From special Seder foods to the extra kashrut (kosher law) stringencies associated with the holiday, food factors big in Passover observance. With guests to entertain (and far fewer Kosher-certified convenience foods available during the week of Passover than during the rest of the year), many people find themselves cooking from scratch more often than they ordinarily might.
Of course, herbs and spices are vital to the most delicious recipes. And while many people know that grain-based products like bread or noodles are off-limits during Passover, fewer realize that there are special considerations to keep in mind when buying herbs and spices, too. Here's a primer on why dried herbs and ground spices need special Kosher for Passover certification, along with tips for buying herbs and spices for the holiday.
Changes in Food Processing
When I was growing up, the general consensus in many Kosher-observant communities was that it was permissible to buy sealed containers of pure ground spices or dried herbs for Passover, as long as they had year-round Kosher certification. Now, ground spices and dried herbs must be certified as Kosher for Passover if they are to be used during the holiday. What has changed? Food manufacturing processes, for one.
Rabbi Dov Schreier, of the Orthodox Union -- also known as the OU, and the world's most prominent kosher certification body -- explains that ground spices may contain additives, emulsifiers, or anti-caking agents that aren't Kosher for Passover. Manufacturers aren't required to list these ingredients on labels, so there's no way for consumers to tell if that jar of cinnamon contains chametz or kitniyot, or was processed on chametz equipment that would render it unfit for Passover use.
Changes in Availability
During the year, it's easy to find an incredible range of Kosher-certified herbs, spices, and spice blends. During Passover, that selection seems to shrink considerably. Part of this is because of the manufacturing issues discussed above. Part of it, though, is simple supply and demand. As Rabbi Schreier explains, "supply and demand occurs on two levels -- on the manufacturer side and supermarket side. That's especially true in today's modern world of inventory supply -- thanks to bar codes, supermarkets know exactly how many jars of garlic powder they've sold." Since a relatively small percentage of consumers seek out Kosher for Passover herbs and spices, and only during a brief time each year, these are unlikely to outsell the other spices on the shelf. Can't find your favorite spice this Passover? You can always try letting the manufacturer know. "If you and a million of your closest friends petition for a certain spice to be Kosher for Passover the following year," says Rabbi Schreier, "I guarantee it will be." (Of course, said spice would have to be one that is already fundamentally Kosher for Passover. And happily, you might not need a million friends to get your point across to spice companies.)
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