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Archive for the ‘Storage’ Category

Mushrooms are not everyone’s favorite  food but if you love mushrooms you may have wondered,  ” How can I store them for later?”.  Whether you buy them fresh from the store or a vendor or you pick them like we do, you may find yourself wanting to keep some around for later.

Here in the Pacific Northwest varieties of mushrooms are available about 10 months out of the year but specific varieties may only last for a couple of months.  So I did some research on how to keep them around well past their sometimes limited seasons.

The first place a person may look to keep those fungi from going away to soon is the freezer.  If you plop your favorite shroom into the freezer raw you will be disappointed.  When thawed they will best be described as mush.  Inedible mush at that.  So is the freezer out then?  No!  The mushrooms must be sauteed first.  By cooking them, they can be frozen with acceptable results.  There are other methods that may produce a superior result.

Options for preserving mushrooms:

  • Drying
  • Canning
  • Sauteing then freezing

First, it should be stated that not all species of mushroom can be preserved at all.  For those that are of a very high water content they will not tolerate any of these processes.  An example of a species that can’t be preserved is the Shaggy Mane.  It is an abundant mushroom and easy to distinguish.  It does have one of the highest water contents of any edible mushroom.  Making it  delicate and quick to spoil.  Most edible mushrooms can be preserved, however.  Although results will vary from one type to another.

Drying

Mushrooms being prepared for drying should be sliced into small pieces.  The dryer the mushroom species the larger you can leave the pieces.  Similar to how you would want them as an ingredient in a dish.  For drying you can use a dehydrator.  It should be noted though that in drying mushrooms it is more about air flow and less about heat.  Using the oven for example, even on low heat, is not a good option. You aren’t trying to cook the mushrooms.  In fact in a warm dry environment hanging them out in the sun is a great way to preserve them.

After drying the mushrooms,they should be stored so they can’t draw moisture.  Sealing them in a jar or a bag can work fine.  For the best results I recommend vacuum packing.  There are techniques used with both bags and jars that will give good results.

When it is time to use the mushrooms, you can just add them to a moist dish.  If you are using them alone or adding them to a dry dish placing the mushrooms between two moist towels for a few hours will bring them back to their previous glory.

Canning

The mushrooms whould be sliced into small pieces.  The size is really more about making it easy to handle and pack them.   Some  will cook them first (called hot pack) but I have heard and think canning them raw is the way to go.  The canning process will cook them and cooking mushrooms too mush will harm their texture.  You pack the jar full and add about an inch or so of water. To preserve color add ascorbic acid and I use 1/2 tsp of salt in a pint jar.  It is not recomended that any jar larger than a pint be used.  Put the lids on the jars as you would canning anything else.  Put the jars in the canner with the appropriate amount of water.  They should be cooked for 30 minutes at 10-15 pounds of preasure.

These will last years canned and are ready to add to your favorite recipes.

Freezing

Probably not the best choice but if you want to freeze them make sure you saute them first.  The freezing process seems to affect the texture somewhat.  If you find the result tolerable then it is an easy quick way to store your mushrooms.

The sauteing process for mushrooms is a little differnent than with many other items you may wish to saute.  The process is a dry saute using very little fluid, especially in the beginning.  At most a little oil in the pan to keep anything from sticking and whatever spices you like.  The process is a lot like the searing of meat.  After the pieces are sealed up, they will tolerate moisture without harming the texture of the mushroom.  Adding fluids too soon will make them mushy or slimy.

Once the mushrooms have cooled, they can be put in a freezer bag or wrapped in butcher paper and tossed in the freezer.

The longest I would expect out of this would be a few months without freezer burn or other adverse effects on the mushrooms.

For those who love mushrooms being able to keep them around longer is like having Christmas year round.  Okay, maybe I exagerate but I hope these techniques will help you keep your mushrooms around as long as you like.

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I’ve gone on and on about the different ways to smoke meat. Finally, I am going to have to pick one and write about it.

