Oven “Canning” ~ Long Term Food Preservation for Dry Goods

ovencan

I finally decided to try something that I’ve been researching for quite a while now. “Oven Canning”. It’s not really canning, but that what it’s been dubbed. Short version: You slowly heat your dry goods at a low oven temp, which kills any bugs and nasties and rids the food of any excess moisture. You then seal the jar and the shelf life of the dry goods is supposed to be extended by years. Pictured above: Whole Wheat Four, Cornmeal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal and Masa.

My mental breakdown…

  1. Safety: Yes, I know you can’t “can” in the oven due to the potential for botulism spores to grow. Botulism thrives in moist, low-acid foods. Dry foods are just that…dry. Therefore, the dry foods do not provide conditions for botulism to continue to exist. Coupled with the fact that the foods have already been dried once before, I consider this form of preservation to be very safe. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is that the food goes stale.
  2. Cost Efficient: Preserving dry goods allows me to purchase in bulk and then preserve in more manageable sizes. Yes, I could buy mylar bags, food grade buckets and oxygen absorbers, but how cost efficient is that? And after I open that 5 gallon bucket of whole wheat flour, what are the chances that I’m going to use it all before it goes bad? I’ll be much more likely to use a quart of the same flour and be able to use it while it’s fresh.
  3. Easy to Store: I find it much easier to store mason jars than I do bagged flour, rice, beans, cornmeal, etc. Some people freeze their flours to kill off any buggies that may be in there. No need to bulk up your freezer with dry goods!
  4. Emergency Prep: I find this to be a great addition to not just my pantry, but for emergency prep as well. Before I store the jars, I tape a recipe or cooking instructions onto the jar. That way, I’m not searching for a way to use the masa (corn tortillas!) when the time comes.
  5. Variety: You can preserve some processed foods this way as well. Pastas, some crackers and some cereals can be preserved for much longer than sitting in their original boxes or bags. The thing you have to remember is that these foods must be low in oil or they will become rancid under these preservation conditions. Check the label and make sure any oils used are at or near the bottom of the list of ingredients. So now…when I see my favorite crackers on sale, I can use this method to preserve them until my next picnic and/or pig-out session.

I do have to say, that these are my personal opinions. It is important that you do your own research if you feel unsure about this process and make then make your decision. I haven’t preserved crackers or cereal yet with this method, but it is next on my list!

If you’ve read this far and are still interested in this preservation process, here’s the how-to in order to get started:

  1. Gather pint or quart mason jars, clean lids and rings. 
  2. Clean and sterilize the jars and then make sure they are BONE DRY. I ran mine through the dishwasher, then air dried overnight. Hand wash the lids and rings, making sure they are thoroughly dry as well.
  3. Line up empty jars onto a large baking sheet.
  4. Fill jars with dry goods (using a canning funnel will make this a cleaner job for sure!), shaking the jar slightly to assure the food is settled. Fill the jars, leaving approximately 1/2 inch headspace.
  5. Place baking sheet with jars into a cold oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degree. (Allowing the jars to slowly heat up will prevent breakage from sudden temperature change). After the oven is preheated, heat the filled jars for one hour.
  6. Take jars out of the oven ONE JAR AT A TIME, wipe the jar rim with a damp (not wet) paper towel to assure there is not food residue on the rim. This will help assure a good seal.
  7. Place a clean lid on the jar. Secure with a clean ring, tightening securely, but do not over-tighten. Place covered jar onto a clean dish cloth.
  8. Do this with each jar, leaving the remaining jars in the oven while you work. You need to do these last few steps rather quickly so that the temperature inside the jars doesn’t lower.
  9. Let the jars cool for a few hours or overnight. They should all seal during this time (you may or may not hear the “ping”) You can tell that the lid has sealed when the raised circle in the middle of the lid has “sunken” into the jar. It will no longer be raised.
  10. If you have a jar that hasn’t sealed, put it in your pantry and use it first.

And there you have it! I for one, am very happy that I discovered this preservation method. Not only will it make my life a lot easier, but it will do wonders for my wallet!

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About finefrugality

I am a wife, mother, business owner, farmer, foster parent, retired probation officer and so much more. :-) I love to save money any way I can. I just don’t see the sense in handing my cash over to someone else when I don’t have to. I coupon, I grow and can food, I reuse and repurpose items, I scour thrift stores and during the warmer months, my Saturday mornings consist of yard sales and our local farmer’s market with my husband. I have organized local meetings which include coupon swaps, barter clubs and swap meets. Here is where I begin to share this life with the rest of the world. This is Fine Frugality. Because being frugal is not only fine. It is FINE.
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38 Responses to Oven “Canning” ~ Long Term Food Preservation for Dry Goods

  1. I have done this and its great!!!

  2. Excellent!! I’m sure this will be my new obsession. :-)

  3. I love this idea! I’ve never thought of it before. Pretty sure I’m going to have to do this.

  4. df says:

    I love an ‘a-ha!’ post like this – great find. I will definitely have to try this and think it sounds extremely sensible. Thank you!

