Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How to Oven Can and Preserve Dry Goods

 My very thoughtful Husband bought a bag of masa harina, opened it and used it to make dinner shortly after I bought a new bag of masa harina, opened it, and used it to make dinner.  Whoops!

I popped a bay leaf in one of the open bags of masa to keep the bugs at bay and put it in the pantry. Well that takes care of one bag. Now I need to find a way to keep the other bag fresh and pest free for the long term.

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Freezing flour or masa, isn’t a long term food storage option. My freezer burns everything anyway. 

You can’t vacuum seal masa, flour, etc. because the fine powder gunks up the machine and hose so much it will not create an air tight seal.

Oven canning flour and dry goods in mason jars should do the trick although it is controversial in food preservation circles.

You should only consider oven canning items without any moisture like flour. Things like dried fruits, nuts (too oily), brown sugar etc. are right out. Oven canning cannot and should not replace water bath or pressure canning fruits and vegetables.  Botulism, yo.

Why is Oven Canning Controversial?


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There are as many experienced canners who oven can dry goods without issue as there are experienced canners who side with the National Center for Food Preservation who does not recommend oven canning as a safe way to preserve dry food.

The NCFP experts say oven temperatures may not be true and hot enough to sterilize the jars, preserve the food, and prevent bacteria growth (easily verified with an oven thermometer IMHO.)  They also say mason jars could explode in the oven because they are not made to withstand the high temperatures or dry heat of an oven.

That one has me stretching my head. You use the same jars when you pressure can and they stay in the canner for long periods of time. I see a bucket load of people baking cakes in mason jars too. However, bakers aren’t trying to seal the goodies in their jars for later, they quickly eat them for dessert.

You will have to do the research and decide for yourself whether you think oven canning is safe or not.

In other words, if you want to follow my directions and try it, you are doing it at your own risk ...mmmkay?

How to Keep Pests Out of Dry Goods by Oven Canning or Dry Canning


All of those warnings aside, I want to try dry canning. I figure at best, the jar seals and keeps the extra masa fresh until I need it.

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At worst, I curse the day I was born while cleaning the oven, stick a bay leaf in the other jars of masa, slap on the lids and rings, and hope for the best.

Or I make tortillas from now until the 12th of forever.

You will need:

Dry goods – flour, cornmeal, etc.
Clean, dry, and sterile mason jars
Canning funnel (unless you can pour stuff into mason jars without wearing it unlike yours truly)
New mason jar lids
Mason jar rings
Cookie sheet or a baking pan with a lip to keep the jars from flopping over when you move them in and out of the oven.
Oven thermometer
Potholders
Pot of boiling water
Towels
Timer

Oven Can It:

1. Use the canning funnel to pour the dry goods into the clean canning jars and put the full jars in the baking pan/baking sheet.

Tip: if you tap the jar on the counter top it will settle the contents and allow you to pour more into the jar. I fit one five-pound bag of masa into four one-quart mason jars using this technique.

2. Verify the oven is 200 degrees (F ) with the oven thermometer. Place the cookie sheet/baking sheet full of jars into a 200 degree (F) oven for one hour. Do not put the canning jar lids on jars while they are in the oven.

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3. Wait.

4. Heat the lids and rings in the pot of boiling water to soften the seals before the hour is up.

5. Using potholders, remove the jars from the oven after one hour, wipe the top of the jars with a towel, thoroughly dry the heated lids and rings with a towel, and screw a lid on the jar ring with a mason jar ring to fingertip tight.

Tip: Really, really, super really, really make sure the mason jar lids and rings are dry before putting them on the jars or they might drip water into the dry goods in your jar. That happened to me and I had to start the process all over again with a new clean jar, lid, etc. because I didn’t want the the moisture to be a breeding ground for mold – or worse.

6. As the jars cool they will seal with a pop! Some of my jars did not seal right away as they do when I water bath can jam.

Eventually they did but since I am overly cautious when it comes to canning anything (hello botulism!) I will use that jar first. If it looks/smells iffy after I open it, I will chuck it. Better to be safe than sorry.

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I keep the rings on my mason jars after they seal to keep track of them. 
They also hold my paper labels in place – no tape or stickers required!

6. Label the jars and put them away.

7. Make sure the next time your wonderful Husband wants to help out, he checks the grocery list on the refrigerator first.

Oven canning/dry canning is easy in theory but making sure the lids and rings are super dry so they don’t ruin your effort with water was not as simple as it should be.

It took a big chuck of my day to deal with four jars because I had to redo more than one from scratch because of water drops accidentally falling into the jar of masa.  Better safe than sorry.

Do you oven can? What do you think of the controversy around it?

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