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Keeping Kosher during Passover

Even families that don’t normally observe traditional Jewish dietary laws often step up their game a bit during the holy season of Passover, aiming to “keep Kosher” during that particular time of the year. For many who don’t normally go this route, the idea of following these dietary restrictions and laws can be a bit confusing and sometimes quite daunting, especially during the holiday season. Though Kosher labels appear on foods in the grocery store or specialty market, most Jews understand that adhering to these Kosher edicts involves much more than just buying a box or two or matzoh.

Chametz

Chametz is a Hebrew word that refers to the foods that are not eaten during the Passover season, specifically, any product that contains wheat, barley, oats, malt, or rye that has leavened (risen). The Torah instructs the Jewish people that they are to refrain from eating these items during Passover. The idea of consuming unleavened bread is done in homage to the Exodus, when the Jews fleeing Egypt had no time to allow their bread to rise before leaving.

Matzoh becomes a staple in the home during this time and common foods such as bread, spaghetti, cereal, and even beer and whiskey (they contain malt) are prohibited. Families become very clever with their use of matzoh, making dishes like lasagna and other recipes that would normally call for leavened products.

Many of the other foods eaten during this time should be designated “Kosher for Passover.”

What’s Left?

Many of those who are unfamiliar with the Kosher way of life look at the list of Chametz and decide to give up their vow to keep Kosher almost immediately. However, these days, there are tons of foods that receive the Kosher for Passover designation and there are other foods that may not require any officially certification for Passover. These include:

o Pure cocoa powder
o Coffee
o Whole dates
o Detergents
o Eggs raw
o Non-coated frozen fish (i.e. not breaded)
o Canned fruits in their own juices
o 100% juices
o Raw meats
o Nuts without additives
o Pure olive oil
o Pure tea
o Vegetables
o Wine

Cleaning

The ritual of cleaning for Passover indeed involves clearing the cupboards and pantries of all Chametz. Very religious families do not allow Chametz in their homes at all during the holiday, but those less religious usually put those items in a designated closet for use after the Passover season.

Plates and Utensils

Many very observant families have two sets of tableware in their homes – one for everyday use and another for Passover. Other families who only keep Kosher during this specific holiday choose to “Kasher” their dishes, cookware, and utensils so that they can be used during this season.

Kashering rules differ from one object to another but, basically, the word refers to the act of thoroughly cleaning the utensils, plates, or other kitchen objects that are going to be used in the preparation or serving of food. The cleaning happens at least 24 hours before the actual Kashering, so if you’re planning on doing this, you’ll need two days to complete the task. Methods of kashering (also known as “koshering”) include:

o Infusion – Cleaning by pouring boiling water over something. This generally refers to the method used to clean sinks and countertops to ready them for the holiday.

o Libun – This refers to heating a pan or grill until it is red hot. It is often done with a blowtorch as it is believed that the standard oven does not get hot enough for this kind of ritual purification. Libun kal is a simpler purification method. It involves heating a metal, like a frying pan, until it’s hot enough to scorch paper that is touched to its surface.

o Hag’alah – This scalding method is generally used for dishes and flatware and involves placing the items in a rapidly boiling pot of water. Flatware with plastic handles, of course, cannot be koshered.

In general, utensils with wooden handles, fine china, sieves, earthenware, pots which cannot be cleaned thoroughly or anything which would be ruined by boiling cannot be koshered.

(Note: This article is designed to offer guidelines for keeper Kosher. Those who wish to make the transition for the holiday season should contact their Rabbi for more specific information.)


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