The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Storing large quantities of flour

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Storing large quantities of flour

Hi there,

I want to bake my own rye bread (proper rye breads being rare in England was the main reason why I took up bread baking). Unfortunately supermarkets in my area only supply stoneground rye flours, and I need medium or even finely ground. I found this great little mill who take online orders http://www.shipton-mill.com/flour-direct-shop/rye-flours and - yeppee!! - they grind to a medium grade, AND they have dark rye! There's little else I could wish for.

However, their 1 kg bags are priced at £1.30 with £5 delivery which makes it rather costly. The only size up is a 25-kilo sack, that's only £21.50 with free delivery! Question is, that amount is going to last me a good year if not two, so how do I store all that at home? I do have a corner in the kitchen where I could stick the sack, but how do I keep it dry, aired and free from flour bugs?

Of course dry climate isn't something England is famous for, and it does get quite humid in the house. I've also had lots of problems with fungi killing my houseplants, so that's another issue to consider.

Any ideas?

lumos's picture
lumos

I have exactly the same dilemma as you, especially....(I've mentioned about this many times here, so all the TFLers who've already read it can go to sleep now....)

and free from flour bugs

.... is my unsolved quest. A few bay leaves is said to put off bugs, but I know it's not that effective...and you probably don't really want your flour to smell like bay leaves....

I used to buy flours from Shipton (they're great with other flours, too!) , bought many bags at a time to save P&P (in those days you could only order in a multiple of 6 bags, apparently because of a particular size and shape of box they use), stored in a large container, so that no bug can go in. It was alright like that for a couple of years...until one day I found a huge army of bugs charging around in the container, invading into every bag in it.  And that was the last time I mail-ordered flour from anyone, started buying a bag or two from Waitrose as I need it.

I did 'research' into what an ideal solution was, and the only sure way seems to be storing it in a freezer. (Some say storing it in a freezing temperature for a while would kill of any bugs or eggs, but others say some of them can survive and revive) But unfortunately I don't have any space large enough to store bags of flour in my freezer nor have a space in a house to put another freezer, so I haven't managed to try this method, but if you can, this may be your solution.

And if my memory serves me right, Richard (Ruralidle) also buys 25kg bags of flour from Shipton, so maybe he can give you a good advice as well.

.....Over to Richard. ;)

 

Kind regards,

lumos

BakerBen's picture
BakerBen

It is a no brainer that you are much better off economically buying the 25K sack - break even if you use 4K and throw the rest away although I am not advocating that.  Have you thought of looking for "other" bread bakers in your vacinity to share a big sack with you - if you could find 4 other bakers then everyone could get 5K and the storage problem should be solved hopefully.  You also be making some new baking friends.  Like I said - just a thought.

Ben

PastryPaul's picture
PastryPaul

There is no real solution to long term storage of flour. Your best bet would be to do as has been suggested and share the buy with other TFL'ers in your area, or keep a few weeks worth on hand and freeze the rest.

The storage problem is magnified with artisanal or low-volume mills. It is very likely that bugs will not get IN to a big sealed plastic bin BUT they (or their eggs) may already be in the flour.

We often buy flour from an artisanal mill (production of about 40,000 lbs a year). They have been in continuous production 28 years longer than KAF has been around. Their flour is incredible, but I don't trust it (or any small production artisanal flour for that matter) 100%. Not that we have ever had any trouble with it, it's just my way to be extra safe. We only buy enough for a week's worth of baking. It is sifted upon reception into sealed bins reserved for it. The bins are dated and any flour left over a week later is either thrown out or the employees can take it home.

Since, presumably, you are not baking for the public, you need not be so rigid.

Cheers

BakerBen's picture
BakerBen

Paul, the way you referred to me leads me to believe we may know once another. 

Just joking,

Ben a.k.a. "has been"

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I believe there are some storage containers that are airtight that aren't too costly on some of the survivalist websites-unless that's strictly an American isiosyncracy.These are people that are ready in case the end of the world is upon us-they have 10 yrs supply of food and water,etc,etc. They use iron oxide packets or dry ice in an airtight container (5 gal buckets with airtight lids) to remove the oxygen so nothing can live in there.

There are some religions that believe in this,also, (Seventh Day Adventist?) and they have been known to sell to others from their warehouses.

Do you have any way to vacuum pack the flour? There are some consumer level appliances that will do this here in the USA. I don't know if they are used elsewhere or how large the capacity is for the containers.

 

Good luck!

 

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

 As lumos correctly recalls, I buy large bags of flour from Shipton Mill.  But I only buy white No4 strong bread flour in 16kg bags and these last me 3 to 4 months.  However, this does mean that I only need to order 8kg of other flours to get free p&p.  As I bake sourdough spelt on a weekly basis I don't find it a problem to reach the free p&p level.  One trick might be to see if there are any other home bakers near you who want to order from Shipton Mill and then put an order together between you that tops 24kg.  I wonder which part of the UK FoodFascist lives in?

Ruralidle

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Hertfordshire.

Unfortunately I don't know of any other bakers in the area - a couple of friends  bake but not as much as I do, and not bread, just cakes and stuff. Rye flour would be useless to them. Finding someone to split the order with could be an idea but I really have no clue how to go about finding people? Also considering that dark rye is a pretty "specialist" thing?

