(NOTE: Please see the first article for information from the Alaska Extension Service and others on canning meat and fish in steel/tin cans, as well as an explanation of the dangers of canning.)
Long term food storage is a fairly complex subject. All food eventually goes bad, so whatever we do to extend that time as long as possible, you have to think about it in those terms. Some foods, like rice, beans, grains, and even flour, in a proper container and with proper precautions, all covered in prior articles, will last up to 20 years. Canned food, bought at the store, could last that long, or even ten times that long, though after a few years the flavor tends to degrade. But from a survival perspective, that’s pretty good. I personally believe that in the grand game of extend and pretend musical chairs, the music has stopped, but you just never know. This could all burn down this month, or it could be years ahead. If you have a free or cheap source of meat, fish, or other high density protein, home canning is something you should consider.
I wanted to get right back to the subject of sealing food in steel cans because I left the last article open ended. I started with a hand crank can sealer that is available for under $300, but in that video and article, I explained that I was planning to test some electric sealers, the first of which we take a look at this week in the $700 YTZ-200 from China. If you are a new subscriber here, or you find this article through Google later as a non-subscriber (you should subscribe), please check out my first article on steel cans, as it contains a lot of information on the mechanics and safety of home canning, and it has a lot of links to external sources of canning information.
There is a ton of online information about canning in glass jars out there, but very little on the steel cans you see in the supermarket, what most people call “tin” cans. I think it is because the consumer home canning market is so small. Traditional homesteading skills were lost on this most recent generation as they were all enticed to go to indoctrination, otherwise called college, and now they are in their late 20s, working at Walmart with a Masters Degree, 100k in student debt, living hand to mouth in their parents basement. Very few people under age 50 even know that you can make those same cans from the store at home. If they know anything about canning, it is in glass jars. And from a survival perspective, glass jars are great in theory, but in practice they break.
As I explained in the last article, you can still get steel cans and can sealers at the consumer level. But if you don’t want to hand crank every can sealed in 10 cranks, your choices on a budget are limited, to zero. The least expensive electric can sealer is the All American, and it starts at $1,600 to seal one size can. And even at that, the company has been bought and sold several times, and it comes with extremely mixed reviews. That is why I went out looking for alternatives, because in my research I discovered that in the US, the whole business of sealing steel cans is just that, big business. Small canneries have been all but eliminated by the FDA by requiring huge insurance policies on the can sealer manufacturers, and a whole bunch of hoops to jump through if you want to start a commercial canning enterprise.
But when I backed up a step, and looked at the subject of sealing steel cans without all of the certifications, I found that there are at least a couple factories in China that make small can sealing machines for the R&D labs at food manufacturing companies. Obviously, when you are creating food for market, you have to test it, and in the East, metal cans, and plastic cans with metal rims, are used for everything from soup to nuts.
The Ives Way sealer makes it seem like sealing the lid of a can is some kind of fuzzy science that you have to feel your way into, and it isn’t like that. The Ives Way is like that because it is meant to seal many sizes of cans, and the design hasn’t been updated in like a hundred years.
This YZT-200 is one of two machines I got from China, and as you can see from the video, it works as it should. Side by side, the can seals look the same as the same can of Salmon from the supermarket. I don’t know what more you could expect from a can sealer, and it really amplifies my feelings that can sealing has intentionally been made some kind of mystery for nothing.
Please watch the video so you can see my processing concerns. I have from the start followed the methodology on the Alaska Extension Service website. For meat and fish, the instruction is the cook the food first, in the can, up to 180 degrees, then seal the cans while it is still hot. Then you process the cans at 10 pounds (I used 15) for two hours. With what was a properly adjusted hand crank Ives Way sealer, I experienced several cans per batch leaking. With this electric YZT-200, I had only a few cans leak, but I have to ask the bigger question.
What does it look like in a commercial cannery? As you can see in the video, when I turned on the motor with the can locked into the chuck, water and oil that had cooked out of the meat sprayed out the sides of the lid, even on my camera lens. Is that what it looks like in a commercial cannery? Because if you think about it, things like Spam are pretty solid, but what about Campbells Soup? Do they run the rollers around the can? Do they just a quick spin/seal cycle so that it doesn’t leak much?
For me the big issue is that some liquid for sure has to get trapped in the can seal. The can lids do have some polymer around the rim, so maybe when the can seals, it squishes out whatever might be in there. I am careful to wipe my edges before seating the lid, because even if it can squeeze out liquid, I think particles would create a bridge for bacteria to travel into the can.
