Jul 9, 2020 at 4:02 pm #3657229
Hello from my backpacking kitchen,
I’m having trouble with moisture inside my vacuum sealed breakfast bags. I’m inquiring here to see your opinions on whether or not my food may be safe and what I might do to correct my moisture issues.
I’m mixing up some breakfast grains for a nutritionally rounded start to my hiking day. I’ve put Cream of Wheat, Instant Oats, Chia Seeds, Corn Grits, Granulated Coconut Palm Sugar, Dehydrated Fruit, Laird Super Food Coconut Creamer (a powdered creamer alternative) and a touch of salt into 4mil commercial vacuum sealer bags and sealed them to my sealer’s specifications. They are air tight and packed very densely under the vacuum pressure.
The problem I’m now seeing is that after sitting for several days the dehydrated fruit in the bags seems to have absorbed some moisture from something in the bag. I’m not really sure what would have created the moisture. Everything I put in the bags was dry. I packed them in an air conditioned kitchen. The only thing I can think is that the fat from the creamer may have done it, or perhaps the sugar in the coconut sugar. Or maybe there is just residual moisture in the “ dry”oats or cream of wheat.
Do you think these breakfasts will be safe for two months? Should I freeze them and have my resupply helpers send them frozen in shipments? Can I toss them in the bags in a pressure canner and just sterilize them? Have you had a similar problem and what was your solution? Or any other ideas? I’m currently making desiccant packets to include in my dinners and may just open, dry and reseal my breakfasts with desiccant in the packets and see if this solves my problem.
I’m new to backpacking and this will be my first thru hike. I’m leaving in two weeks for the Colorado Trail! I hugely appreciate any help in the matter. Thanks!
-Scooter PieJul 9, 2020 at 5:07 pm #3657242MJ HBPL Member
Maybe try an experiment and make separate bags seal for each ingredient. Or maybe each ingredient and fruit if you need fruit as the indicator.Jul 9, 2020 at 5:52 pm #3657254
That’s a good idea. Thank you. I’m actually using the superfood creamer in my coffee packets with some espresso instant coffee and those packets vacuum packed to a week at a time. Those packets have a crispy powdery feeling to them still so it’s not the creamer I would believe.
I decided to open one of the packets up that I thought looked “wet” and to my surprise the powdered stuff was all still dry however my concern about the fruit was correct. It had slightly absorbed some kind of moisture from one of the other ingredients or the air at the time of my packaging. The blueberries had the consistency of a very dry raisin, but a little bit of squish nonetheless. To my surprise they actually crisped back up a bit after being exposed to the air. So I’m feeling a little more relieved about them being just fine.
The fruits that I used are all from Harmony House (dehydrated cherries, blueberries, apricots, and mangos for a little variety in my breakfasts) a respected dehydrated food company so I’m sure there was no moisture in the fruit when I first put them into the bags.
Anybody else have an issue with fruit seeming to absorb something like this?
-ScooterJul 9, 2020 at 6:47 pm #3657268Kevin BabioneBPL Member
I think there’s a reason companies like Packit Gourmet include a clay desiccant packet in their packages. If you’re doing a lot of this it might be worth looking at some.Jul 9, 2020 at 7:29 pm #3657276
Yes, thank you! Very much agreed. I will definitely be putting a desiccant packet in my future meal packs.Jul 9, 2020 at 8:04 pm #3657283
The Chia seeds and the dried fruit are NOT dry, especially if the fruit is just normal dried fruit from a supermarket. They both contain moisture. You have sealed that moisture in.
I don’t think the stuff will be safe for 2 months unless you freeze the bags down to -15 C immediately. Even then, NO guarantees something bad could not happen. Halfway through a trip, in the middle of the wilderness, is NOT a good place to discover food poisoning.
CheersJul 9, 2020 at 10:03 pm #3657318
Thanks so much for the input. No doubt, that is certainly not the place to get sick which is why I’ve gone through the task of putting this to a query with these forums. I have been doing my homework here so you can imagine my surprise, stress and dismay when I noticed that my fruit had gone a bit mushy in vac sealed bags.
In fact my fruit is dry, it’s not standard “dried fruit” you’d get at a super market. It’s fully dehydrated. Crispy, bone dry. Or rather at least it was when I put it in my vacuum sealer bags with my other ingredients.
Now I think maybe you’ve led me to the culprit however and I thank you for it. Perhaps it is the Chia Seeds that have provided the moisture. I guess I just assumed that something in bagged seed form was a dry food. I’ve never heard that raw chia seeds are not a dry food. Would you be able to elaborate on this? Thanks so much for weighing in.Jul 9, 2020 at 10:53 pm #3657327
I had better also point out that some plastic bags are NOT proof against water vapour getting through them. This is why you find ‘dried foods’ in the much more $$ aluminised mylar bags.
CheersJul 10, 2020 at 7:47 am #3657355
That’s interesting to consider as well. The bags I got are a commercial grade 4mil seven ply bag.Jul 10, 2020 at 4:47 pm #3657439
I should add that I have no trouble with my packaging. I do up one serve of muesli per day in a plas bag, and only roll the bags up into sausage shapes – no sealing. Then I put maybe 7 of these ‘sausages’ into another plas bag (unsealed) for their protection. Never had any problems with that.
