Have you ever wanted to vacuum-seal leftovers to keep them fresh? Looking for a way to keep your popcorn or coffee beans fresh for longer? Want to vacuum pack dry goods for long term storage? If you answer "YES" but don't want to lay out $100 or more dollars for one of the commercial vacuum sealer machines, then do what I did - assemble your own for $30 from readily available parts! Using a $20 brake bleeder and a mason jar sealer, you can vacuum seal anything you can fit into a mason jar. I call this "the Alvin" vacuum sealer, after my late pop, who always taught me to do more with less and set aside the extra for later.
PLEASE NOTE: This IS NOT a substitute for wet-pack canning using a pressure canner. This technique will not prevent botulism or spoilage in wet-pack foods (meat, fresh fruits/vegetables). This technique is ONLY appropriate to prolong the shelf life of dry goods to be stored at room temperature ( dry means <10% moisture such as popcorn, wheat, coffee, beans, dehydrated meat, fruits & vegetables) OR moist foods stored in the refrigerator / freezer.
Step 1: Acquire the necessary tools.
1) A brake bleeder/vacuum pump from Harbor Freight (cost=$19.99).
2) A Tila FoodSaver mason jar adapter (I bought mine from Bass Pro Shop for $9.99).
3) A clean empty mason jar with a new lid. You can get these from WalMart or some grocery or hardware stores. Or ask your grandmother for one.
Step 2: Fill the mason jar
Fill the clean mason jar with whatever it is you wish to vacuum seal.
Vacuum sealing is NOT a substitute for proper canning/preserving. Items which will normally spoil if left out unrefrigerated will still do so when vacuum sealed.
Step 3: Seal the jar.
Place a clean mason jar lid on the jar. Make sure the sealing surface is clean and dry. For this step, use the flat lid only and not the threaded ring. Place the FoodSaver mason jar sealer over the top of the jar and lid and push down to make sure it is completely and evenly seated.
Step 4: Evacuate the air.
Press the conical tip of the vacuum pump into the hole in the mason jar sealer (be sure to press hard!). Pump the brake bleeder and watch the gauge. Pump until you have at least 20 inHg vacuum (the higher the reading, the higher the vacuum). When you have a good vacuum pulled, quickly pull the vacuum tip out of the hole, then remove the jar sealer attachment from the jar. That's it! The jar should be vacuum sealed!