LDS Cannery Visit in Miami
This last week I was privileged enough to visit the LDS Cannery / Home Storage Center in Davie, Florida, just north of Miami. If you missed the earlier post on what an LDS Cannery offers, they sell basic food staples packed for 20-30 year shelf lives. Sometimes you can buy them prepacked or precanned, otherwise you pack them yourself on site. The prices are wonderful, and by all accounts, the food is both wholesome and tasty.
What follows is our experience, and a brief photo tour of the facility itself. All photos can be expanded to a larger size.
The Davie Home Storage Center is located at The Davie Home Storage Center at 5000 SW 52nd St #512 Davie, Florida 33314, which is a little strip of warehouses with easy access off 595 and 441. It's just a couple turns off the Everglades' Alligator Alley for those of us coming from the west coast.
When we first entered the Cannery, we were met by Teisa Netane, the wonderful woman in charge of the Center that night. She welcomed us, promised us a tour of the facility, and asked that we join her in a brief prayer. Heads bowed respectfully, we did so (though Little Aurora burst into heathen-like tears mid-way through!). She then read the above message from the First Presidency, which is prominently displayed on the office walls.
The Cannery consists of only 5 rooms - the office, the warehouse, the restroom, the packing room and the "prepacked" room, I'll call it. This is a photo of the prepacked area, where members who wish provide service to the Church come and pre-can some goods you would otherwise can yourself. We were able to pull all but 3 types of foodstuffs from our order right off these shelves (which turns out to be great when there are only a few of you, and limited time in which to can!). These prepacked cans are not always available, and shouldn't be expected to be there. When you can, say you want 3 containers of hot chocolate (yum!), and the original box you open up to make those 3 cans actually contains 6 cans worth, you'll can all 6, and leave the other 3 cans for the next customer to walk in the door. So there are always a few cans of this or that available, just don't expect your full order to be sitting on a shelf waiting for you.
The big sacks you see are the bulk foods, which you can buy directly to can or pack at home, or they open for you to can there on site. The boxes on the end (see below) are the pre-packaged foods that come from Utah already canned. They are only slightly more expensive per pound than packing them yourself, and if you are looking for a large order, it is often more efficient to purchase what they have available in prepacked amounts.
Here's a closeup of the food on the shelves. It turns out that the Potato Pearls are complete "ready to eat" instant potatoes, usually with an expiration date within the year (mine are good through November 2012), whereas the potato flakes are unflavored (but sound like they'd be good to mix with the dried onions and dried carrots), and are good for 30 years.
The foods you can buy prepacked in #10 cans include Flour, Quick Oats, Pinto Beans, Hard Red Wheat and White Wheat. Also ready to take home are the prepacked Pancake Mix (mine expires June 2013) and the Potato Pearls (November 2012). Even though they come in boxes like you see here, you can still buy just 1 can at a time if you'd like.
The Home Storage Center also sells Starter Kits, which include two #10 cans of Hard Red Winter Wheat, two of White Rice, one of Pinto Beans and one of Quick Oats. The per pound weight is only slightly higher than buying these items seperately. The LDS Church says that this kit contains enough food for one adult for one month (though it would be uninteresting without other accouterments, it would keep you alive).
When asked if they'd have enough cans available for a large group, Teisa said they have over 5,000 cans on site, ready to go.
And now we are moving into the actual canning area of the Home Storage Center. Shown here is one of the Can Sealers that seals the lid onto the #10 cans, thus ensuring your 20-30 year shelf life (depending on the food inside).
Shown here is the other can sealer (this facility has two), as well as the Mylar pouch heat sealer. During this particular visit, they had a low supply of Mylar bags available, and offered us only the option of canning in #10 cans. That was just fine by us, as we haven't yet acquired any 5 gallon buckets to help make the Mylar bags more rodent resistant. With the cans, you only need to worry about moisture and temperature but not rodents, bugs and other critters, big and small, that like to eat your goodies.
Each can or pouch your purchase comes with a label showing ingredients, calorie counts and instructions for use. They also have a space for you to sharpie on the date packed. The containers above the labels are to hold any excess food that doesn't quite make enough for a can or a pouch. They are used the next time that particular food item is packaged, and are always rotated for freshness.
The Home Storage Center takes cleanliness VERY seriously. We wiped down the cans before use; we wiped down the tables before and after use; we wiped down US before starting; we wore protective clothing and gloves; and of course, we wiped down and washed everything we used or touched before we were finished. I really appreciate their attention to cleanliness - I'm taking food home for my family, and it's very comforting to know that such high standards of cleanliness and organization are followed here.
Here's a closeup of the can sealer itself. You just put the can on the platform, push the lever down tight to lock it into place, and flip the on switch. It takes less than 10 seconds to seal a can. Then UP goes the lever, and you pop the can out and onto the packing cart to go into a box for take-home.
Here's a quick closeup of the overflow bins. I know.. I'm just weird like that.
