Letter: Food Storage Question on Mason Jars

Hello, Hugh,

I’ve been following Sarah’s articles on food storage with interest,and learning a great deal from them.

My question is this: Has your family performed any food storage involving vacuum-sealing “wet” food in mason jars and freezing them? I’m wondering if putting hamburger and chicken in mason jars, vacuum-packing them, and freezing them is a reasonable long-term storage solution (assuming electricity exists to maintain storage temperatures at 0F or below).

If such a procedure is feasible, are there any cautions I should be aware of? I would guess that, since water expands as it freezes, the jars should not be packed tightly, allowing some room for that expansion. Any tricks you’ve discovered that would be useful? – N.K.

HJL and Sarah Comments: Some mason jars can be used for freezer storage. As you surmised, the issue is the expansion of water as it freezes. This limits you to using wide mouth pint and 1/2 pint jars, because the opening is as wide as the jar with a gentle outward taper. Any jar that has a shoulder on it will probably break, if you try to freeze water in it. If all you are doing is freezing the food, you might want to just look at the vacuum bags, since they work really well in the freezer. The only problem we have ever had with these heavy food bags is that they freeze in whatever shape you place them in in the freezer. This often means when you move them arround, it’s like playing a game of tetris to keep them from avalanching out the door of a standing freezer when opened. You can, however, place a far greater quantity of bags in your freezer than you can jars, just for that fact. For storing hamburger and chicken in mason jars, we have (as have other prepping friends) successfully pressure canned these lean meats as well as broths and meat dishes in jars and stored them at room temperature for multiple years without any spoilage. It is just very important that you use a pressure canner (not a water bath canner) and follow guidelines for canning meats a long time. Every year we use our All American pressure canner to put up some tomato meat sauce in jars to have ready to heat and eat, if we have nothing but a rocket stove to boil some pasta and then pour sauce over the top and heat thoroughly for a one pot meal. Lean ground beef, venison, or chicken that is mostly cooked, drained, rinsed with hot water to remove excess fat and grease, put into quart jars, and covered with fresh hot water to not quite fill the jars can be pressure canned just fine. The partially cooked meat finish cooking during the hour and a half or so that it processes in the pressure canner. This method does not require any electricity or a freezer for storage. Hope these suggestions help.