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Dry Canning the Easy (and Safe) Way

By Stephanie Dayle - I originally wrote this article for the  The American Preppers Network and have now brought it over to my own site with updated information.

The easiest, cheapest and fastest way to dry can food is to use oxygen absorbers.  This technique is nearly fool-proof, and requires no electricity, fancy equipment, and it does not expose your dry food to heat.  The true beauty to this technique is that you can break the seal on a jar, use some of the contents, close it up with the absorber still inside…..and it magically reseals itself!  SO it works not only for long-term storage but short-term as well!
First you are going to start with some dry food you’d like to put up to store.

TIP: This technique works best on food that you would store in smaller amounts, and food that doesn’t store well in mylar bags (like spinach, that, when dried, would be crushed into dust if you were to use a mylar bag and oxygen absorbers) otherwise, if you are wanting to store a large amount of flour or beans or rice, you may want to look into using large capacity mylar bags then storing them in a 5 gallon buckets.

Since you will using canning jars for this technique.  I use the opportunity to use up some of the “no name” canning jars I acquire from yard sale purchases that I would not other use for canning regular food.  You will also want to gather up an equal number of lids, and rings.

Where do I find Oxygen Absorbers and Mylar Bags?

You can find (oxygen absorbers by clicking here) online and at some grocery stores now – I know that the WinCo stores in my area all carry them, for a great price too.  You can also find many places that sell mylar bags online – (click here).   If you are not the 'order online' type, and you can’t find them at your local store – there is always these (pictured to the left) air activated hand warmers, which you can find just about anywhere.  These are also oxygen absorbers.  They use the same process of an exothermic oxidation of iron to generate heat (oxygen being adsorbed, making the iron rust in a very small, controlled and contained reaction)  only in a bigger packet and yes, they are food safe. 

In the 90s when hand warmers became popular, tests were run that showed they were not as effective as official “oxygen absorbers” meant for food because they were designed to operate in a higher oxygen environment, this is why they came out with a different product called “foot warmers and toe warmers” that would work better in the lower oxygen environment of shoes.  Since that time however, the “hand warmer’ formulas have been updated to accommodate our habit of putting them in our pockets and gloves – making them more efficient in lower oxygen environments.  In other words, the ones they make today should work fine for storing food.


Now that you have the supplies you need to make sure that your jars are clean, just like in regular canning, by washing them.  Then dry them completely, you don’t want any moisture in with your dried food.  If you are suspicious of the cleanliness of your lids and rings you can also wash and dry them.

Set all of your jars out at once and fill them with their contents.  I am storing some ground mustard, cream of tartar, dried chili peppers, dried spinach, and some other things for the purpose of this article.  I fill my jars leaving a little head space in each jar.  When you open your bag of oxygen absorbers, you’ll want to get them in the jars as quickly as possible by placing one in each canning jar then quickly topping with a lid and using a ring to tighten the lid down, in general I say finger tip tight – but you want it fairly snug.  The absorbers I am using are 100 cc in size so they will work just fine for regular canning jars.  Using a bigger absorber, like a 300cc or a 500 cc, will mean it will last longer if you are opening and resealing the jars frequently.

If you have some oxygen absorbers leftover and can’t reseal them with a FoodSaver bag, then when you are done quickly put them all in a small pint jar, add a lid and ring so that they seal the jar and deactivate themselves.  That way they will be good for you to use at some future date. Next, you will leave your jars alone, and go do something else for a few hours.  Wait for the jars to seal themselves, which they will, but never when you are watching!  Do not play with them or push the lid down with your finger – it’s important to know if you have a good seal or not, so wait overnight to check them.  This is the general rule of thumb for ALL methods of canning – don’t mess with the jars for a day.

photo showing sealed lid
The next day, check your jars – all should have sealed.  If a few did not, check the rims of the jars for chips, and lids for debris, remove the spent O2 absorber and add a new one, clean the rim of the jar, add a new lid and repeat the above process.  Check your sealed jars.  You should not be able to use your finger tips to remove the lids.  Then remove the rings for storage – because if you don’t, over time they will rust on to the lids, which will only make you mad when you go to open them, besides who wants to buy new rings all the time?

Voila!  You have just dry canned your food for short-term or long-term storage without any expensive equipment or electricity!  As you can see from the close up picture, the O2 absorbers have in fact created a vacuum and sealed the jar.  When the O2 absorber has absorbed the oxygen in the jar it will deactivate.  Then, when you open the jar to get some food out, oxygen gets let back in and it will re-activate the absorber so when you put the lid and a ring back on, it will automatically re-seal itself.  Neat huh?  You can repeat this process until the jar no longer seals, then simply replace the spent absorber with a new one.

