etc.)
Canning rings (They often come with the jars, but if they aren't look at Walmart and other stores. These aren't absolutely necessary, but they satisfy my obsessive compulsiveness, they double protect the sealing, and they just look nicer.)
A hair dryer (You can find this is in your local bathroom.)
A Food Saver/Ziploc Vacuum Pump gadget (I will explain how to rig this together.)
Tubing*** (Look at your local medical supply store or pharmacy.)
The Food Saver contraption (white lid looking thing) is actually an attachment for a bigger, more expensive machine. It would be awesome to have that machine, but my budget doesn't exactly allow for that right now. Fortunately, you can use a Ziploc Vacuum pump along with the Food Saver attachment to dry pack canning jars. Really!
My Food Saver attachment was a gift from a wise mom. Word on the street is that the Food Saver attachment is available at Walmart. I looked for it the other day and only saw the big machines. You can find the attachments for sale online, try the Food Saver website or Amazon.com. They come in wide mouth and regular mouth size.
You can find a Ziploc Vacuum Starter Kit at your local Walmart or grocery store.
To rig up your custom Food Saver/Ziploc Pump you need to take off the bottom rubber piece from the Ziploc pump that is used to vacuum out bags. Grab a milk jug lid off of an empty gallon milk jug and poke a small hole in the top, just big enough for the Food Saver tubing to fit snugly inside. The milk cap will fit perfectly over the end of the Ziploc pump.
Now use medical tape or duct tape or whatever you have to secure the milk cap on to the pump. Be certain that no air can leak from the hole in the lid or the edges of the lid or pump.
Stick the free end of the tubing*** into the Food Saver attachment and it's ready to use.
Clear as mud? If you have any questions just ask and I'll see what I can do to help!
Now, you need to prep your canning jars.
They need to be CLEAN and DRY. I wash mine with a bottle scrubber and a sink full of hot soapy water. A good rinse and a towel dry later, I use my blow dryer to make absolutely certain they are dry. Water could cause food contamination problems, so remember: A dry jar is a happy jar! Even if your husband laughs at you for blow drying jars in the kitchen...
After letting your jars cool completely (think melted chocolate if you don't), you can dump in whatever candy or goodies you have, leaving an inch of space from the top. Make sure to tap and twist your jar a few times to let the contents settle.
I had some really great coupons for these M&M candies that I wanted to use before they expired. But I had a ton of Easter candy that I just preserved. Normally I would have passed up the good deal on the M&Ms since I already had a bunch of candy sitting around, but by preserving them, I don't have to worry about them getting stale in the cupboard. (But between you and me, really...When have M&Ms ever been in the cupboard long enough to become "stale"? I know, I know. I'm laughing too.)
That's the beauty of this whole preservation thing! You can buy the holiday candy after the holiday, catching all the good deals, dry pack them at home and use them next year. They won't taste old and you will have saved money. Awesome, right?
Carefully place the canning lids on the jars.
Push the Food Saver contraption over the top of the jar with the lid on.
Turn once to secure on tightly. Pump a few times. If you hear a clicking noise and see the Food Saver moving up and down, you are doing it right. This is the sound of the lid sealing on to the jar. If you don't hear that noise, readjust the lid and Food Saver until you do. Make sure your jar top doesn't have any nicks or cracks or try a different lid if it still won't seal.
Pump 15 to 20 times total to make sure the lid is sealed. Remove the Food Saver and gently pull on it with your hands to double check.
Screw on canning ring. Write the date on the top.
Stare admiringly at your freshly "canned" goodies...
...And sleep well knowing you saved another bag of holiday candy from being mindlessly wasted. Be secure in the fact that while the rest of the world is looting grocery stores after the economy collapses, your family will be dining on the freshest 5 year old gummy worms you ever tasted. ;)
Post Post: I forgot to tell you...You can unseal and reseal your jars over and over again! Pretty cool, eh?
***Post Post Post: I ordered another food saver lid for myself after writing this post and there was NO plastic tubing in the box! I had assumed it came with the contraption. When I questioned my mom about this, she told me she had actually purchased the tubing from a medical supply store and that it does NOT come with the food saver lid. I'm sorry to complicate things, but add one more step: Go to your local medical supply store and purchase a short length of medical tubing (Ex: nasal cannula, oxygen tubing, IV tubing, etc.)
Post Post Post POST: Here's a vlog Jeigh and I made to show you how to drypack!