The first step when you are ready to do some canning is to put on your hairnet, apron and gloves. Turst me, I looked cute in them. The second step is gather up the cans you are going to need. There's a nifty little chart of how many cans each bulk item makes; for example, the original bulk box of potato flakes makes 14 number 10 cans of potatoes. So we fetched 14 cans from around the wall in the warehouse side when we were ready to can the potato flakes. We decided to can potato flakes, macaroni and dried carrots. Everything else we ordered had been prepacked within the last few weeks.
We cleaned out the Number 10 cans with paper towels before use, and took away a metalic sort of tinge on the towels. I'd much rather that excess be thrown away on a towel then left to seep into my food for the next 30 years! Cleanliness, cleanliness!
While Teisa brought in more supplies, we also readied the labels we were going to use by sharpieing the month and year packed (this month and year) onto each label.
This photo shows a couple of things. See the tub on the bottom labeled Dry Pack? That's a food-safe tub, meaning you pour the food, in this case, the macaroni, from the bag into the can in the tub. If any macaroni don't make it into the can, they are still safe to use if they land in the tub. If they fall out of the tub, it's all over for that macaroni! The other important thing in this photo is the chart on the wall. Go ahead, open it up in another window to zoom in. It shows the Suggested Amounts of Basic Foods for Home Storage for one adult for one year, including 400 pounds of grains, 60 pounds of legumes, 16 pounds of powered milk, 10 quarts of cooking oil, 60 pounds of sugar or honey, 8 pounds of salt and 14 gallons of water (per two weeks). That's the BARE minimum to avoid starvation, and surely wouldn't be that interesting without additional foodstuffs and flavor enhancers.
Once the cans are loaded, a person moves them to the table with the can sealer. The next step is to put the prepared label onto the can. A little trick I picked up from watching a video put out by the Mormon Church was that cans are easier to open on the bottom side - the lid you put on is thicker and harder on your can opener later. I've since tried it, and they're right. So next time, I'm going to put the labels on up-side-down, so that if I open the easier, thinner bottom side, the labels will be right-side-up.
Oyxgen packs are added to the cans right before sealing to preserve freshness and make the shelf life extend to 30 years. Because they suck in air, they should be added only at the very last possible moment. Each can has a half inch to 3/4 of an inch of space at the top to accomidate the oxygen pack and the lid. The lids just sit on top in this step; they are sealed on using the can sealing equipment.
Here Teisa demonstrates how to use the Can Sealer - the can goes on the platform, the lever locks down to keep it in place and you turn the machine on.
You know the can is sealed when the little gears in the Sealer stop working. The machine is still on and making noise, but it's done. So you flip the switch to off, wait a few seconds for the can to stop spinning, unlock the lever, and pop the can out of the sealer. It's really quite fun, and strangely satisfying to know you just made something that'll last 30 years if need be.
Ahhh the finished product. They are moved out of the Can Sealer onto a mobile tray that is wheeled into the next room for boxing up, or adding excess to the storage shelves for the next customer.
If you can on-site, every 6 cans comes with a box and 2 lids. Additional lids are only $0.10 each. We took home 3 filled boxes and an extra half-a-box with some more odds and ends. For this trip, we figured we'd buy one of everything we wanted to try out (and a few extra that our friends and family had requested), come home and eat 'em, and go back in 6-8 weeks with the newly forming local preppers group for a much larger stocking trip.
Before leaving, we were given the above materials. One shows two grain mills suggested by the Cannery for your wheat products, one includes some basic family home storage recipes (more details forthcoming!) and one is a basic home storage pamplet. The fourth is a copy of the Book of Mormon.
You can make your purchase via cash, check or Mastercard or Visa (but not American Express or Discover Card). It is strongly suggested that you have an order form filled out before you arrive. See my previous post titled South Florida LDS Cannery Information for full details on location, hours, how to make an appointment and visiting requirements.
But just a few other interesting odds and ends…
I asked Teisa what the official policy was on non-members visiting the Home Storage Center. She said that basically, it’s left to the descretion of the person in charge of each cannery. When she’s in charge of the cannery, she encourages and supports visits by non-LDS members. Her philosophy is that when something does happen, it will be better to have prepared neighbors than to have neighbors coming to you for your charity and assistance when they could have prepared themselves ahead of time. Her philosophy isn’t necessarily shared by others who might run this cannery, so if you call to request an appointment, and you are told that non-members are not able to visit, try again later when you might reach someone more welcoming to non-Mormons. Teisa herself was quite wonderful, and I strongly encourage you and your family to plan a visit to this Cannery.
Also, the maximum capacity of this Cannery is 10 people. 12 could maybe fit, but not in the canning area all at once. They have a good system worked out; a miniature assembly line, and more than 10 people both exceed the available space and the assembly line’s needs. Plan to bring no more than 10 people in total when visiting. And if indeed you wish to visit with that many people, have everyone prepare their orders at least 3-4 weeks ahead of time, and call ahead and relay those orders to the Cannery. They may be able to prepack some cans for you, or set them aside with the purchaser’s name on them. At the very least, this way they’ll be able to ensure they have enough supplies on-hand to meet your combined order.
Our beautiful stack of tasty cans, at home and ready to be eaten! I'll be posting more details on each of the products we brought back, including recipes and reviews.
If you aren’t in South Florida, but would still like to visit an LDS Cannery, see if there is one in your area here.