A word on using the FoodSaver attachments for dry canning.

You can use the attachment on your FoodSaver to seal mason jar lids, but even if you have one with a powerful vacuum you are not reducing the oxygen level within the jar as much as an oxygen absorber would.  You are reducing the amount of air inside of the mason jar and creating a seal, but the remaining air will still contain a substantial percentage of oxygen.  This is why FoodSaver does NOT recommend using their mason jar accessories for canning purposes.

According to Food Industry Standards (when used as directed) Oxygen Absorber Packets remove oxygen from airtight containers to around 0.01%.  The ‘safe’ range you are shooting for is .02% – .01% because studies have shown that mold can grow in anything above those levels.  A FoodSaver mason jar accessory is just not going to do that for you, when you are watching the lights on the front of your FoodSaver machine it is *not* indicating how much oxygen it is removing, it’s a vacuum meter only indicating how much of a vacuum it is creating.  I like using my FoodSaver attachment in conjunction with O2 absorbers, as the FoodSaver will get most of the job done, and what is left the O2 absorber will take care of, giving me one more time I can open it and then reseal it later on.

Those FoodSaver attachments are still very handy, they have one for regular mouth jars (click here to see) and wide mouth jars (click here to see).  I use them to prolong the life of milk, tallow that I render, spices, nuts, and many other things that I don’t put in long-term storage but I will consume in time.  Saving food in this manner has saved me enough money that our FoodSaver has paid for itself and then some.  It is still a very worthwhile product.

Some advice on Oven Canning.
I have seen this brought up a few times lately in the online prepping community and whenever it is people just flock to it.  So I want to take a minute to explain a few things about oven canning.
When you hear the experts say “oven canning is not safe” they are right – it’s not.  They are not the "food police" coming to rain on your day, they are not agents working for USDA, they are not 'being negative' -- they are telling you the TRUTH.

Things that can prove this are exploding glass in one’s oven, canning jars are not designed to hold up to prolonged exposures to dry heat.  It can also be dangerous because the temperature will vary according to the accuracy of your oven regulators and the circulation of heat.  ‘Dry heat’ is very slow in penetrating into jars of food.  If you are dry canning in place of regular canning, and the food doesn’t get up to temperature, any bacteria in the jar may be allowed to flourish undisturbed until it is opened  making whoever eats it very, very ill – something no one will want to deal with in an emergency situation.  There is no way to know if the food in the center of the jar is up to temperature without breaking the seal to check, so there is the risk.

People say, “Well oven canning should be perfectly safe for dry goods.”

It's not. There is the whole exploding jar risk; getting dry food and glass all over your hot oven (while this can happen during regular canning, it is at least it is contained in a canner instead all over a hot oven).  Also an oven does not enough remove oxygen for dry food to store long term, you need an oxygen absorber to do that. You get NO benefits from heat sterilization - that you don't already get by removing the oxygen.  Botulism spores will not grow once a food product is over 60% dry, the spores need moisture to grow and produce botulism toxin.

Keep in mind, when you use your oven to 'can', you are exposing your dried goods to lots of HEAT which we all try to avoid.  Heat will liquefy the oils in dry food and accelerate the process at which it goes rancid making oven canning a particularly poor method for storing nuts and crackers.  The heat will make your nuts and crackers go rancid faster than if they were never oven canned at all, completely defeating your efforts.  Using an oxygen absorber really is the best approach.

Click Here to Find Oxygen Absorbers

Follow these time proven methods of approved canning and make life-saving food in that jar.  Otherwise, it could become food poisoning, which is never a good survival tactic.



  1. I was just getting ready to oven can 5lbs of rice as I read that it will kill any bugs when I decided I was going to write you and then found this article. Lord knows I would be the example. Thank you!

  2. Can you reuse the lids since the seals are NOT "heat activated"?

    1. Yes - I do this habitually. I even reuse lids that I have used for regular canning for dry canning. Sometimes the seal does fail - but if it does I chuck the lid and reseal the jar, no biggie.

  3. I have never canned anything but I thought the lids always had to be hot to seal. I would like to try and can some flour, sugar, rice in small jars to start just to see how it works. What is the best way for long term storage? If the lids are hot do they seal better? Please help.....Thank you

  4. Great post! Thank you very much for useful advice


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