  5. Angell says:

    I never heard of this before. I’m a newbie to anything “homestead” related. My goal for 2014 is to start canning. We put in a garden last year (our first ever garden) and my goal this year is to learn how to garden…hubby did it all last year. I can’t wait!!! And now to know you can can dry stuff is so cool!

  6. rita molidor says:

    what crackers can you oven can? And won’t there be moisture in the flour when you oven can? I am very interested in oven canning.
    thank you

    • So far I have oven canned saltines and oyster crackers with great success. I’ve even done well with pretzels. I haven’t had any problems with the flour having moisture as the time in the oven dries it out even further than when it was in the original package. Let me know if you’re successful in your attempts as well!

  7. Stephanie says:

    Hi, has anyone tried sugar? I’m guessing brown sugar would be too moist, but am curious about granulated and powdered sugars. Thanks

    • Unfortunately, sugar will dissolve during this process. I wish it could be done with sugar! :-)

      • Laura says:

        I have a food saver and can pasta, barley, sugar, flour etc. with their vacuum sealer for canning jars. It’s awesome!!!

      • I used to have a food saver Laura and found the bags to be so darn expensive that I ended up giving it away. That was a few years ago. Have the prices become any more reasonable?

    • Judy Rose says:

      yes I have and it works great..I have also canned cereal in the same way..wonderful..as fresh as it was from the box…I have read several items on this and they say, if you oven can, it can last up to 30 yrs…I love everything about canning…..

  8. Sunny says:

    Has anybody tried this on the jar mixes that people give as gifts? Like soup mix or homemade mixes: ranch mix, taco seasoning, onion soup mix…

    • I haven’t tried that, but what a great idea! I’m sure that if all of the ingredients are completely dry, that it would work without any issues. Thanks for the idea, my wheels are turning now!

  9. Kathy Ford says:

    Does the food actually get hot enough inside the jars to kill everything? I just did a canning of flour and corn meal and with my oven on 200. After an hour I checked with a meat thermometer and the reading was only at 145 degrees! Is that hot enough?

    • The food that you are “preserving” with this method is already dried. Assuming that it has been kept dry, the oven “canning” is meant to remove any moisture that may have accumulated and will also kill off any bug eggs, etc. If it is going from it’s original packaging to oven canning, it should not have any new moisture, therefore harmful food bacteria won’t be growing. If it has been opened, this method should assure that the food is completely dry. With that said, flour is quite dense and it doesn’t surprise me that internally your jar only reached 145 degrees. As far as I can tell, the drying part was probably fine. It would be a question of bug eggs if your flour had any. And that would certainly depend on what kind of bug, etc. It is perfectly fine to leave it in until it reaches 200 degrees. You may have to de-clump it upon opening, but that’s not a big deal. Please remember that I was just learning this method myself and although I’ve done it a lot now, I’m not an expert. Hope this helps!

      • Kathy Ford says:

        Thank you so much for the info! It has answered my questions that I had! The last batch I put in i left in until the middle of the jars reached 200 degrees, which varried by amout of processing time! Rice, pasta, dried legumes, etc, took less time than the flour, meal, grits, etc. As each product reached 200 degrees, I would take out the jars and seal those. It took a total of about 2 1/2 hours, but I felt it was worth the extra time to reach that temperature! Again Thank You for taking the time to answer my questions!

  10. sharivilles says:

    I am so excited about this method. I have been sitting around agonizing about what I was going to do with the 25# of pinto beans, without putting them into a bucket with all the problems and expense of mylar, buckets and O2 absorbers. I feel this is a really viable method and the best serving size for regular use.Thanks so much.

  11. WeaverDave says:

    What about the foods themselves? Does the quality suffer at all putting them through this heating process?

    • I have not found the quality to suffer in the least. I may have mentioned that the flour can get clumpy, but I just sift it and it’s fine. I opened a jar of Rice Krispie cereal that I had oven canned. They were about 4 months past their original expiration date and they were the crispiest, freshest Rice Krispies I ever had! :-)

      • Angela m says:

        My concern for cereal is would the canning process last a couple years. We would like to do a little prepping and wonder if we could can cereal this way for up to five years of storage.

