Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Ins & Outs of Vacuum Sealing

What Exactly Is Vacuum Sealing?

When we vacuum seal, we’re reducing the amount of oxygen and air in the package. This is a process known as Reduced Oxygen Packaging. The advantage of vacuum sealing is that we’re removing the air  inside the package, which means we’re also changing the environment in which different bacteria and microbes can grow. Of course, as with anything, there are advantages and hazards in the process, especially with potentially hazardous foods such as fresh meat, lunch meat and sausage.

The Advantages

Vacuum sealing dramatically extends the shelf life, preventing odors, slime, discoloration, shrinkage, moisture loss and texture changes in the foods we freeze. It also slows the growth of spoilage organisms and pathogens.

The Hazards

However, both Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria that causes botulism) and Listeria monocytogenes (the bacteria that causes listeriosis) both can grow in anaerobic environment – ones without oxygen.
There are 4 controls used in the packaging industry for the above hazards:

  1. Temperature – Keep all fresh meat, lunch meat and sausage at a temperature of 41 degrees F or less. Plus, since Listeria can grow in temps as low as 32 degrees F, the colder, the better. Make sure your meat does not sit out for long periods of time as you’re processing and packaging.
  2. Barriers or Flavor Enhancers – When making sausage, the addition of Cure or nitrites will act as an additional barrier to pathogen growth, helping to prevent Botulism and Listeria.
  3. Shelf Life – If refrigerating vacuum packed meat, limit the shelf life to only 14 days or less. Your vacuum packed meat will stay wonderfully fresh in the freezer for many months, though. Bear this in mind – the longer you wait to consume the food, the longer pathogens  and organisms have the chance to grow. Label each package with the type of food contained and the date it was packaged.
  4. Sanitation – Keep a checklist of required cleaning after processing. Make sure to include equipment used (and how to break down and re-assemble equipment, such as a grinder), non-food contact surfaces and your facilities (sinks, shelving, coolers, floors, carts, etc.). Everything should be cleaned with hot, soapy water.
Using the above controls will make vacuum sealing as safe as it can be – so you can enjoy your meat for many months to come.

Happy sealing.

Additional Tips & Tricks to Vacuum Sealing:

  • Properly cook your vacuum sealed meats to fully eliminate any bacteria. Sausage should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

  • Keep food covered or packaged at all times to prevent cross-contamination with other foods, especially when cooling sausage.

  • Keep your vacuum sealing materials covered and stored off the floor to prevent contamination from cleaning products and dust.

  • When sealing, do not touch the food with your bare hands. Use a utensil or latex gloves to prevent transferring bacteria onto foods. If using gloves, change them frequently to prevent contamination. Make proper hand washing a priority as well.

  • It is important to use your vacuum sealer according to the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. In other words, get to know your product manual.

  • Check your sealed packages to make sure the seal is tight and there’s nothing trapped in the seal. Your package should also have a tight vacuum. If it doesn’t, repackage immediately.

* Information adapted from The Retail Meat and Poultry Processing Training Modules produced under a cooperative agreement with USDA FSIS and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Be Prepared for Open Season 2014

It’s no secret – safety is the most important aspect of hunting. Make sure you know your state’s hunting laws & regulations before you go. In fact, it’s your responsibility as a hunter to know these. If followed, the tips below will give you a big leg up on safety this year – not to mention more fun in the field.

Since we’re in Ohio – we’re going to share tips that the ODNR folks gave us. However, you can visit your state’s DNR resources on our Hunting Regulations page.

  • Get the landowner’s permission to hunt.
  • Buy your annual hunting license and deer permit early.
  • Make sure your gun is plugged, and not capable of holding more than three (3) shells.
  • Make sure you meet hunter orange requirements.
  • Know how to attach your temporary tag. Carry a piece of string, watch and pen or pencil.
  • Know the rules for use of communication devices.
  • Know your APV laws.
  • Know the season dates, hours and Deer Zones.
  • Follow proper check station procedures.
  • Hunt safely!
  • After hunting, check carefully for ticks and promptly remove them.

It’s time to get excited for Open Season 2014! Here's to a successful season and a freezer full of meat!

For more hunting info in Ohio, visit the ODNR website:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

6 Steps to Protect Your Hunting Rights – LEM Style!

Our hunting right are continuously challenged. New groups are constantly forming to curtail or abolish a sport that we love. Even our politicians pass legislation against hunting and for gun control. Let’s put forth an effort to preserve our heritage and know that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to hunt with the passion we have.

