Not so long ago I fulfilled a desire to buy a food dehydrator...It soon became apparent to me that I needed a vacuum sealer as it's playmate, so I purchased this Andrew James model. Like the dehydrator it is at the budget end of the market but it has ticked all the boxes I needed it to.
It comes with a roll of bags but I decided to buy some extra in the form of some different sized bags and a roll, which is essentially a hollow tube that you seal to size.
The lid is opened by pushing two buttons on either side of the machine. The machine lid is closed properly when both buttons make a definite clicking sound.
If a bag is too big for purpose it can be cut and resealed. The edge to be sealed is just put inside the lid, the lid closed down and then the Seal Only button (on the top of the machine) is pushed. It seals the bag edge silently and it's then removed when the light goes out. The tube version is simply cut and sealed at the bottom to form a bag. Easy.
Once your bag is sorted and filled it's time to seal it. A section bag around an inch or so needs to be left unfilled at the top because the edge goes a bit further into the machine, level with the vent shown in the above left hand side picture. The lid won't shut properly if the food is too high in the bag. As before, click the lid down and push the Vacuum Seal button on the top near the Seal Only button.
The machine makes more than a little noise when the vacuum is working and it's satisfying to see and hear the bag crickle as the air is sucked out. The tone of the noise changes slightly as the process nears it's end and when the seal light goes out it's done. Sometimes the bag doesn't shrink so there's a Cancel button on the top inbetween the other two buttons for this to be halted before the seal button illuminates.
This device is useful for those heading out on bushcraft adventures; jerky, fruit leather, dried fruit and vegetables (the pre cooked) potatoes above right are out and about at Gilwell and got married with a steak.
The bags are quite robust so I find that making a small incision in an unsealed edge helps if out and about with a snack on a walk etc (mango in this instance). It makes tearing it open really effortless.
It is possible to mnake small portion size bags of pretty much everything you may need when camping. The above picture (from L-R), HP sauce, dessert wine(!) and golden syrup...
I have found that if you take a length of the vacuum bag roll ( or an 'A4' bag and snip the sealed end off) you can make a two compartment bag. Simply push the bag til the top is up and over the switches on top and the halfway point is aligned with the sealing strip. Close the lid and seal (the excess will stick out of the top still).
This will give you two seperate pouches sealed together so two different things can be sealed in. The example above is Chinese chicken and potatoes to take out and about as a complete 'boil in the bag meal.
Liquids are a different proposition to solids and need to be frozen first. I put the liquid in a bowl, slide it into the bag and then carefully tip it out whilst holding the bag upright, this makes for clean sides.
This is Alexanders soup being sealed. It is being pictured because it was pretty much, but not 100% frozen. You can see at the top of the bag that the small percentage of not-quite-frozen liquid had been encouraged to try and get out the top of the bag by the vacuuming process so it was a close call. Although this machine is a budget model I have no complaints and I really should get round to leaving a review.
I grated some horseradish root to have with some roast beef and to torture my family with the aroma! The spare shavings were dehydrated for around three hours at 40 degrees and then ground into a powder with a mortar and pestle.
My eldest son was going on a school field trip and I couldn't find a packed lunch ice block. I froze a 1 centimetre depth of water in a tupperware container, removed it in lukewarm water and then sealed it as an impromptu ice block.
If you are away on a more conventional stay somewhere it is very easy to pouch up things like washing machine liquid/ conditioner, sun block etc without the need to take large and heavy bottles.