      • I can’t attest to it lasting 5 years, as I have only been doing this about a year or so now. But I can tell you that I make sure to use very dry cereal to begin with (no fruit, yogurt bits, etc in it). Last February I oven canned some Rice Krispies that were approaching their expiration date. I opened one of the jars about a month ago and they were crispier than ever. The dry canning has become a routine part of my food preservation and I can only say…so far, so good. My research prior to starting this process varied and claimed to preserve the dry goods anywhere from 5 to 20 years. Now, I don’t know about THAT long, but to me it’s certainly paying for itself by extending the life of my food for at least the year that I’ve been doing it and that has saved me quite a bit of money to date. Hope this helps!

  12. Cheryel Lemley-McRoy says:

    I have some gallon canning jars that I would like to use for flours. How long should I heat those?

    • Cheryel…I’ve never tried this with gallon jars, so I can’t give you a time period for them. I’m thinking gallon jars may be a little too large for the heat to penetrate correctly. Perhaps try to heat until a thermometer reads 200 degrees internally. At least you’d be assured that the heat penetrated. I can’t guarantee that the outer layers won’t be too dry though.

  13. Laura says:

    I have oven canned noodles, pinto beans and rice and I have followed the directions to the “T”. However, once the stuff has finished baking in the oven at 220 degrees for and hour and half and I pull the jars out to cool with the lids attached moisture builds up in the jars as they cool. Is this normal and will it hurt the food that has been processed?? Some people are saying to process the cans in the oven at 200 degrees and some are saying to can it at 220 degrees so I went with the higher temperature. I would greatly appreciate some helpful advice. Thank you so much!!

    • Hi Laura. I am so sorry that you are having problems with this method. I have never had a problem with moisture. There may be a few problems. First, you need to make sure your jars, rings and lids are bone dry before the process. Second…you only put the lids on AFTER you have heated your filled jars. I’m not sure by the way you wrote your comment on whether or not you’re putting you jars on while the food/jars are in the oven. If so, moisture certainly will gather inside the jars as they heat. I use the 200 degree oven. Moisture inside the jars will certainly affect the food in that it will decompose very quickly. Hope this helps!

  14. Laura says:

    The first time I did it I had the lids on the jars, but they were very loose.The second time I did it which was today I put the lids on after I removed the jars from the oven. Both times there was no moisture in the jars until I put the lids on tight.

  15. Laura says:

    It appears that condensation appears in the jars approximately 5 to 7 minutes after the lids are placed on the jars and tightened.

  16. I am at a loss then. The “low and slow” in the oven is supposed to dry out any residual moisture from these items. They should literally be bone dry. I can understand you having the problem the first time after leaving the lids on, loose or not loose, but today’s venture should have had very different results. Are you putting the lids on immediately? I literally remove one jar at a time from the oven, wipe the rim quickly with a barely-damp paper towel and then pop the lid and ring on. I repeat with each jar until I’m through them all. If you are cooking other things that are causing humidity in the room, perhaps that is being transferred to the jars if you aren’t putting the lids on right away. I’m not sure what else could be going on, this is very odd. I sure hope you can figure it out, because it was worked great for me here. Just some thoughts. Make sure your room itself is very dry. Don’t attempt during a damp or humid day. Place the lids on one at a time as I mentioned above. These are my best ideas. I’ll try to think on it some more though and let you know if I come up with something.

  17. Kim says:

    Today is my first day dry canning and I’m having problems with the moisture beading up inside my jars as well. I did pinto beans in pint size jars and black beans in quarts. The pinto beans are the ones with little moisture beads on the inside. Do you think it will evaporate and be okay or should I unseal them, let them air dry and try again?

    • I would definitely try again. Are you using a gas oven as Mrs. Brown questioned? I have an electric oven and don’t have a problem, but she said that her gas oven produces moisture, so it may not work? But you definitely do not want any moisture in there at all. Your products are to be as dry as a bone. Fingers crossed for you!

  18. Melissa says:

    Just wondering if you could place a video of yourself oven canning dry goods on your blog. I am notorious for closing lids on anything too tight. I have a difficult time taking the lids off, but no problem at putting the lids on too tight. I really need to see how tight is tight enough and what would be considered too tight for this type of canning. What happens if you place the lids on too tight? Also, would this work for dehydrated foods (instant potatoes or banana chips), coffee beans, cocoa, grits, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat?

    • In response to your questions about the tightness of the lids…it is recommended that you put the lid on “finger tight” in most canning procedures. This, however is different in that you are not processing it afterwards. I don’t believe that there is a “too tight” for oven canning. I believe that it would actually help with the seal in this case. It works with most dehydrated foods such as potato flakes and banana chips. Coffee beans have too much oil and will go rancid. I haven’t tried it with cocoa, but any grain will benefit from this process. Hope this helps. :-)

  19. Melissa says:

    So, is the video out? And, too tight is fine for oven canning, I take it. I did not realize that coffee beans had oil, so this was great to know before I ruined any great coffee. Your reply was most helpful!

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