None of my leaky cans, whether from the initial tests with the hand crank Ives Way, or the more recent cans from this electric YZT-200, have failed and expanded.
As I explained in my last article, I ALWAYS HEAT MY CANNED FOOD TO KILL ANY BOTULINEUM TOXIN THAT MAY HAVE ACCUMULATED IN THE CAN. You cannot kill the Botulineum bacteria itself at temps under 250 degrees, which is why we only can food in pressure canners, but the deadly spores themselves die at 185. Regardless, if you open a can and smell a bad smell, discard it. The “dog food” smell is normal with meat though. Dog food is just canned meat, and when you can meat, you get that smell, but for dog food they sometimes use carrion, and even when it is all fresh meat, the parts are not things we normally eat, so the smell is much stronger in a can of Alpo than in my home canned cans of beef. But you’ll get a whiff that reminds you of dog food.
I honestly don’t now if five years from now these cans will be viable, but on seeing how perfect the YTZ-200 seals cans, I can’t imagine that a commercial cannery has any less leakage, or any less mess. I also can’t imagine that cans from 100 years plus ago that have been opened and eaten were canned with any less leakage or mess.
Glass jars also leak when you pressure can them. I have never ran a batch of jars and not found some “flavored water” in the bottom of the canner. Yet I have cans years old now that are still fine, even though half the liquid leaked out when I canned them.
The one thing I haven’t tried on the $700 YTZ-200 is to re-adjust the rollers, because I don’t have another can size to try. This machine only goes up to 200mm wide can lids, so I just ordered it set up for the 1 lb. salmon can that you see in the video. I think this can makes the most sense for meat and fish now, and it is the best an to stockpile for after the collapse.
My next article will be on the ~$1,400 YZT-180 from BetterPak International. It can do up to #10 cans, so for that article I’m going to focus on the whole concept of the #10 can itself including the Ives Way hand crank machine. As you can see from my “Cheap Survival Food from the Mormons” article, serious long term food storage is better off in steel #10 cans than any other container. The problem is that the cans are expensive.
If you are serious about a can sealer, I wouldn’t bother to wait for the next article. There is no mystery to these machines. They work as advertised, and the major differences between them are simple.
- The YZT-200 can be ordered in 120v or 220v, because the motor is just off/on. You do need that adapter I showed in the video for the US plug.
- The YZT-180 can only be ordered in 220v, because it has adjustment buttons and a circuit board, and the board needs 220v. My BetterPak rep sent me a 220v/120v transformer box, but as with any transformer, it is another failure point. There are 220v/50hz inverters you can get on Ebay that should be able to handle the start up amperage for these machines, but they aren’t cheap.
- The YZT-200 can only handle cans up to 200mm. This would include the 1/2 lb. salmon can you’ll find at Wells Can, but you will probably have to send some of those cans to China to make sure it is correct. You can get pop top lids in the 1/2 lb. can, but not currently in the 1 lb. can.
- The YZT-180 can be ordered with a rotating baseplate and lid chuck for up to #10 603 cans, which are available from Fruends, House of Cans, and Wells Can. I sent one #10 can to China, but I forgot to send the lid, and I have not yet tested the machine.
As you can see, I take this subject very seriously, for the serious among you. A lot of people who read these articles are in prepper communities, and I think this is a great investment as a community canner. When I review the YZT-180, I would not be surprised if all of LDS canneries order them. As I have explained many times, I personally am an orthodox Jew, so if I want to store kosher meat, I have no choice but to do it myself. Technically to save a life you can eat nonkosher food, but I don’t believe storing SPAM in advance is advisable for the G-d fearing. Please don’t crap up the comments with nonsense about organic meat comparing it to kosher. I am a former organic farmer, and the organic animal feed is a scam. Kosher is a whole other deal and has nothing to do with “health” or anything else from the perverse mind of man.
Above I have linked to the machine on Ebay, and it has all of the adjustment directions. The paperwork that comes with the machine is in Chinese.
If you want to buy this machine, please contact BetterPak Rep Kevin Ludy directly at kevinludy at hotmail.com. He just last night put up an Ebay ad for you guys with the machine in 120v and set up for the salmon cans. I personally did not order through AliExpress where I found it. I just PayPal’d him for the two machines, using that Hotmail address. Maybe you won’t take that leap of faith, but I did and it was fine. Kevin said that he can send the YTZ-200, set up for the 1 lb. salmon can (they still have some I sent), for $700 shipped to the US. Just email him, or use the Ebay listing. No we don’t get any kickbacks, though everyone offers them lol.