So here we go.

First of all, I am most familiar with using a brine to cure and flavor the meat. In a bit of research about what is out there I see quite a few recipes from people that are not worried about using a cure, in addition to salt, for low heat cooking. I think this is a bit risky, especially on poultry and fish, unless you are using a fairly high salt content by today’s standards. In ideal circumstances there would be no problem, but if the meat has a higher bacteria count than normal (maybe Earl at the plant got a bit careless when moving Porkchop to the breakdown area and dropped her on the floor, giving her an unintentional marinade in unmentionables or perhaps you were distracted as you were getting the ham out to put it down in the brine and the game you gave up on became a higher priority than that special project that got a bit warmer than intended before brining) you may wish you Had upped your protection. Point is that a cure is a great insurance policy against the unknown without having to make your brine too salty. The low heat cooking process is a more favorable environment for bacteria than a normal cooking process. The meat will spend twice as long in the ideal range for bacterial growth. So I recommend incorporating a cure in any Low Heat Cooking.

The original cure used in this process is salt. However we have other preservatives we can use, so the level of salt needed is lower and more a factor of taste than necessity. These other preservatives are the dreaded Nitrites, Nitrates, and Phosphates we spent a decade or more fearing. When the big studies were conducted to put the nails in the coffin of preservatives like these, the scientists were red faced to report that there were no links between these preservatives and health problems. In fact they found that there may be some health benefits from them. So when putting together a recipe, I recommend including a cure with your other ingredients or substitute a mix like Morton’s Tender Quick. It includes salt, sugar, nitrites, and nitrates. You use a 1:4 ratio of Tender Quick to water by volume. The directions say 2 cups of Tender Quick to 8 cups of water.

Hot Smoking Similar to Barbecuing but generally done at slightly lower temperatures. Smoke can be used for adding flavor.

Kippering Devised in particular for fish, this process relies on both the curing and cooking of meat. Smoke here is also used as a flavor enhancer.

Cold Smoking The process involved the use of smoke to preserve meat. Today, cures are used to help kill bacteria and parasites. Some people will also use a period of time (3 or more days) in the freezer to eliminate parasites, especially from fish. The cure alone only slows the growth of bacteria.

If I tried to include all of the different sources that contributed to all the ways of smoking meat, we’d have a book or two not a recipe.

That having been said, how about a recipe for something.

First, a good recipe for brine.

  • 1 gallon water (Hot)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole cloves  (ground cloves are fine)
  • 1/4 cup ground nutmeg
  • 6 cinnamon sticks ( ground is fine, but I don’t have an amount for you, My guess 1/4 cup)
  • 1-2 oz of liquid smoke (2-4 Tbs)

The original recipe calls for boiling the mixture.  I combined the ingredients I used very hot water out of the tap and mixed it until the ingredients are dissolved as much as possible.   If the ingredients aren’t dissolving as much as you would like, boil the brine for 20 minutes or so.  Either way make sure the brine is cool or even cold before putting the meat down into it.
I adapted this from About.com And is by Derrick Riches.

I used this recipe because it is the most similar I have found to the recipe we used in the Smokehouse ( Yes, I added and subtracted a bit). The ingredients we used were only available commercially. This recipe does not include any cure, so here are some options. Add 1-2 oz of Tender Quick to the recipe or find a cure with no salt and follow the directions or substitute Tender Quick for the salt and the sugar.

Anytime you are making a brine or marinade you should be able to sample it and get an idea if the ratios are right. It will always be too strong to call tasty but it will give you an idea.

As far as time in the brine, that will vary a lot depending on the type of meat. Something small (A cut of chicken or a fillet of Salmon) can be cured in 8-12 hours. Something large (A Ham) may take 7-10 days. Also anything thicker than 2 inches should have brine pumped into it. We use, shockingly enough, a brine pump for this. It is a giant syringe like device, but with a needle about the size of a large nail, only longer. No you won’t want any flu shots with this. You pump it up like a beach ball and put it down in the brine. This is handy and recommended on hams, shoulders, and even loins.

