The Calendar Says Nisan, So I Must Be Cleaning

Another Passover is staring me in the face. In the midst of finishing grading research papers, and benchmark open-ended questions, and finishing my Student Growth Objectives, and still keeping up with my family: spring soccer, lacrosse, after-school ecology class, Hebrew School, etc., I especially look forward to Spring Break, even though I am NOT ready for Passover this year. Usually this includes what we used to call when I was growing up, a house-wide “thorough-clean.” Passover cleaning was intended to make sure that there were no “chumatz” (food particles that are not Kosher for Passover) anywhere in the house. We went through the whole shmear when I was little, with the candle and the feather, and it ended with my grandmother nearly setting the house on fire. Ah memories! Anyhoo, I think this chumatz search is the genesis of Spring Cleaning. And it always feels great to get that done, to wipe out all of those winter cob-webs, and bathe the house in Spring fever.

I wanted to share a few Passover tips that I have gleaned over the years, and actually get them posted before Passover!

1: How to Make Great Hard-Boiled Eggs: There are two important factors in a perfect hard-boiled egg. One is to use older eggs. We keep chickens, and I learned the hard way that fresh eggs do not peel very well. I put aside the eggs I want to boil for the seder about three weeks before Passover. I know that many people think of eggs as very perishable, but from the time they are laid, and egg stays well in the fridge for about 3 months. Look for a 3-digit number on the side of the egg carton. That is the Julian Calendar (or day of the year) that the egg was crated, so add 1 and you will know exactly when that egg was laid. Then check out the expiration date. That gives you a clue as to how old your eggs are. Ok, so that is one – older eggs peel better. The second thing is that a hard-boiled egg can be over cooked. Put the eggs in a pan and cover with water by at least an inch and a half, with about a tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and let sit for 13 minutes. Immediately plunge the eggs into ice water to stop the cooking. Let them cool completely before trying to peel them.

2: Really Great Charoset: Use equal parts apples and nuts. Skimping on the nuts makes for charoset that is too watery. Use something besides concord wine. There are a ton of really wonderful wines that are kosher for Passover. Don’t over process the mixture. I never got the hang of making charoset in a food processor. I still use my grandmother’s chopping bowl. Add the cinnamon last.

3. Grinding Horseradish: If you want the most awesome horseradish ever, grind it yourself. It is super easy. Peel the root and cut it into small chunks. Put the chunks in the food processor or blender with some white vinegar, and a little salt. Pulse the blender until it starts to chop up. Add a little water if necessary to help it grind. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE OVER THE TOP OF THE CONTAINER WHEN YOU OPEN THE LID! This could melt your eyeballs. Point the bowl away from you when taking the horseradish out of the container. This will store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the fridge for 6 months.

Some easy things to make Passover brighter! Happy cleaning!

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles

I didn’t always love pickles.

I do now.  But I didn’t always. And the first pickles I made were horrible.  The cucumbers got mushy in the processing.  I tried dills, garlic and bread-n-butters, but they all tasted terrible because the consistency was awful.  I will never forget opening the first jar of pickles that I made and biting into one.  It was the worst thing I ever put in my mouth.  And I was a little kid once.  A little kid who was a younger sister, who actually took a bite of the mud pies my sister made.  Trust me, the mud pie was better than the pickle.

I gave up on pickles for a long time, until I got married, actually, and received the Winch Family Pickle Recipe.  It’s a secret, so I can’t share that one.  However, I have figured out all kinds of pickles since my first successes with the Family Recipe.

I think the most intimidating thing about making pickles is batch size.  We tend to think in larger batches because it is such a pain in the neck to pull out all of the canning equipment. Who wants to do that for two quarts of pickles, right?  Well, you don’t need canning equipment for these pickles.  And they aren’t those refrigerator dills, either.  These are garlic pickles, like from the big barrel in the deli. My husband, a native Minnesotan, was dubious about a pickle that had no dill in the brine.  But he is a convert to the strange and mysterious ways of the east: lacto-fermentation (Probiotic Preservation) and a ton of garlic!

Garlic Pickles

  • a clean wide mouth canning jar with lid
  • enough cucumbers to fill the jar
  • horseradish or grape leaf (optional)
  • 1 small head of garlic peeled
  • 1 t peppercorns
  • 2 T salt dissolved in 2 C filtered water (or 1 T salt, 1/4 C whey, and 1 3/4 C filtered water)
  1. Push the horseradish or grape leaf into the bottom of the jar (this helps the cucumbers retain their crispness, but it is not necessary).
  2. Pierce the garlic cloves and add them to the jar.  Drop in the peppercorns.
  3. Push the cucumbers into the jar tightly, but try not to bruise them as they go in.  If they are too long for the jar, cut them to fit.
  4. Cover with the salt water (or salt-whey water), leaving about 1 inch of space at the top.  Be sure the cucumbers are completely under the solution.
  5. Put the lid on the jar and let is sit on a counter for 2 or 3 days, until you see bubbles forming.  You should also notice that the color of the cucumber skin has changed.
  6. Move the cukes to cold storage.  They are ready to eat at any time, but the longer they sit around, the more garlicky and sour they become. The consistency will change over time.  hey may get a little soft.  They are still ok to eat.