I brought all my beans and rice up from food storage this afternoon, divided them into meal-sized portions and vacuum sealed them in clean canning jars. It was a little work washing and drying all the jars but it was worth it because now instead of knowing I have so many pounds of whatever kind of dried beans or so many pounds of rice in storage, I now know how many meals I have of those things in storage.
Whether quarts or pints, I only filled each jar half full of whatever I was putting in it because when I cook them this fall and winter, the amount that's in the jar now will still fit in the jar after it's cooked. It was suggested to me to fill the jars completely before sealing to minimize how many jars I had to wash and dry and make more efficient use of the storage space in the jar. But right now it's more important to me to know how many meals I can get out of what I have stored. Filling the jars with only as much as they would hold after the contents are cooked gives me a better idea of whether my stores are adequate.
I lost a whole 8-pound bag of pinto beans in this process. A good number of the beans in the bag were visibly moldy and they smelled 'off' ...so they all went to the compost pile. Losing 8 pounds of anything is a shame, but it just convinces me all the more that vacuum sealed in glass containers is the way to go.
It's just the two of us here most of the time, so a quart jar of red beans & rice is a meal. Filling the quart jar only half-full, each one ended up with 1-1/3 cups of Red Beans and 2/3 cup of rice. I ended up with 19 quarts which translates to 19 meals for us. Fresh chopped onion and Cajun spices will be added when I cook the red beans and rice so that when I pressure can them, they will be ready to eat. When I serve one for dinner, I'll only need to cook a little sausage and cornbread and Yeoldfurt will be happy.
Pintos and great northern beans were sealed in pint jars because they will be consumed as side dishes more than full meals. I ended up with 24 pints of those or 24 meals worth. Once all the beans were in jars, I filled quart and pint jars all the way to the top with what was left of the rice. I ended up with 7 quarts and 16 pints. Served as a side dish, that much rice translates to 60 meals worth for us.
The vacuum sealer attachment to the Foodsaver worked very well with the wide-mouth jars ...a success every time. When I ran out of clean wide-mouth jars and tried to seal the regular-mouth jars, I had a little trouble at first but not that much. I had one jar that seemed to seal but then 'popped' a few minutes later and was a failure. When I removed the loose lid, I could see rice powder residue on the gasket ...so it was my own fault. I got a clean lid and it sealed, no problem. I did have to double-load when doing the regular-mouth jars. I put one lid on the jar and then set a second lid on top of it, then put the vacuum sealer over the jar. Double-loaded like that, when I removed the vacuum sealer, the bottom lid stayed with the jar and the second lid was still in the vacuum sealer. Not a big deal.
This method of storage won't be for everyone but considering the 8 pounds of Pinto Beans I had to throw in the compost pile today, I would say it's an improvement for us. It was worth the effort as far as I'm concerned. When I'm ready to start pressure canning again this fall, I can bring up only as many jars as I want to do that day. My pressure canner will hold 7 quarts, so if I only want to process one batch, that's all I will be bringing up from storage.