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How To Seal Food into a Mason Jar with a Vacuum-Sealer Hand Pump

Preview: Learn about this inexpensive way to seal food into Mason jars with a vacuum-sealer hand pump. Watch the video to make the process easier to understand.

Have you ever wanted to try sealing certain foods inside a glass jar instead of using so many plastic bags?

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a heat process so perishables (like lettuce and fresh veggies) must still be refrigerated. Non-perishables like nuts, cereal, flour, etc., can be stored in the pantry. Either way, your food will last longer than normally expected.

jar of lettuce and all supplies needed to vacuum-pack it cheaply

Many people tell me they are curious about vacuum-packing chopped lettuce but don’t have or can’t afford a vacuum-pack machine.  A few months ago, I was elated to learn it can be done with a portable vacuum-pack machine costing much less. But now I’ve discovered something even cheaper, thanks to my blogger friend Vicki.


Do I have to buy a full-size vacuum-seal machine?

Ziplock sells a hand pump that will vacuum-pack a glass jar of chopped romaine quite inexpensively.  It comes with 3 vacuum-sealable Ziplock bags (useful for storing big chunks of cheese). It can be found in the same area as aluminum foil and plastic wrap.

In addition to the pump, you will need a thumbtack, electrical tape, and a clean glass jar.

Regarding the jars, use a glass canning jar or a repurposed glass jar (such as one spaghetti sauce or jelly might come in) with a screw-on lid. Some twist-on lids may also work if they form a tight seal.

Note: New to the idea of vacuum-packing prepared lettuce? See this post for more details about the why and how-to of this technique.


How to create a vacuum in a jar for less:

poking a hole into lid with a thumbtack
Use a sharp thumbtack to poke a hole in the lid.
Covering the pin-prick hole in the metal canning lid with electrical tape
Cover the hole with a SMALL piece of electrical tape.
removing air with a vacuum-pump
Pump vigorously while holding the bottom of the pump securely against the lid.

How do I unseal the jar?

The easiest way to open a sealed jar is to peel off the tape. Doing this will immediately break the seal.

Or, you can strong-arm the lid if you have substantial muscles.


How long will the seal hold?

It’s a good idea to check the seal occasionally while the jars are in the fridge to ensure the seal holds. Do this by bouncing your finger quickly on the lid. If sealed, it will not move.

When the seal is broken, the flat lid will move up and down slightly and make a noise. Re-vacuum with a new piece of tape if you aren’t quite ready to eat the contents.

Of course, the sooner you discover the broken seal, the better.  In general, the large vacuum-pack machines make a stronger and more dependable seal.


What if the jar won’t seal?

  • Try a smaller piece of electrical tape.
  • Tape too tightly adheres to the lid before you start to pump. Remove and replace with a light touch.
  • Make sure there are no cracks in your hand pump. (This actually happened to me when I first tried this technique leading me to believe it wouldn’t work.  Glad Vicki encouraged me to give it another try.)
  • The lid may not be sealing the jar completely. Twist-on lids are the most frequent offenders.

How to vacuum-seal Mason jars with a hand-pump:

If you already have the wide-mouth attachment, you can avoid putting holes in your canning lids by using it with Mason glass jars.

using a wide-mouth attachment to seal the jar
Place the flat part of the lid on top of the Mason glass jar, then cover with the large-mouth attachment.
using Ziplock hand pump with large mouth FoodSaver lid adapter
Center bottom of hand pump over the hole in the top of the attachment. Pump until the air is removed and the flat lid is sealed. Remove wide-mouth attachment and cover with a collar.
lettuce that was vacuum-sealed in a repurposed spaghetti sauce jar 8 days ago. no brown edges
This lettuce was chopped, dried, and vacuum-packed in a re-purposed spaghetti sauce jar with a hand pump. Eight days later, the lettuce has no brown edges and is crispy and ready to eat.

Happy Salad Eating!

P.S.  The blue writing on the hand pump rubs off on your hands in an amazingly quick and annoying way.  You can see in the pictures how half of the writing is already gone. Coat the plastic barrel of the pump with vegetable oil and then use a paper towel or a little scrubby pad to remove it.


What would you like to read next about vacuum-sealing lettuce?

An Amazing Way To Make Chopped Lettuce Last Longer
The Lettuce Experiment
Yes, You Can Use a Handheld Vacuum-Pack Machine to Seal Lettuce In a Jar
Is a Plastic Knife a Substitute for Vacuum-Packing Lettuce?
What Happens if I Vacuum-Seal Lettuce and Vegetables Together?


This is a really old video, but if you are a visual learner, it might help clarify this technique.

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

Updated February 2020.

doug williams

Sunday 13th of September 2020

You can also use 2 liter coke bottles with the electrical tape. I've kept dried corn for over 5 years, and it is still sealed! ( I use the corn for seed and also to grind for grits and cornmeal. Sealing keeps out insects and moisture.)

Paula

Sunday 13th of September 2020

Hi Doug,

Really, a 2-liter coke bottle? I guess you are punching a small hole in the plastic lid. Right? I'm so impressed the bottle is still sealed after 5 years. That's absolutely amazing. I sure would like to try some of your home-ground grits. I bet they are delicious! Thanks for sharing the tip.

Mary

Sunday 28th of July 2019

Thanks for the great idea for lettuce. I’ve been using Food Saver system for over ten years. I seal just about everything: crackers, cereal, cheese, chips, snacks in their own packages. It keeps these items fresher longer. For items with waxed paper packaging I count to 4 then stop the process. Going the full time seems to be too long. Cheese and other snacks like chips I let it seal the full time and then cut off the top when ready to use. I seal cut veggies, hotdogs, cold cuts in mason j

Paula

Sunday 28th of July 2019

Hi Mary,

It sounds like you've got the whole vacuum-pack thing down. Thanks for adding your ideas.

Douglas Edwin Bartz

Saturday 8th of July 2017

Can you purchase the big #10 cans and put them in smaller jars? If so, how long can they be stored?

Paula

Saturday 8th of July 2017

#10 cans of what? Vacuum packing is only for non-perishables or food such as produce that will be refrigerated even after vacuum-packing. In others words, vacuum-packing will not substitute for heat-processed canning. Vacuum-packing will help prolong freshness in perishables when refrigerated or frozen. This is VERY IMPORTANT to understand. I don't want you to get sick.

tehzeeb

Monday 20th of March 2017

holy cow this thing worked ...

M. Copeland

Thursday 28th of April 2016

Fast & easy to use it! Saves time and makes freezing food in small portions so very easy!