Storing Yoshon Products
It is advisable for flour, barley, oatmeal and packaged macaroni and cheese mix to be kept in a refrigerator or freezer. They can be very prone to bugs. Bugs thrive in hot humid environments, and are particularly a problem during summer months. This is why a freezer or refrigerator is the most ideal storage method.
Since microscopic eggs can already present in grain foods, preventing ideal conditions for hatching is the key. Eating bugs is forbidden, so we do our best to prevent the problem before it starts. Keep items in a dry room with low humidity and low temperature.
The biggest pests to watch out for are tiny bugs called psocids (left). They especially love oatmeal and creamy-wheat cereals. Extremely prolific, they can take over an item in a couple days, and it is a nightmarish sight. I have a rule that any time I buy Creamy Wheat cereals or oatmeal, it goes directly in the fridge. Not only do products stay bug-free, but they also stay fresher in a refrigerator or freezer.
Always look for airtight bags, like the one above to the right. Give it a squeeze, and if it balloons up it’s airtight. If it hisses or gradually deflates, it means it has a hole in it and can be very prone to bugs and getting stale.
Part of the reason that barley, rice and beans are so often prone to get bugs, is that the bags they come in are often perforated on purpose! This is supposed to keep moisture from being trapped inside, and promoting mold growth or other spoilage. Unfortunately, this is also the way that bugs can and do get inside. They can smell the food, and of course are attracted to it! Ultimately, the bugs will create moisture from what they are eating and excreting, which also promotes mold growth.
Vent holes would seem to be a rather futile effort in protecting the food inside, since airtight bags should ideally do the thing. Ah, but perforating thinner bags is less costly than inflating thicker bags with air. Whenever possible, try to look for bags that are free of ventilation holes.
Merely refrigerating items only puts bugs in a sleepy trance, but they usually wake up when they warm up.
The best method for bug prevention is to put items in the freezer for at least 24 hours or more. Some bug experts even say to store items in the freezer for up to 4 days to completely kill bugs and eggs. The latter method is most necessary when stores carry yoshon items that are not kept in cold storage. This can be the case for small kosher groceries and big dollar discount stores alike. Common culprits are bagged barley and pasta. It may not just be date codes you need to “check on”, but the food item inside as well!
After freezing, let items thaw on a table until they are room temperature and completely dry. Once “processed”, put items in a sealed zipper bag and/or a plastic bin for storage. Never store items on or near the floor, and do not store them in corrugated cardboard boxes. Certain bugs love to eat paper and cardboard.
Cold Storage: A bag of flour stored in the freezer will stay fresh for two years! Smaller items can be kept in a vegetable bin or in the back. If you have a lot of room, an extra freezer can come in really handy. Dry products such as flour, oatmeal, barley, pasta and cereal will stay fresh easily until the next Pesach if stored properly.
Containers: One can keep larger items in a large, well-sealing plastic container with a lid. This will help prevent any new bugs from getting in. This works well for items that are known to be airtight from the start. Items that may not be airtight, or are already open, could have a risk of bugs, as eggs can be harbored on the outside, box crevices, or even in the product itself.
Bags: A less expensive, excellent alternative to a freezer, large plastic bin or extra fridge, is to invest in some boxes of large plastic zipper bags, the kind that lock and seal all the way across. Try not to get the kind with a sliding plastic zip mechanism, they aren’t always airtight. Place the item in the bag, get as much air out as you can, and zip quickly. The less air in the bag, the fresher it will keep. A 4-lb bag of flour will keep nicely in a gallon-sized bag. A 5-lb. bag of flour may fit, it depends on the package. The next size up may even fit 2 5-lb bags. Most cereal is packed very well. Crackers, cookies and breakfast cereals generally are packed in airtight bags and are best stored at room temperature.