After the meat is cured, you need to rinse it. For the large cuts, 1 1/2 – 2 hours under running water. It doesn’t need to be running at full tilt, just a light flow around it. In the meat business we use a sink that over flows into another sink, so the meat is immerse. You can use a container that can overflow into you kitchen sink or (raised eyebrow time) a container set in the bath tub overflowing into the tub. (There go the brownie points with the wife) You get the idea, use your imagination and have some good excuses ready.

And finally, you cook it up. An oven will work fine. Set it at about 225 and figure on 6 hours although it could take 8. A meat thermometer is critical here. Small or thin cuts will cook much faster, probably in 3 -4 hours. When it gets to 165, its ready. Remember in lost cases it will be heated up again, so don’t expect this to look like dinner. Smaller cuts may be ready to throw on a plate but the larger cuts normally are going to be cooked again. If you find the outside is getting too well done before the temperature gets to your target, then cut the temperature back to 210 or so. Adjustment is the name of the game.

Smoked meat is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding. I highly recommend that you write down exactly what you do to make your product. It will make adjusting your recipe much easier and since there are so many steps it can be hard to remember what you did a week ago when you made that brine.

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What could be worse than finding a cut of meat you had big plans for is partially or totally spoiled?

You weren’t supposed to bring a list, it was a rhetorical question.

Whether it makes your top list of worst disappointments or not, it’s certainly not what we bargain for when we pick up a cut from the meat case.

I thought it would be a little helpful to write about what causes spoilage so that you would have an idea of what to look for and how to prevent the early demise of hard earned dinner ingredients.

The first culprit is the one most likely to take food off your dinner menu. Bacteria. These microorganisms are everywhere looking for a free meal.  It should also be mentioned that we are chocked full of beneficial bacteria.  Some types of bacteria are harmful and sometimes high levels of, otherwise harmless, bacteria can cause problems for us.  So how do we keep the harmful bacteria away from our food. The main thing to remember about bacteria is that they like what you like.

  • moisture
  • temperate or warm climate
  • lots of light

Sounds like we could find them at the beach in California or Florida.

In all seriousness though, at room temperature (or a little above) bacteria are very happy, when they get happy they multiply quickly, and when they multiply, they ruin the neighborhood. That neighborhood was dinner. Some bacteria themselves can be dangerous when ingested. In high enough concentration these bacteria can overwhelm our bodies defenses and cause damage.  Normally, however,  it is the by-products of their existence that are the problem. The by-products cause bad smell, bad taste, or sliminess.  These are the signs of bacteria running rampant in our food. In addition to the effects we can see, there are also effects that are hard to see.   Poisons.  They can be harmful to us in many ways but the main thing to remember is that the poisons can be fatal and they are not always detectable.

Do spoilage bacteria make people sick?
Most people would not choose to eat spoiled food. However, if they did, they probably would not get sick.

Pathogenic bacteria cause illness. They grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone” – the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F – and do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. Food that is left too long at unsafe temperatures could be dangerous to eat, but smell and look just fine. E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and Salmonella are examples of pathogenic bacteria.

From the USDA Website

Whether bacteria ruins the flavor or is producing poisons it is something you want to avoid.  Cooking food properly will kill the bacteria, but if they have been in high enough concentration, the by-products, (poison) are left behind to do their damage.  So proper food handling is important to prevent spoilage or illness from bacteria.  Keep the food cool, this slows the growth of the little buggers.  Freezing brings their growth to a near halt.

