Sunday, March 28, 2021

Chag Pesach Sameach

To quote Benjy Stone from My Favorite Year,  “Jews know two things: suffering and where to find great Chinese food.”

In this post I'm going to discuss the topic of ritual foods and their place in a prepper’s pantry. Just as with special treats such as chocolate or candy, ritual foods can provide comfort and a sense of normalcy when things go sideways. As Passover has just begun, I’m going to focus on some of the traditional foods my family makes for this holiday.

A Seder table built for two

One of the foods most people associate with Passover is matzo, the unleavened bread. At its most basic, matzo is simply flour and water mixed and baked quickly. Traditionally it should be fully prepared, from start to finish, within eighteen minutes.

Matzo ready for the Seder

Next is Charoset, one of the symbolic items on the Seder plate, it represents the mortar we were forced to use to build the pyramids. It makes a good snack and is made from relatively simple ingredients.


Here’s my family recipe:

  •          ½ cup Walnuts
  •          1 tsp Cinnamon
  •          1 Apple (Granny Smith)
  •          1 pinch Ginger
  •          Grape Juice or sweet red wine

  1. Chop walnuts fairly fine
  2. Grate apple
  3. Add a good amount of cinnamon and just a dash of ginger
  4. Mix until the right consistency with the grape juice or wine

You can tell it’s a family recipe because it includes the phrase “the right consistency.” This is up there with “enough” and “you’ll know” in recipes passed down through the generations.

Hard boiled eggs and chopped liver are two items served as appetizers. There’s nothing special about the eggs, they are simply boiled and peeled. The chopped liver is more of a challenge for the prepper, because the ingredients are either not readily available or they spoil quickly and can’t be preserved easily.

Matzo ball soup is another classic traditional dish for the Passover meal. It’s a basic chicken soup, with matzo balls added (the secret of making I’m not at liberty to share, as my ancestors might strike me down).

Erin the Editrix adds: This matzo ball recipe comes to us courtesy of Marina Fontaine, who is at liberty to give it out since she "shamelessly stole it from a cookbook". 

Matzo Ball recipe:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 c matzo meal
  • 1/2 c club soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Whisk eggs and oil, once the egg, mix in soda gently, then add dry ingredients. Mix just until blended. Refrigerate at least 30 min, up to an hour is better.

Bring water to a boil. Wet hands with cold water, then form small balls, about 1 inch diameter. Drop gently into the water, cover and simmer for 45 min. Add pepper, garlic powder, or whatever spices you like. Remove from water a with slotted spoon.

"Secrets": using seltzer instead of water makes them lighter; refrigerating longer makes them easier to shape; making them smaller gives them room to expand; treating them gently keeps them from falling apart.


Pot roast, cole slaw, and applesauce are all fairly straightforward but, aside possibly for apple sauce, can again be something of a challenge for the prepper.

One of the traditional side dishes served during Passover is Potato Kugel, a baked pudding or casserole. As the name implies, the main ingredient is potato; most of the other ingredients are readily available in original or substitute form.

Potato Kugel
  • 3 Large Potatoes
  • ⅓ Cup Matzo Meal
  • ½ Onion
  • 1/6 Cup Fat (chicken is best)
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Grate potatoes (peeling is optional).  Do not drain the way you would for latkes.
  2. Add eggs, matzo meal, onion and seasonings.
  3. Melt fat in bottom of baking dish.  Pour off most of the fat into the above mixture.
  4. Pour kugel into dish and cook uncovered at 350° until brown.  You can sprinkle some matzo meal on top towards the end to give a better crust.
This produces a hearty and filling dish that can be eaten cold or hot.

For my family, one of the traditional Passover desserts is brownies made with Passover cake meal, which is simply matzo ground back into a powder used instead of regular flour.

  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 squares melted bakers chocolate
  • ¾ cup Passover cake meal, sifted
  • Salt
  • ½ cup Chopped nuts

  1. Mix the above – cream the butter, add the sugar, eggs beat till fluffy add the rest.
  2. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°

Another traditional family recipe, so no quantity is given for the salt. I usually add just a pinch, which I know is not precise.

My personal favorite Passover dessert is a type of no-bake cookie called Chocolate Farfel Clusters. While they get melty in warm weather, they’re almost like a Jewish version of jumbo trail mix.

Farfel Clusters

  • 1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1½ cup toasted matzo farfel
  • 1 cup seedless raisins
  • 1 cup peanut butter

  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave
  2. Add peanut butter, farfel, and raisins
  3. When mixed, spoon mixture onto a waxed paper lined cookie sheet
  4. Refrigerate until set

When she gave me this recipe, my mother added the following notes: If it seems to need more peanut butter, don't be afraid to add it and if you can’t find matzo farfel in the store, buy regular matzo and crush it to the appropriate size.

I’m sure everyone has their favorite holiday foods. Take a look; it might not be difficult to come up with a way to include them, in some form, in your prepper pantry.

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