One of the greatest problems concerning the Passover holiday is keeping kosher. Keeping kosher is difficult for many of us in the best of times, but when Passover arrives, it becomes total confusion. I will try in a small way to explain the rudiments of it all. This is not intended as comprehensive guide to keeping kosher (which is not within the scheme of my expertise.) If you wish to delve into greater detail please consult you local Rabbi.
What is Chametz?
This usually refers to flour made from, wheat, barley, spelt, oats, and rye which came into contact with water and ferments. Most authorities say that this condition takes place after 18 minutes have elapsed since the contact with water. Examples of absolute chametz include bread, noodles, spaghetti, custard, cereals, beer and all malt products (which includes whiskey!).
In religious households no Chametz is allowed in the house at all - even small amounts. People usually "sell" their chametz (a shame to waste that bottle of Jack Daniels) to a non-Jew, whereby the Rabbi serves as a middle-man. The Rabbi "buys" it back after Passover at which time it may be used again.
Many people confuse spring cleaning for Passover cleaning. While it is true that you are supposed to clean your house carefully for Chametz, and put all the left-over goods in a specified closet, you do NOT have to turn over your entire house and vacuum the dust off the top shelf in the den. Some Rabbinical authorities actually warn against "OD"ing on cleaning, lest it totally ruin the holiday for you.
Utensils and dishes
Where possible it is always best to have separate dishes for passover. For most of us the expense of new dishes is more than our economic situation allows us. The Rabbinical authorities *are* aware of this problem and allow many of our normal dishes to be Kashered especially for Passover.
Most metal, one-piece utensils can be dipped into boiling water, after a very thorough cleaning and period of non-use of 24 hours. Utensils used over a direct flame, like grilling or baking dishes may not be Kashered. Utensils with wooden handles, china, sieves, earthenware, pots which cannot really be cleaned thoroughly and anything which would be ruined by boiling cannot be kashered.
There is another type of kashering for more difficult items which is cleaning with heat, you know, using a blow torch (you are *not* advised to try this at home yourselves!). See your local Rabbi for details. The easiest item to kasher is glassware: All you have to do after washing and cleaning is to place it in a pail with clean water, for 3 days changing the water every 24 hours.
What can I eat?
Today, unlike 30 years ago, there is a wide range of Kosher for Passover foods available. In addition to actual Chametz mentioned above, Jews from European backgrounds refrain from eating legumes (beans, corn, peas, lentils, and rice). Many Rabbis agree this does not apply to corn oil or any other derivatives. Sephardic Jews have no such restrictions.
The following items USUALLY do not require any certification for Pessach:
- Aluminum foil or containers
- Baking soda
- Pure cocoa powder
- Whole dates
- Eggs raw,
- Noncoated frozen fish
- Canned fruits in its own juice
- %100 juices
- Raw meats
- Nuts without additives
- Pure olive oil
- Paper goods
- Plastic goods
- Soaps and shampoos
- Pure tea
Milk is no problem as long as the manufacture does not also produce chocolate milk, which contains malt.
The following items should be used cautiously preferably having a Kosher for Passover label. Check that the label is part of the package and not just a printed stick on type:
- Baby cereals and food
- Brown sugar
- Candied fruits
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Condensed milk
- Confectionery sugar
- Ice cream
- Maraschino cherries
- Powdered cocoa
- Pet food
- Processed and flavored spices
- Tomato products
- Canned tuna
- Vanilla extract
A last word - even for those of us who keep kosher all year round Passover can be a bit complicated. If you need more information first contact your local Rabbi. There are are also many local books available to help you through the maze. Below are a few suggestions.
Good luck and HAPPY PASSOVER!
• The Spice and Spirit of Kosher Cooking - Lubabitch books
• A Practice Guide to Kashrut - Rabbi S. Wagschal