Another culprit in the food spoilage campaign we are engaged in is Mold.  These organisms are larger than bacteria (bacteria is a single cell organism and molds are multi-cellular) but thrive in the similar conditions.  Some molds are poisonous wile others are benign.  We are in the fungus family. (Yes, mold is related to mushrooms) In general, mold in soft or moist foods should send the food to the trash.  Mold in hard foods like cheese or dry salami can be trimmed.  Also, if you are dealing with small pieces, like jerky, even though it is hard and can be fairly dry, it should still be tossed, out of caution.  The higher the moisture content, the sooner mold will steal your snack.  Sealing these foods away from air helps stop molds but in a airless environment you can get growth that looks like mold but can be a persistent bacteria.  Either way sealing meat away from air is not a solution by itself.  A thorough sterilization process would have to be applied to avoid molds and bacterial growth, even in an airless environment.  Cool temps are a good way to thwart the pesky mold and those nasty preservatives that so many people are afraid of are also helpful in keeping mold at bay.

So, keeping food in the fridge or freezer should do it right!  Wrong!  There is another culprit that lurks in the shadows.  It’ slower than the others I have written about but it’s all around us.  It’s Air!  Or more specifically Oxygen.  It’s the old we can’t live without it and we can’t live with it gag.  Oxygen is always burning everything it touches.  It is the source of rust and other oxidation around us.  Given enough time, oxygen spoils food too.  You know its fingerprints well.  They manifest themselves in several ways.  Rancid meat or butter is caused as a result of oxygen.  If you have a piece of meat for example that has little bacteria on it and you keep it in the fridge for a while somehow keeping the bacteria and mold away but exposed to the air, you will see in a few weeks the flavor turn rancid. Especially the fat portions.

An example more people are familiar with today is out of the freezer.  You put a cut of meat in a freezer bag and toss it into the freezer for a year long voyage.  On it’s arrival on the menu in your house, you find it is a little worse for wear.  Like it really went on a voyage around the world and put its time in as a fill in for the spare tire.  It is a frosty white color but you go forward with plans for dinner defrosting the well traveled steak or roast not wanting to waste a good meal over its having shown up in inappropriate attire.  After the careful thaw you notice an unpleasant odor coming from the long anticipated dinner guest.  Not wanting to be rude you insert the guest into its place of honor in you recipe only to discover the odor getting worse.  Kind of an old shoe leather odor but without the nostalgic memories.  You take a sample of the dinner, only to discover your recipe has been ruined by the apparent world traveler.  It’s not your guest’s fault.  It’s simply a case of a gate crasher beating you to the punch.  Freezer Burn ate dinner before you thawed it out, leaving spoiled meat in its path.  Freezer burn is oxidation that occurs in those low temperature conditions in the freezer.  It isn’t that it is dangerous, it’s just  distasteful and will give you an upset stomach.  Where you see it, trim away the burned portions and the rest will be alright.  The flavor from the unburned portioned may be a bit lackluster but it won’t be harmful or make anyone sick.  You just have to be sure to get it all trimmed off.

The way to protect your future dinner guests is to vacuum pack the meat if you plan to keep it in the freezer more than 2 months.  Vacuum packing pulls all the air out and seals the meat away.  This combined with freezing will preserve the meat for months or even years if done correctly.

Pressure Canning is another process that stands the test of time, with regard to these villains of good taste.  If the product is canned properly and the jars of goodies are kept in a cool spot (like a pantry or fruit cellar) the scale can be measured in years.

If a person is going to use a cut in 6 months to a year butcher wrap will work fine.

I guess the best advice I could give is invest the time to store it right and it will be ready when you need it.  Also, if it smells or looks wrong, be wary.  Don’t just throw it into a recipe for dinner to be served to your 90 year old Granny.  (Yeah, I know, you knew that already)  Test it on an annoying neighbor first.  Yes that was a joke, but don’t tell your neighbor.

Have a great day and a great meal.

Read Full Post »

What could be worse than finding a cut of meat you had big plans for is partially or totally spoiled?

You weren’t supposed to bring a list, it was a rhetorical question.

Whether it makes your top list of worst disappointments or not, it’s certainly not what we bargain for when we pick up a cut from the meat case.

I thought it would be a little helpful to write about what causes spoilage so that you would have an idea of what to look for and how to prevent the early demise of hard earned dinner ingredients.