CheersJul 10, 2020 at 6:26 pm #3657459
I can appreciate that. Would you trust that muesli packaged like that for two months or more? Perhaps I’m over complicating my breakfasts.Jul 10, 2020 at 6:40 pm #3657466
I make my own muesli in a 20 L drum, filling it up. A drum-full lasts me for about 3 months. The drum does have a clip-on lid, but the rim has cracks and it is not airtight by any means. The real reason for the lid is to keep the weevils out!
Anyhow, no, I have never had any problems.
CheersJul 11, 2020 at 6:07 pm #3657657
Ha! That’s a lot of muesli! Good to hear. Out of curiosity do you put any dried fruits or raisins in it in the drum? Thanks again for tossing me some ideas.
– ScooterJul 11, 2020 at 6:37 pm #3657664
Roughly, off the top of my head:
5 kg raw oats
0.5 kg AllBran
0.5 kg wheat germ (if I can get it)
1 kg sultanas
0.5 kg raisins
0.5 kg currants
1 kg dried figs, chopped up
1 kg dried apricots, chopped up
0.5 kg dried apples, chopped up
1 kg dates, chopped up
0.5 kg unsalted peanuts
0.25 kg crushed walnuts
0.2 kg slivered almonds
0.25 kg sunflower seeds
other nuts, depending on what’s on the shelves.
I tried dried cranberries, but they are awfully $$.
No sugar, no powdered milk, no synthetics.
At home, a big ladle full in a bowl, then unfiltered apple juice, a large dollop of home-made natural yoghurt, and a heap of chopped fresh fruit salad.
When out walking, the fresh stuff out of the fridge is missed, sadly, and I use water instead of AJ. In winter in the snow I warm the water slightly: very woosey.
CheersJul 16, 2020 at 4:31 am #3664638
That’s a fine recipe! I’ll have to give it a go. Thanks for your help!Aug 16, 2020 at 9:33 pm #3671068Scott WBPL Member
Scott, Definitely would agree it’s probably the dried fruit. unless it’s freeze-dried it could have up to 20% water content still depending on the type, Freeze dried will have less than 5%. If dehydrating yourself you could have as much as 30% still.
Second what others have said,
1) Use Mylar bags, heavy vacuum seal bags, or last resort Freezer ziplok (not regular ones). Though is sounds like your bags are pretty thick so may be how they seal
2) Add a desiccant pack (just make sure to remove before cooking) or separate any possibly “moist” items like the fruit, seeds, nuts, and maybe sugar.
3) for shelf life you need to worry about oxygen as well as moisture. All the retail meals have an oxidizer packet in them and you can get those and Mylar bags on Amazon.
Personally, I don’t repackage foods that are going to be stored that way for more than a couple weeks without vacuum sealing with an oxidizer and always keep “wetter” ingredients separate.Aug 16, 2020 at 10:14 pm #3671073
unless it’s freeze-dried it could have up to 20% water content
Buy some ‘dried apricots’ and squeeze them. Sure, the vendor has reduced the water content, but the apricots are still very wet.
Food which has been really dried is brittle. Without any water to lubricate the cells, it does not flex. Have a look at some meat lumps in a commercial pack of freeze-dry: they look like a brittle bit of sponge. That is DRY.
Does not mean that so-called ‘dried’ apricots are not tasty: they are.
CheersAug 17, 2020 at 9:01 am #3671135Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
What is really interesting in this post is not that there is water inside the bag, its that the dried fruit seems to be absorbing the water. As has been mentioned, the dried fruit is the most likely culprit to have brought the moisture into the bag. If so where is it absorbing moisture from?
Perhaps it is the low pressure environment evaporating some of the remaining moisture causing the fruit to expand. If that is the case it doesn’t sound like a food safety issue to store it that way up to 2 months. Roger’s storage technique is much less rigorous and seems to work just fine. On the other hand as Roger mentioned the trail is not the best time to discover your food has been incubating bacteria for the past two months.
Vacuum seal some fruit by itself and see what happens. Also seal some with Chia to rule them out as the culprit. Order some desiccate packets if you haven’t already. When are you leaving?Aug 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm #3671205
Roger’s storage technique is much less rigorous and seems to work just fine.
I should point out that there are a LOT of rolled oats in the bin along with the ‘dried’ apricots etc. The oats will absorb any free water. The bin is ‘closed’ but not sealed, and I keep removing the top layer (for breakfast).
One thing I doubt very much is that the ‘dried’ fruit is absorbing water from elsewhere. It would be the wettest stuff in there right from the start.
Does the OP having his food in a sealed bag make any difference? I don’t know. Would it be worth while putting the food in a plas bag for protection but not sealing the bag? I just roll the bag up when packing for trips. The food can still ‘breathe’ I imagine. The main reason for the bag is to keep the food from getting wet from the outside. (Yeah, I am a bit paranoid.)
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