Shelf Stable foods?

What are shelf stable foods? They are any foods that can be stored at room temperature with out any risk of spoilage.

The best know foods of this type are the military MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). There are several foods that are seen at the local grocer and there numbers are growing.

India is one of the countries that has seen huge growth in this type of food storage system. It is called retort packaging and is the modern day version of cans. These packages are in a large demand due to several factors. Cost is a large one cans are expensive to make, take more energy to produce and more energy in the packaging stage as well. retort packages are flexible to make in there shape and size, this means that more product in less space and more shelf appeal in the marketing area as well. The last reason is we want food that is quick to prepare and these foods are ready to eat in most cases or require little to no cook time.

Best Know Examples

Uncle bens instant rice meals microwave and eat in 2 minutes is a well know product this is retort package. Del Monte fruit cups in the plastic container is another form, Hormel Foods Hormel® Compleats™ microwave meals are one of the best new products that I have seen since the Magic Pantry's boil in foil meals were around 15 years or better ago. Yes they are for the microwave but retort packaged foods are cooked in there package at heats that may be above 250°F. So Boiling water will not hurt the packaging ventilation may be a problem though. The food could just be opened and cooked in a pot to heat is up as well.

 At 10 oz a meal it is not light but not bad for ones like me that want food well that tastes like food and not like some of the other light trail foods out there. Yes I have gotten a bit picky side but I go into the outdoors to enjoy nature and the things that can only be seen in the woods and not in a city or urban area which is not quiet and relaxing at all. Not to prove that me and a goat can go head to head for survival. any ways at $3.00 each they are much better price than dried foods as well.

This has caused me to wonder could me make our own versions of these. After a great deal of reading I believe that we can. The first thing you need is a packaging system. food savers vacuum sealer is a good choice it is not mega money and the bags can take a bit of heat.

Now for the heat part retort packaged goods are typically heated to 250°F or higher with super heated steam. An autoclave does this but not to many of us have on so the closest thing is a pressure cooker at 15psi it superheats steam to 250°F.

Sterilizing the package is the key to success of the packaging process. The guideline is that it must be heated for no less than 15 minutes at 250°F and 30 is the recommended time based on medical sterilization processes.

It is just like preserves without the jar

Well with all that being said and done why would one want to do this. well to be able to make the meals the size you want goes along way for sure. The ability to have what you want, everyone in the party could be having different meals all cooked at once if boiled. Bear in mind this is mostly being thought of for meat portion of the meal Instant potatoes make more sense that packaging your own.

For my test I have been using leftovers from dinner and packaging them and running my tests. So far have had meats packed and sitting at room temperature for 10 days and no mold or other signs of spoilage visible yet. tried a fried egg did not go well only lasted 4 days? was damp in side package possible the eggs needed more cook time. note that packages need to have as little air as possible to last and also they will pop in the high heat as well. 

Testing the packages is the next step MRE will last about 5 years at room temp but there package has foil in it the food saver bags do not. light could have some impact on the packaging. Ultimately I would be happy if it would last 6 months could pack food for the season all at once to save time. Ideally two weeks would be the minimum package the weekend before heading out for week long trip.

Were I live there is a university that specializes in biology and have made some inquiries about the whole process describing how I would be doing it. They figure that there is no reason it should not work and have guesses that it should last at least a few months so may work out for me time will tell I guess