The first culprit is the one most likely to take food off your dinner menu. Bacteria. These microorganisms are everywhere looking for a free meal.  It should also be mentioned that we are chocked full of beneficial bacteria.  Some types of bacteria are harmful and sometimes high levels of, otherwise harmless, bacteria can cause problems for us.  So how do we keep the harmful bacteria away from our food. The main thing to remember about bacteria is that they like what you like.

  • moisture
  • temperate or warm climate
  • lots of light

Sounds like we could find them at the beach in California or Florida.

In all seriousness though, at room temperature (or a little above) bacteria are very happy, when they get happy they multiply quickly, and when they multiply, they ruin the neighborhood. That neighborhood was dinner. Some bacteria themselves can be dangerous when ingested. In high enough concentration these bacteria can overwhelm our bodies defenses and cause damage.  Normally, however,  it is the by-products of their existence that are the problem. The by-products cause bad smell, bad taste, or sliminess.  These are the signs of bacteria running rampant in our food. In addition to the effects we can see, there are also effects that are hard to see.   Poisons.  They can be harmful to us in many ways but the main thing to remember is that the poisons can be fatal and they are not always detectable.

Do spoilage bacteria make people sick?
Most people would not choose to eat spoiled food. However, if they did, they probably would not get sick.

Pathogenic bacteria cause illness. They grow rapidly in the “Danger Zone” – the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F – and do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. Food that is left too long at unsafe temperatures could be dangerous to eat, but smell and look just fine. E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, and Salmonella are examples of pathogenic bacteria.

From the USDA Website

Whether bacteria ruins the flavor or is producing poisons it is something you want to avoid.  Cooking food properly will kill the bacteria, but if they have been in high enough concentration, the by-products, (poison) are left behind to do their damage.  So proper food handling is important to prevent spoilage or illness from bacteria.  Keep the food cool, this slows the growth of the little buggers.  Freezing brings their growth to a near halt.

Another culprit in the food spoilage campaign we are engaged in is Mold.  These organisms are larger than bacteria (bacteria is a single cell organism and molds are multi-cellular) but thrive in the similar conditions.  Some molds are poisonous wile others are benign.  We are in the fungus family. (Yes, mold is related to mushrooms) In general, mold in soft or moist foods should send the food to the trash.  Mold in hard foods like cheese or dry salami can be trimmed.  Also, if you are dealing with small pieces, like jerky, even though it is hard and can be fairly dry, it should still be tossed, out of caution.  The higher the moisture content, the sooner mold will steal your snack.  Sealing these foods away from air helps stop molds but in a airless environment you can get growth that looks like mold but can be a persistent bacteria.  Either way sealing meat away from air is not a solution by itself.  A thorough sterilization process would have to be applied to avoid molds and bacterial growth, even in an airless environment.  Cool temps are a good way to thwart the pesky mold and those nasty preservatives that so many people are afraid of are also helpful in keeping mold at bay.

So, keeping food in the fridge or freezer should do it right!  Wrong!  There is another culprit that lurks in the shadows.  It’ slower than the others I have written about but it’s all around us.  It’s Air!  Or more specifically Oxygen.  It’s the old we can’t live without it and we can’t live with it gag.  Oxygen is always burning everything it touches.  It is the source of rust and other oxidation around us.  Given enough time, oxygen spoils food too.  You know its fingerprints well.  They manifest themselves in several ways.  Rancid meat or butter is caused as a result of oxygen.  If you have a piece of meat for example that has little bacteria on it and you keep it in the fridge for a while somehow keeping the bacteria and mold away but exposed to the air, you will see in a few weeks the flavor turn rancid. Especially the fat portions.

