Contact Me

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Great Depression Solution: Weevils in the Flour

Okay, Blogger decided to reformat this post! Please forgive the chaos!

When I was a preteen and teen in the kitchen with my mother, she told me about her youth in the kitchen in north Mississippi during the Great Depression.  I assure you that weevils in the flour had nothing to do with poverty, The Great Depression, country living, or standards. By the way, they had a cure for weevils in the flour.
The picture to the right gives you an idea of a Hoosier Cabinet design. Some are less wide or wider. Some have a million "modern" fancy features and many more drawers and doors. Some are smaller and plainer than this. Some are homemade. However, one feature not always on a Hoosier style cabinet is the one which I am interested in showing you.

Hoosier Cabinet
See the underside of the upper part on the left just above the counter? That is a flour sifter with its handle. By opening the door above the sifter, a person could put 20 lbs of flour in a container that tilted out. The person using flour could sift the flour and measure it at the same time.

There was no need to go open a bug-proof container, measure flour, and sift. The container was by no means bug proof!

I grew up with a Hoosier Cabinet that was plain, no fancy features, no flour bin. That is how my mother came to tell me about their Hoosier Cabinet and weevils in the flour.
Weevils can get into this flour bin/container. Plus, so much flour was bought and stored at one time, summers were hot, and the eggs that came in the flour could hatch. Don't panic. ALL your flour has bug eggs in it when you purchase it. The government standards allow it since eggs cannot be removed. If weevils hatched in the flour in the Hoosier Cabinet, then bugs invaded the area and other food. Bug infested flour happened in the cleanest of kitchens--eggs hatched in the flour or weevils or other insects invaded the flour.
My mother knew the solution that did not include thorough cleaning, a futile effort then and now if the flour is not kept airtight and used immediately. Sifting with a sifter that rubs the flour will crush bugs, so use a fine sieve to exclude bugs from "sifted" flour. Just put the flour in the sieve and gently hit the rim of the sieve on your hand to make the flour fall through the sieve, leaving the bugs or moths behind.

Once again without fear or squeamishness:
The solution: Sift the flour through a sieve and use the flour. Eggs or bugs will be left in the sifter. Okay, so a few eggs go through. Webs or threads will be in the flour and sifter, indicating you have a weevil problem. The same web/thread thing happened a few months ago with Indian Meal Moths in Raisin Bran at my house that immediately became chicken food. By the way, chickens love Kelloggs Raisin Bran!
It sounded gross to me then and now. But, what if flour was as dear now as it was then? What if you had so little money and so little access to food that you would starve without eating bug-infested flour? What if in the future you had no transportation to go to the store 20 miles away? What if there were no Tupperware, Mylar bags to exclude bugs, or a freezer or oxygen absorbers to kill eggs?
I have reached the point mentally where I know I can sift the buggy flour and eat it without another thought IF I need to. However, in the far past, I have dumped all flour, cornmeal, cake mixes and spices. I do not regret that move. Just because I have reached the point that I know I will eat flour after it has been sifted to get the bugs out does not mean that I will do it right now when my ability to acquire more food is still good. I have not been tested since I developed this mindset. As long as the grocery stores are open, I will dump the flour to the hens. Maybe I will mix it OUTDOORS with some chicken broth to save the hens' lungs from flour in the air.  
Since I am in the process of eradicating Indian Meal Moths that will get into flour, cookies, cereal and other foodstuffs in boxes and bags, I have a method. No poison is involed, just time. I freeze all flour, pasta, cornmeal, and oatmeal for 48 hours. Then, I let it sit on the counter or in the closed microwave for 24 hours. After that, I store it in half-gallon or quart canning jars with old lids and rings. When I run out of canning jars, I will use a spaghetti jar, peanut butter jar, or any glass jar that has the rubber seal inside. Without the rubber seal, the eggs can be laid under the rim of the jar where the critter can migrate to the inside of the jar. Don't depend on Ball plastic storage caps.
I am very confident there will be no pests in any of my food stored in canning jars. It is not prepping food, just food on sale!. How could I pass up this pasta deal? I love my deals. It is all stored in Ball jars with canning lids and rings. First, it spent 48 hours in the freezer and all the rest of the routine.

But, if anything befalls my little stash (20 lbs or less) of bug-free, egg-free flour, access to flour, or ability to buy flour, I will be sifting any kind of flour through a fine mesh strainer and baking with it. Can you? The bugs will be gone. And, the eggs should provide a bit of protein. No? Oh well.

I know the folk who have oxygen absorbers and five gallon storage buckets and Mylar bags may not find this of interest. But, we never knows what will befall our flour or ability to store it in the most secure way. For those of us who use none of the long-term storage methods, can you sift bugs out of your flour and still bake with it?  Or would you rather freeze it and store it in a glass jar?

Youe turn
What are you thoughts on sifting flour with bugs and eating the flour anyway? Are you grossed out by the thought? Had you ever heard of the webs/threads indicating there were pests in the flour? Have you ever seen them and maybe wondered why there were webs in the flour?



  1. Hi Linda! Yes, I remember seeing them in my Grandmother's flour drawer where she used to store her flour. She just dumped her flour in the drawer, which was like a metal or stainless steel drawer, and scooped out the flour as she needed it. I remember the webs and the weevils. I guess she just sifted it, like you said. I would do that too, but I have mine stored in a free five gallon bucket that I got from a local grocery store. They won't give them to me anymore, but I can buy them for two dollars from a donut shop. I don't use oxygen absorbers, though. I bought the flour from a cash and carry in a twenty-five pound bag. I recently bought some white wheat berries that I plan to put in the five gallon buckets with no oxygen absorbers. I hope we like the white whole wheat! I have a fifty pound bag of the berries! Blessings from Bama!