 Here are 6 things we can do as hunters to ensure hunting will be here for future generations:
  1. TELL YOUR POLITICIANS. Both State and Federal, how you feel about hunting and gun rights. Let them know you expect them to represent your views, since you elected them.
  2. OBEY ALL GAME LAWS. Game laws are made to help hunting, not hinder it. Do not tolerate poaching. If you know of a poacher or incident, report it to your local DNR. No – it’s not tattling. Poaching gives anti’s fuel against us. They say we don’t obey our own hunting laws.
  3. RESPECT PRIVATE PROPERTY. If you are privileged enough to hunt someone else’s property, don’t litter or destroy fences. Always obtain permission and thank the owner. Offer him or her some of the game you harvested and help with a few chores while you’re there.
  4. LEARN TO HANDLE YOUR WEAPON. Whether you hunt with a bow or gun, practice until you become proficient with it AND you can hit your mark. This will ensure a quick, humane kill and not allow wounded animals to suffer and be more fuel for the anti’s.
  5. DON’T GLORIFY THE KILL. Hunting is much more than pulling the trigger or releasing an arrow. It is also the plain enjoyment of being outdoors and sharing you experience with your friends. Don’t put your harvested deer on top of your car or trunk so everyone can see it. Keep the kill low-key.
  6. MOST IMPORTANTLY, TEACH A YOUNG PERSON ABOUT THE OUTDOORS. Many of our young people never get the chance to know what hunting and shooting is all about. The children of today are the politicians of tomorrow. If they don’t understand what we love and know about the outdoors and hunting, they will not care about supporting the sport. Teach a young person about firearms and archery. Teach them how to safely handle them, shoot them, care for them, and respect them. Introduce them to hunting. Let them decide if they enjoy it or not.

So many people have never seen the things that happen in the outdoors, like watching a red fox work a creek bed early in the morning or seeing a hawk circling above a grass field searching for mice. Many times, we’ll sit in a tree stand for hours and not see a deer. But throughout the day, we’ll see the outdoors in a way that few others do. For instance, watching a spider build a web on the branch next to us or seeing two squirrels chase each other around and around a tree. These small glimpses into nature are a part of hunting to us… It’s not just about pulling the trigger. Let’s keep it this way! 

Do your part to help preserve hunting for future hunters. You’ll be glad you did!

What do you currently practice above to do your part? Do you have any other suggestions to preserve our hunting heritage? Comment below!

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Does Canning Preserve Food?

The main goals of Canning are to remove oxygen, destroy enzymes, prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts & molds, plus helping to form a high vacuum in your canning jars (keeping liquid in and air out). 

Why and how do you do this?

Most fresh foods contain a very high percentage of water and this makes them perishable. They spoil or lose their quality for several reasons:

  • Loss of Moisture
  • Oxygenation
  • Enzyme Activity
  • Microorganism Growth – Bacteria, Molds and Yeasts

Microorganisms live on the surfaces of fresh food and multiply quickly. They also make themselves at home on the inside of bruised, damaged and diseased food. Both oxygen and enzymes are present throughout fresh food tissues. 

Proper Canning Practices Include:

  • Carefully Selecting and Washing Fresh, Quality Food
  • Peeling Some Foods
  • Hot Packing Foods
  • Adding Acids like Lemon Juice or Vinegar to Some Foods
  • Using Acceptable Jars and Self-Sealing Lids
  • Properly Processing Jars in the appropriate Canner (Pressure or Water-Bath depending upon acidity of food) for the Correct Period of Time

When all of the methods are used above during Canning, you’ll remove oxygen, destroy enzymes, prevent the growth of bacteria, yeasts & molds, plus help form a high vacuum in your canning jars (keeping liquid in and air out).

Remember – the best method of success in Canning is to follow proper Canning techniques. Learn more about proper techniques from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Join LEM in Canning this summer. You’ll be glad you did!

* Information adapted from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning, 2009 Edition.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

One Customer's Take on Our # 5 Big Bite Grinder

One of our customers posted this below to sell their # 5 Big Bite Grinder - only because he bought a # 12 Big Bite! We couldn't have said it any better and have to share... Thanks for the great review!
The Most Beautiful Meat Grinder You Will Ever See!

I have here one of the best meat grinders I have ever owned. It's like the Rolls Royce of grinders... I cannot say enough good things about LEM, and the sheer quality of their products. I have had 2 other grinders from different manufacturers before and one was a 1HP model but had plastic gears and after 1 year of use the gears literally stripped bare. It also claimed to have stainless steel parts but was really aluminum. I bought a second smaller grinder from Meijer, and needless to say that only lasted a month or so, same thing happened.

Finally I bought the LEM #5 Grinder brand new a year ago and have used it about every three months. All the gears in this grinder are metal, and I can tell.... its nearly twice as quiet as the other 2 grinders, and stronger. It has performed flawlessly.

It is the quietest, smoothest operating and quality meat grinder I've ever come across. I've also ground about 50 lbs. of venison through it no problem at all. It's truly all stainless steel, and unlike the other grinders that heavily tarnish when washed in the dishwasher, this thing still looks as new as the day I bought it.

After 1 year of use and constant washing in the dishwasher the tiny blade has an even tinier amount of rust, it is the only part that has shown any sign of wear and tear. And the good news its a cheap fix.

The features are as follows straight from LEM's website...
This stainless steel 1/4 HP grinder is a compact version of our big 1.5 HP. Great for smaller grinding projects. Large meat pan 11-1/2" x 8-1/2" x 2-1/4" deep. A serious step up from a kitchen grinder, you won't find a grinder this size with this quality.

So whether you're a hunter/farmer who wants to start making your own sausage and hamburgers rather than eat that junk that passes as food at the supermarket. Or you make your own pet food, this grinder is the perfect way to get started.

Right now you're probably like, wow this guy sounds like a salesman! Well I do marketing for a living but not for meat grinders! I just know a good product when I see one!

So the question is... What do you think of your Big Bite Grinder? Comment below.