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Flour BeetlePests can be a real problem when it comes to long term food storage. Many people do not realize what a challenge pests are in the food supply business. Between the time of harvest and reaching your dinner table, more than 20% of food in the US is destroyed by pests. In third world countries it can be even worse, often reaching levels of 80% or higher. It’s a troubling fact that much of the food sent to these countries from charities and relief organizations is actually eaten by insects and rodents while sitting on the docks.

With this in mind, it follows that pests can be devastating to food supplies in the home too. How can this problem be addressed in a realistic way? Here are several suggestions.

First, get your grains and other foods from a reputable dealer. This will still not gaurantee that you won’t have any problems, so oxygen absorbers in air tight containers are recommended (CLICK HERE TO READ A POST ON THAT). This provides a simple way to increase the level of nitrogen in the container. Nitrogen gas has been used effectively for protection against pest infestation, and is considered safe for this use.

If you have the capability, you could take steps to kill any stored insects which might be present in your food when you purchase it. There are several methods which can be used to do this. First, you can freeze grains at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for a week before storing in air tight containers. This will kill most insects.

Another method is fumigation with carbon dioxide. The easiest and safest ways to do this in the home is with the use of dry-ice. To fumigate home-stored wheat or similar foods, spread approximately 3 ounces of crushed dry ice on top of 3-4 inches of grain in the bottom of a 5 gallon container. Next, add the remaining grain to the can. (For larger quantities, use 8 ounces of dry ice for 100 Lbs. of grain or 1 Lb of dry ice for 30 gallons of stored grain.) Because the gas from the dry ice is heavier than air, it displaces the air in the container. You will want to keep the lid loose until the dry ice has completely vaporized before sealing the container. If you close it too soon, and the bucket starts to bulge, carefully remove the lid for several minutes to release the pressure. If you use plastic bags inside the containers, do not seal the bags until the process is complete. It is best to follow this procedure in as dry an environment as possible to reduce the condensation in the bottom of the container. When done right, one treatment is generally enough. Yearly treatments should not be needed unless there is an infestation. WARNING: Handle dry ice with care as skin can be severely frozen. Dry ice should be kept out of reach of children or adults who are not aware of its freezing or vaporizing properties. Also, do not use in a closed room where carbon dioxide buildup could cause asphyxiation.

One other method for killing insects which have come with your grains would be to heat them. You can spread the grains out on a pan and heat them in the oven at 150 degrees F for 20 minutes, or for 2-3 hours at 120-130 degrees F.

Whatever method you use to deal with pests, grains should be placed in air tight containers as soon as possible after purchase.

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So far, all of our posts have addressed long term food storage for people. In this article we’re going to shift gears a little bit and turn to the subject of pets – specifically dogs. Their are numerous advantages to be gained by using a dog food storage container.

- Keeps dog food fresh

- Keeps rodents and other pests out of pet food

- Protects food from moisture or other accidental spills

- Makes it easier to move large amounts of pet food

Click the link below for more information about an air tight container on wheels that will hold up to 50 pounds.

Iris MP-12-NAVY Airtight Pet Food Container, Navy Blue, 60 to 69 Quarts

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Canning continues to be a popular and effective method for long term food storage. Making home made applesauce is a simple way to prepare apples for canning. Here is a simple applesauce recipe including instructions for canning. (Important, CLICK HERE to read a general canning recipe which explains how to prepare your glass jars and lids for canning.)

1. Wash apples

2. Place in pot with several inches of water in the bottom. Let the water boil until apples get soft.

3. While you can core, skin and mash the apples by hand, it’s much easier to use a food strainer like the Universal 800 (This link will show you the one we use – and yes we do make a little money from your purchase when you use this link :) – Thank you!) This peels and cores the apples and pours the applesauce through a spout.

4. Since your applesauce will be hot, place it in the glass jars 1 cup at a time. In other words, put 1 cup in each jar and then start over until jars are full up to about 1/2 inch from the top.

5. Place lids on jars. We twist the rings until they are finger tight (not “hand” tight), so as to avoid over tightening.

6. Place the jars into tap hot water and bring that to a boil. If you place the jars in boiling water, you will end up with breakage. Some people have the water level cover the lids, others only half way up the jars, we have the water level up to a level just below the rings on the jars.

7. Once the water comes to a boil, we let it boil for 20 minutes, plus 2 minutes for each 1000 feet above sea leve. So since we live at about 2000 feet altitude, we leave the jars in the boiling water for about 24 minutes.

