I am a new member with hopes of having a productive discussion on vacuum seal bags, retort pouches, and the possibility of using such as a substitute for canning rather than using jars or cans.
I am a senior citizen living in Alaska and I am still gainfully employed as a health care professional. Naturally, my undergraduate discipline was science but once one specializes, focus become intense and very narrow in one's specialty. Still, I have a lust for the daily application of certain areas of science and how I can use technology to my advantage in my daily life.
I grew up "country" in a rural area of Kentucky. I have changed little in that respect never abandoning my "country ways", good morals, and strong work ethics. We always had a large garden which is another way of saying we always had plenty to do around the farm from Spring to Fall. Grandpa and I would plant and tend the crops (among other things) and Grandma and mom would put up our harvest for future use (among other things). Canning and drying foods were instrumental to our way of life. Leaving the farm in no way means that I tossed aside all that which I learned from living on a small farm. Conversely, this has carried through to today. I still hunt and fish as well as harvest wild edible plants which nature has afforded me. All this brings me to where I am today and my continued interest in preserving foods.
While living in Southeast Alaska (Prince of Wales Island), hunting, fishing, and gathering various plants became quite important ..... also it was fun. Canning wild game and fish was almost a weekly chore. It was then I began wondering why a person couldn't use vacuum bags as a means of retort (canning using heat). Things change from time to time but not so long ago my surgical instruments were placed in a thick, clear plastic bag, sealed with a heat sealer, and these bags were placed in the autoclave (high heat steam) for stabilization. Infection Control personnel maintained that unless the integrity of the bag was violated, instruments would remain sterile for many, many months. I decided to give "canning in a bag" a go. I had smoked some COHO (cold smoke) and I took a large piece, placed it in a plastic sterilization bag, sucked out the air and heat sealed the bag. I placed the bag in my pressure cooker, brought it up to temperature and held it at that pressure for the prescribed time. When I opened the lid, gases that had not been totally evacuated had caused the bag to inflate but as the contents cooled, the bag "suck back down and around" my fish causing it to *appear* as it was before being placed in the pressure cooker. I threw the bag on the top shelf in the pantry and left it there for more than a year occasionally checking the appearance of the bag for loss of vacuum seal. It didn't appear to have lost it's seal after a year so I opened the bag and gave the fish a "sniff test" and "taste test". The fish was eaten and I'm still alive having never gotten sick.
Since that time I've tried to obtain scientific data about "canning in a bag" and I've met with failure with each attempt. I have talked with the University of Kentucky Extension Office, Univ of Alaska Extension Service, as will as the Univ of Wisconsin and Tenn. Nothing! All were unaware of any such methods of retort. I even called Ball jar company thinking they could offer the name of an outfit that could provide me information. Nothing!
Have any of you used vacuum bags in a pressure cooker to preserve food or do you have any *reliable* information on this process? If you have used this process and been successful, would you mind sharing this information?