I did think of just storing it in containers, I've got a silly amount of various size glass jars (I don't believe the council actually recycles much, they just sell it off to China - how very environmentally friendly is that! So I just try and reuse/recycle everything I can) but they won't be enough, I'd have to get some more containers. The bug problem still remains tho, if the bugs/eggs come with the flour just splitting the bag into small amounts won't solve it. That said, if Ruralidle stores flours from Shipton Mill for 3-4 months with no problems that should mean they're safe? I mean in that time the eggs would probably hatch?

Freezing out of the question, my freezer is small and almost always packed.

How about heat-treating the flour, say stick it in the oven at 70-80 C for 10 minutes or so, would that affect its quality?

lumos's picture
lumos

Where about in Hertfordshire are you? I'm in west Essex, so possibly we're not too far apart from each other, if we're lucky.....? You can PM me if you'd like, rather than exchange our addresses in front of god knows how many people. ;)

 

 

lumos's picture
lumos

Thanks, Richard. :)

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Sorry lumos,

I'm nowhere near the Essex border - I'm in St Albans area :( i don't drive either, so be difficult to share an order

thanks for the suggestion anyway

lumos's picture
lumos

deleted

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

Given that my kitchen is home to a 4-oven Aga, it is rarely cooler than about 18C and frequently (especially at this time of year) above 28C so if the bugs or eggs were there they would surely hatch and become numerous.  I have had no probs with the big bags, only with one or two small bags that I didn't get around to using for a year or two :(

 

No problems lumos :)

lumos's picture
lumos

My bug problem only occured on the third year, and it was from one of unopened bags that I stored in a large container with tight lid. ( Into which I put the bags soon after they were delivered)  Maybe I was extremely unlucky, but that experience really put me off from buyin flour in large batches. I really want to go back to Shipton again....only if I can find a sure way to avoid bugs.....

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

I had bugs in the cupboard where I keep flour and grains for cooking (we Russians cook lots of meals in the same way as porridge, with milk, sugar and a little salt). It started in a bag of supermarket flour and spread before I knew it. My grains were in sealed glass jars, but I kept flour in the paper bags it came in with a plastic bag over them which is obviously not very bug proof. I've no idea how long the flour had been sitting there but the bag where it started must have been at least 10-12 months old.

So I'm thinking.. so long as I find enough containers to split the load.. and use within a year.. I might be allright?

lumos's picture
lumos

Well, St.Albans is less than 30 minutes drive away from where I am.

Check PM, please. ;)

RebelWithoutASauce's picture
RebelWithoutASauce

Have you tried using plastic airtight containers? Try placing the sealed container with your flour inside it in the freezer for a few weeks. If the container is airtight your flour won't pick up any strange odors, and two weeks of freezing is enough to kill  most insects (including eggs), especially moths. This is my standard procedure for all cornmeal, since I have experienced the unstoppable horror that is Indian Meal Moths who I believe may have come from some cornmeal.

 

In addition, keeping your flour in the freezer (well sealed) will extend its  shelf life considerably. I know some bakers who treat all whole-grain flours this way.

 

Dan

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

one BIG problem tho - I haven't got the largest freezer and although I don't have much stuff that just sits there for  years it's still jam packed most of the time :( one of the things I keep there is frozen dough :) and some Tesco bake at home bread which I was buying in bulk before I  finally learnt how to bake my own. Now I'm baking it just sits there :( Suppose I'm gonna have to donate it or something, or actually eat it

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

erm - why is it only wholegrain flours tho? Are they meant to be more prone to bugs or something? Or are they treated more gently?

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Whole grain flours contain the oil from the germ, which can go rancid with time at room temperature.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Oh. Should have guessed :-S Got a bit fixated on the whole bugs question :-)

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

Ha-ha, yes.  They are easy to get fixated on.  We have bugs in our dried beans this year.  We have kept dried beans in metal canisters for about eight years now, usually purchasing a two-year supply at a time.  We restocked this past winter, and for the first time we have got bugs in them.  I am not a happy person about that.  We are nearly through this cannister and I am afraid to look in the other three.  The only good thing about them is that they will fall through a metal strainer and they do drown in a sink full of water.  I think they came in with the garbanzos, or at least I saw garbanzos with holes in them when I was sifting out the bugs.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

I have visions of me trying to sift Madagascan cockroaches out of my flour. Not a happy thought! :-O

lumos's picture
lumos

I used to use a large, airtight plastic container and, unfortunately I still got bugs.  As I said above, it started from one of unopened bag which I put in the plastic container (unopened) as soon as delivered. So I think one of the bags did come with eggs already inside. Also, I was told by someone that freezing can kill the bugs but sometimes eggs can survive.  I do keep all wholegrain flours -wheat, rye, spelt- all the time in the freezer for the precise reason you mentioned, but unfortunately there's only so much extra room in your average freezer....

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

yeah :( as it stand at mo I'd be struggling to fit even one 1-kilo bag of flour in the freezer :( even if I get rid of all the Tesco bread there'd still only be room for 2-3 bags at most :(

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Right. My father-in-law has just supplied me with 8 plastic lidded containers which are over 3 litres each, so will hold roughly 2 kg flour each. If I split a large bag of flour into 2-kilo lots, that should stop bigs spreading. Although if all of the flour is from the same batch the danger remains it may all be infected..

I've just discovered tho that I may need more than one type of rye flour which means I won't be able to get them by the 25-kg sack anyway as with that amount of flout I'll have to start up a bakery! And £1.30 doesn't sound quite as good as 86p a kilo, even if I order enough to qualify for free postage...