8. Remove the jars and set out on a towel. After about 12 hours, test the seals by gently pressing on the center of the lids. If they have sealed properly, they should not flex up and down.

9. After setting for about 24 hours, remove the rings and clean the tops of the jars to remove any fruit residue which might have leaked out during canning. Any fruit left on the jars can mold, and if it’s close to the seal, that mold can actually migrate into the jar – breaking the seal.

You can see this is a simple apple sauce recipe and you’ll notice we do not add sugar. We find it’s sweet enough just with the natural sugars found in the fruit. Also, we do not stack jars directly on top of each other after canning as this can disturb the seals.

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Successful long term food storage requires packaging that is air tight. One method for acheiving this is the use of plastic buckets with gasket lids. You can obtain these at reasonable prices. Buckets work very well because they can be stacked, and foods can be stored in amounts that aren’t too heavy to move. Also, buckets offer excellent protection against moisture. There are a variety of container sizes (i.e. 4.25 gal, 5 gal., and 6 gal.). Don’t bother using oxygen absorbers unless you are using buckets with gasket lids to assure a good seal. Check out these Food Grade White 5 Gallon Buckets. We’ll be posting more information very soon on where to get buckets and lids.

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Oxygen AbsorbersShelf life can be increased by removal of oxygen from storage containers. In a previous post, we looked at the use of the food sealer vacuum to accomplish this, but it may not always be practical or feasible to do this. Five or Six gallon sealable buckets are a relatively inexpensive way to store foods, and oxygen absorber use is an effective way to deal with the problem of oxygen inside the buckets. Make sure you use sturdy sealable buckets as oxygen absorbers will create a vacuum inside the container. Here’s a great online source.

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Nature has already packaged grains for storage, and if kept cool and dry, they will last for a long time. While grains like wheat can be sprouted or cooked without grinding them, with a little forethought, we can be prepared to mill our own flour by having a non-electric grain mill. While there are several models out there, the best for milling flour that we’ve found is the Country Living Grain mill. Made with solid I-beam construction from cast aircraft aluminum, double industrial sealed bearings, stainless steel shaft, and carbon steel grinding plates, this mill is backed by a lifetime warranty. Before shipping, each mill is tested to ensure proper functioning.

You can also purchase accessories, including the power bar, which extends the crank handle giving 40% more efficiency.

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Many consider food drying to be the oldest method of long term food storage. It can be done very simply and offers the benefit of of taking up less space than canned or frozen foods. While you can simply dry foods in the sun (if the humidity is suitable), in this post we’ll consider the use of a food dryer. While there are various types of food dryers available, we recommend the type that has a temperature control. Although the air temperature can be relavitely high at the beginning of the deydration process without overheating the food (due to the evaporation in the food which keeps it’s temperature low), it is helpful to be able to adjust the temperature to keep from scorching the food later in the process. The other main consideration in selecting a food dryer is air flow, which directly relates to the evenness of drying. We use a Nesco American Harvest FD-1018P 1000 Watt Food Dehydrator Kit
.

Food Dryer

Foods should be dried quickly, but not so fast that the outer layer becomes hard inhibiting evaporation of the moisture inside. Also, drying should be uninterrupted so that mold and other microorganisms don’t have opportunity to grow.

Dried food can be effectively packaged in plastic using a vacuum sealer.

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This post picks up from my last one in which I referred to the use of a Food Sealer Vacuum for long term food storage. We use a Food Saver sealer. It does work well, but special care is needed for foods that are hard or have sharp edges. Also, as mentioned in the previous post, the unit can be used to vacuum seal plastic canisters, or even better – glass jars, which won’t contribute to chemical contamination which is becoming more of a concern with regard to plastic packaging.

Vacuum Sealer

CLICK HERE for more information on the Food Saver vacuum sealer.

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An excellent method of food storage involves the use of food sealer vacuum technology. This involves some special equipment which creates the vacuum and seals the packaging. The better systems allow you to choose between soft plastic (like plastic bags), or harder clear plastic canisters with vacuum seal lids. In the latter case, the equipment uses a tube which connects to the lid to draw air from the canister. These systems do require a small amount of electricity to package the materials. One of the primary advantages of this approach is that no heating is required for packaging. This is an excellent method for storing dehydrated foods. In the next post, we’ll try and include a photo of the system we use.

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