An example more people are familiar with today is out of the freezer.  You put a cut of meat in a freezer bag and toss it into the freezer for a year long voyage.  On it’s arrival on the menu in your house, you find it is a little worse for wear.  Like it really went on a voyage around the world and put its time in as a fill in for the spare tire.  It is a frosty white color but you go forward with plans for dinner defrosting the well traveled steak or roast not wanting to waste a good meal over its having shown up in inappropriate attire.  After the careful thaw you notice an unpleasant odor coming from the long anticipated dinner guest.  Not wanting to be rude you insert the guest into its place of honor in you recipe only to discover the odor getting worse.  Kind of an old shoe leather odor but without the nostalgic memories.  You take a sample of the dinner, only to discover your recipe has been ruined by the apparent world traveler.  It’s not your guest’s fault.  It’s simply a case of a gate crasher beating you to the punch.  Freezer Burn ate dinner before you thawed it out, leaving spoiled meat in its path.  Freezer burn is oxidation that occurs in those low temperature conditions in the freezer.  It isn’t that it is dangerous, it’s just  distasteful and will give you an upset stomach.  Where you see it, trim away the burned portions and the rest will be alright.  The flavor from the unburned portioned may be a bit lackluster but it won’t be harmful or make anyone sick.  You just have to be sure to get it all trimmed off.

The way to protect your future dinner guests is to vacuum pack the meat if you plan to keep it in the freezer more than 2 months.  Vacuum packing pulls all the air out and seals the meat away.  This combined with freezing will preserve the meat for months or even years if done correctly.

Pressure Canning is another process that stands the test of time, with regard to these villains of good taste.  If the product is canned properly and the jars of goodies are kept in a cool spot (like a pantry or fruit cellar) the scale can be measured in years.

If a person is going to use a cut in 6 months to a year butcher wrap will work fine.

I guess the best advice I could give is invest the time to store it right and it will be ready when you need it.  Also, if it smells or looks wrong, be wary.  Don’t just throw it into a recipe for dinner to be served to your 90 year old Granny.  (Yeah, I know, you knew that already)  Test it on an annoying neighbor first.  Yes that was a joke, but don’t tell your neighbor.

Have a great day and a great meal.

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Which Way to Go?

One of the beneficial things I look at on the blog are the search terms people use to get to my site.  In these search terms I hope to see questions that I have answered or information I have provided.  Sometimes, however, I see questions that went unanswered.  While I can’t go give that person the info they were searching for, it does give me good motivation for a new post.  That is the case here.  The question was ‘How long does vacuum packed meat last?’, or something to that effect.

Well, this prompts me to write about several types of packaging and storing food.

The list of options I want to go over are:

Store packaging

Freezer bags

Freezer or locker paper

Vacuum bags

Canning

First the packaging the meat comes in from the store.  It is designed to keep the meat protected from contamination and contain any fluids, the meat itself might loose, in the package.  This package generally is a styrofoam tray with resinite (or another typr of plastic wrap) stretched over the tray and sealed with a hot pad on the bottom of the tray.  Inside there will sometimes be a soaker pad under the cut of meat to soak up the juices and keep it from making a mess.  For a short stay in the fridge before cooking, this package will do fine.  Even if the juices are finally more than the soaker can handle, in the short term it is easier to put the tray in a container then repackage it at this point.  If however, you are looking to freeze the meat, even if just for a short time, I recommend repackaging it.  The plastic is not as thick as you would want in the freezer and the juices in the soaker are a pain during thawing.  The soaker might even come apart making the process slower than I, and I’m sure you, would want.  This packaging does not seal the meat away from air, which is what causes freezer-burn.  Forgotten, even for as little as a couple of months, you may be tossing that future dinner in the trash before you even get a chance to burn it.  Just kidding. 

Freezer bags are easy.  Did I mention they were easy.  They also have other advantages, like being easy.

What’s wrong with convenience?  Nothing.  We use freezer bags to get the food into the freezer quickly.  We use them for foods we will definitely be using in the next two or so months.   That gives us some leeway, in case it slips our mind.  If you are expecting more than a few months from meat in freezer bags, you are, in my experience, on the wrong side of the odds for that bet.  Freezer bags protect and seal fine but the air left in the bag with the precious meat will still cause freezer burn sooner than you think.

