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Thread: Second attempt at retort canning

  1. #1

    Default Second attempt at retort canning

    Did my second attempt at retort canning and was much more successful than the first attempt. Figured I would share my results and a few things that I noticed along the way.

    I'm using the 8 oz retort bags purchased from AK butcher supply
    Using a Vacmaster VP 215 that was purchased at Cabela's for a steal at 729 while on sale just prior to christmas

    Vacmaster settings were 45 pump time, 3.5 seal time and 3.5 cool time. I used a digital scale and each bag was within +/- 1 oz of the 8oz size. I did not have any issues sealing the bags. Processed 18 bags of red salmon.

    The bags were loaded into a granite ware 20 qt pressure cooker. For the first attempt I just placed the bags vertical on their side on the jar rack and lost 8 bags. For the second round I did the same but also used the steamer tray that came with the cooker on top of the bags to keep them in place and prevent them from reaching the top of the caner.

    Caner had 3 qts cold water and was allowed to steam for 10 minutes before cooking at 15lb for 100 minutes. Only had two bags come apart on my second attempt (had 8 break on my first attempt). All of the bags that came apart failed at the factory seam and not the seal that I did.

    When taking the bags out of the caner they will all look like they failed because they are hot and expanded. When they are cooled they will again look like they are vacuum sealed.

    Bags were placed in cold water to cool and observed for any leaks for the following week.

    A couple of things that I noticed.
    1) packing the bags in the caner and reducing the space available for them to expand reduces the chances of broken bags.
    2) when doing salmon or other solid foods it seems to work better if the food is centered in the middle of the bag and not toward one of the edges. All the seams that broke had the food pushed to the back of the bag.
    3) Pulling on the edges of the bags to straiten them before cooling makes them look nicer and more professional when they shrink back down.

    Retort bags are certainly a little more frustrating than jars but I love how easy they are to pack vs jars and not having to bring the jar back is really nice.

    Hopefully this will help someone else who is trying to do retort canning.

  2. #2

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    Good info for starters getting into retort. I love retort canning since I started doing it last summer and I've got a dozen batches down. Only had two bags break seal on the very first batch I did and the rest have been fine. I'm doing similar to your cooking time but have been going for 90 minutes instead of 100 and placing the bags with side edges facing down. I've been doing semi-done smoked salmon pieces then putting them into the bags for canning. I've got retort bags sealed with water to take up any dead space in the cooker and it's seems to work well. I love how the salmon turns out, so much oily goodness comes out of it in the bags.

    I've only done salmon so far but I want to try making some moose, sheep and deer meats that way.

    Did you have any issues with your sealing bar burning through the tape cover? I've replaced the tape on my sealing bar twice on my VP 215 due to the high volume of retort bags I'm doing. AK Butcher Supply did say this is a common thing though if you do a lot of retort because the bags are so thick and sealing time takes longer with more heat.

  3. #3
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Soldotna
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    This is totally new to me, thanks for the thread and I'll start some research. Any chance you are in the Soldotna area?

  4. #4

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    jwfishak
    I have read about doing the extra bags with water and will give that a try next time I don't have enough bags to fill the cooker. I have only done salmon myself as well. Half of the batch I did was partially smoked and the other half was raw.

    Right now I'm trying to research meal type foods that I can take camping like soups or stews. This summer I will also try doing some veggies to take camping like green beans or corn.

    I did notice a slight burn on the edge of the seal bar when I tried using a seal time of 4 seconds. I lowered it to 3.5 seconds and it hasn't gotten any worse. Granted I have only sealed about 45 bags so far but I think 4 seconds was too much. AK butcher supply recommended 4 second seal and 4 second cool time but I have yet to have a bag fail at the seal using 3.5

  5. #5
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Anchorage, Alaska, United States
    Posts
    24

    Default

    Thanks so much for posting this. I didn't even KNOW about retort canning until seeing your post. Now I have a new thing to research. Looks great and will try it out.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  6. #6

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    I've been experimenting with the retort pouches the last couple of years. We are canning fresh salmon in the 8 oz pouches. The pouches that stay sealed are great but I'm having way too many break open and cleaning the exploded salmon from the pressure cooker and pouches is getting old. I can sometimes hear when the pouches break open when the pressure is decreasing as the pressure cooker is cooling down. How tight are you packing the pressure cooker?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by HC130FE View Post
    I've been experimenting with the retort pouches the last couple of years. We are canning fresh salmon in the 8 oz pouches. The pouches that stay sealed are great but I'm having way too many break open and cleaning the exploded salmon from the pressure cooker and pouches is getting old. I can sometimes hear when the pouches break open when the pressure is decreasing as the pressure cooker is cooling down. How tight are you packing the pressure cooker?
    I pack mine fairly tight and try to take up as much extra space as possible. When the bags expand they will try and pop out of place so anything you can do to keep them down helps.

    Here is a picture of mine packed and then with the steam tray on to keep them in place.





    I also brought the pressure down very slowly by turning the burner down as low as I could for several minutes before turning it off. Another thing that helps is trying to avoid rapid changes in pressure which is easier said than done.

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

  8. #8

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    I have tried to let the pressure down slowly but it didn't seem to make any difference. I have put 18 8oz and 6 4oz pouches in a 21 quart cooker to try and fill the space. I will try putting something on top of the pouches. Thanks for the pictures and information.

  9. #9
    New member
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    Mar 2017
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    7

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    that's a great tip

  10. #10

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    With the weather warming up I've had the urge to make a batch of ring bologna so I stopped at the Butcher Supply store in Mt View yesterday for pump oil and a pkg of ring bologna seasoning.

    No luck on the seasoning (they did have the proper casing size) but while I was there I asked about the retort bags, as having read this thread got me interested in giving it a try. I made a light, off-handed comment that I didn't want to buy a whole pkg of retort bags because I just wanted to give it a try... when she reached behind the counter and gave me 2 bags and a set of instructions so I could give it a try!! It seems every time I go there the owners go out of their way to make the customer happy.

    So big thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread and got me interested in trying something new!! And big thanks to Butcher Supply, too!! Good customer service is rare up here and deserves to be recognized.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheeser View Post
    With the weather warming up I've had the urge to make a batch of ring bologna so I stopped at the Butcher Supply store in Mt View yesterday for pump oil and a pkg of ring bologna seasoning.

    No luck on the seasoning (they did have the proper casing size) but while I was there I asked about the retort bags, as having read this thread got me interested in giving it a try. I made a light, off-handed comment that I didn't want to buy a whole pkg of retort bags because I just wanted to give it a try... when she reached behind the counter and gave me 2 bags and a set of instructions so I could give it a try!! It seems every time I go there the owners go out of their way to make the customer happy.

    So big thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread and got me interested in trying something new!! And big thanks to Butcher Supply, too!! Good customer service is rare up here and deserves to be recognized.
    Same thing when I went in for the first time. The lady working there pulled a bag out and even showed me how to set up the machine and sealed a bag right there for me.

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