  2. Bama Girl,

    Yes, some had flour drawers without the sifter. Now you know what the webs were

    If you do not refrigerate the flour before storing, you will have weevils in your flour. Promise! One of the hard facts of life is that we eat eggs in flour everyday.

    I got them for free, too. Now, I pay for buckets at a doughnut shop, also. Of course, I only have two buckets/

    Are you going to grind your own wheat? I think that any kind of wheat will work out just fine. Do you have a grain grinder?

    1. Hi Linda! Yes, I am going to grind my own wheat berries. We bought a grinder attachment for the Kitchen Aid since it was the best price. The other grinders cost a LOT more! I hope to find the time this week to grind my wheat! Blessings from Bama!

    2. Bama Girl,
      I wish I had a Kitchen Aid mixer. They have lots of ingenious attachments. I have seen the cost of some other grinders and they are expensive. Maybe you can put that on your blog, grinding, that is.

  3. Linda you and I have a similar mindset. I do all I can do to avoid an infestation but if weevils show their ugly head ...... I'm with you. Right now I will dump the product but could I sift and move on? You betcha!

    You are absolutely correct when you say that the eggs are already there in every day products. Pet food and cereal seem to be the worst offenders. Grocery stores MUST rotate but with time/financial restraints I know that many of them do not spend the time (and $) to do so. I have seen entire grocery sections put on to pallets and rolled into big walk in freezers. A couple of years ago we visited a factory where boxed rice mixes were produced. There is NOTHING sanitary about how rice is handled and packaged ....but would I eat that product? Yes! (but I don't because all those mixes are too expensive and have way too much sodium for me)

    I know you like a bargain .... I thought you might like to hear about my recent "scores" at the thrift store. Today I bought a swimsuit for $1.62! I don't think it had ever been worn! On Sunday I found a BAUER bowl/pot that is shown in my Bauer pottery book for $100.....with the discounts and coupon that I had I ended up paying, get this .......78 and 1/2 cents! SCORE!

    1. Janet,
      Thankfully, we cook rice! Big stores are more likely to rotate the stock. I rarely have a rice mix, only when it is given to me.

      Those are two really good bargains. Lots of people think swimsuits are gross when second-hand. But, I wonder if they think of all the people who try them on in the store. The bowl WAS a SCORE! I am just dumbfounded. Congratulations.

  4. My neighbor told me to put a stick of spearmint gum in with the flour in the canister. Seems to work.

    1. The peppermint gum may keep bugs out, but it won't keep eggs present when you bought the flour from hatching. But, if it is working, keep it up. I have heard a bay leaf works but have never tried it.

  5. Had to laugh at this. I always kept my flour in a lard can. We had been staying with my inlaws thru the winter & then were back in our own place. It was my hub's birthday, & his family were coming to help celebrate. Started to make a chocolate birthday cake--the flour was buggy. No car & out in the country. what to do? what to do? A friend was staying with us & said go ahead & use the flour. So the birthday cake had extra protein in it!! A few days later the friend said why don't you make another cake. Well, I'd already thrown out the remainder of the flour, but she thought I should've made another cake with it. And I don't remember if I ate any of the cake or not!!

  6. JaeJae,
    That is hilarious. It seems so gross, but it was cooked protein! I would have skipped the cake that night. At least he wanted chocolate instead of a white cake. I wonder if weevils are crunchy.

    I really needed a laugh this morning.

    Next time you will know to just put it in a fine sieve and shake the flour out.

    Thanks for the

  7. We always had Thanksgiving at grandma's because she had a LONG farm table. She also cooked with bacon grease from a lard can that sat on the back of her stove. She would fry bacon, then pour the grease in the can without looking. One thanksgiving, my sister pulled the can off the back of the stove and looked in it. And saw a poor, pitiful, dead mouse that had been killed with hot bacon grease a LONG time before.

    NO dressing was eaten that day, and grandma was known for THE best dressing in America.

    I store my flour and all grains in the freezer. Yes the eggs are there, but if I can see it, I pretend it's not there. Just like grandma and the mouse.

    1. lotta joy.
      That is hilarious and gross at the same time. I can imagine people kept a close watch on the lard/grease can from then on.

      Once mine has spent 48 hours in the freezer and 24 on the counter, flour is put in half fallon jars. Well, a weevil egg is a little easier for me to ignore. However, I have never seen a weevil egg.

  8. No chaos in the post. Everything looked fine, Linda.

    One Christmas we got some boxed jelly candies for a gift. Well, we had enough treats in the house already so I put the candy in a cupboard over the stove and forgot about it until the spring. I decided to open it when I found it again, and it was crawling with things - I assume weevils. I couldn't get them to the garbage fast enough!

    1. I went to bed and got up this morning and fixed it.

      I would be less horrified by the weevils and more horrified that you wasted good candy!

  9. I think it's really interesting, the things people lived with and didn't freak out about--and how people today would (including me, lol, though I would hope I'd get over it). And vice-versa. I think if your grandmother saw, say, Gogurt, she'd give it a pass and try not to be sick.

  10. Pamela,
    We are a squeamish bunch. We have been so sterilized, some of which if very fortunate. My grandmother was born in 1895 and died in 1963. She saw the advent of lots of things. Gogurt sounds like throw up. amama said they all drank from a dripper from a spring or from a bucket. How much of a sissy would they think we are who will not touch anything with a hint of germs.


For the present, I am taking comment moderation off the blog.