Butcher or freezer paper is a good choice.  You should use two layers and at least the inner layer should be plastic coated.  There are two main ways to wrap meat.  At least I know of two major techniques.  One is called Rolled wrapping and the other is called Drug Store wrapping.  Both are effective and have the same objective.  Wrap it good and tight.  I personally use the Rolled wrap, while most of the wrappers who worked for me used the Drug Store wrap.  The Rolled wrap is wrapped from the corner.  The paper is laid with one corner closest to you, knd of kity corner.  This corner is laid across the meat and the meat is rolled about half way across the paper.  The two corners by each of your two hands are folded in at about this point as the meat is rolled in the paper.  .  At about the three-quarter mark a second layer is done the same way pushing the corner closest to you under the forth corner of the first layer.  The two opposing corners are folded over the top and the last corner of the second layer is pulled across the top toward you.  One piece of tape here and, if it is tight, your done.  The Drug Store technique is done from the long side of the paper.  The package is wrapped like a Christmas present with two separate layers.  That’s why the Christmas presents I wrap look so bad compared with theirs.  Getting it tight is how you seal it up.  Either technique will give you a year or maybe longer in the freezer, if it is done well.

Vacuum bags are awesome.  I don’t know how long they last without freezer burn.  It’s like getting to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop, I don’t know how many licks it takes.  The meat we put in the freezer rarely stays there for even a year.  Because the air is evacuated, it should be a good long time.  The good news is you can see freezer burn developing and if you keep meat a really long time and want it kept raw this is the way to go.  I know from friends and family it will last well over a year.  Nothing lasts forever but I wouldn’t be afraid of meat kept this way even after a long time.  Freezer burn will be obvious even before you thaw it and you can smell it after you thaw and open it if you miss the discoloration.  As far as spoilage the questions here goes back to how the meat was cared for before packing it, how well did it get evacuated, and how well was it kept frozen.  If those things are done right the risks are really low.  However, if you don’t trust it, food poisoning really sucks.  I had it a week and a half ago.  Not from my cooking or preserving but from a deli.  Pure misery.  Just keep it all reasonable.  Is there any good reason to be suspicious.  Is it from the civil war, did the freezer quit a couple of times last year, is your vacuum sealer just makes an annoying noise and then seals the bag making a meat package pillow.  All I can say is use loads of common sense. 

Canning, in my opinion , is the king of all preserving techniques.  It is time consuming but the food is cooked when your done.  It’s not for every cut of meat but where it gives the result you want, it is excellent.  Diligence and care are warranted because of the value of the meat, the time it takes to process, and the length of time it can last, you don’t want to take shortcuts.  Having confidence in your process is very valuable down the road a few years when you wonder if it will still be good for dinner.

Picking a packaging option boils down to your needs for type and length of storage.  No storage technique will make up for poor care of the meat before packaging.  letting the meat get warm can cut it’s longevity by half in just a couple of hours.  Allowing meat to thaw and refreeze also shortens its lifespan in the freezer.  Both of these mistakes increase the bacteria level in the meat.  Even if it is not at a level that will make you sick it can make the meat spoil surprisingly quick when you are ready to finally use it.  Canned meat that is stored where it is warm will have a similar effect on the ability to keep the meat for a long time or use it at all when you want to.  Pulling out a jar of venison from two years ago can go from sweet memories of how that hunt went to sorrowful memories of how you left it in the sunny window and now instead of being nice and concave on top the lids are about to pop like a balloon.  If you need a reminder of the importance of good storage practices just go ahead and pop that top off.  After a quick trip to the bathroom in obedience to your gag reflex you won’t take it for granted again, I’m sure.

Good procedures and good storage will leave you happy with the results every time.  You can trust your technique as far as you can trust your own diligence.  Enjoy and I hope this was a little helpful.

Brutus

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