By Kate Dietrick, Assistant Archivist, Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives
Next week begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach, the commemoration of the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt over 3,300 years ago. It is said that when the Israelites were freed they left in such a rush that they could not wait for bread dough to rise, or leaven. So in commemoration, during Passover no leavened bread is eaten. Chametz, five types of grain (wheat, barley, spelt, rye, and oats) are forbidden; thus matzah, flat unleavened bread, is eaten during the eight-day holiday. But what might you make with matzo?
One of the unique collections that the Jewish Historical Society amassed before donating their materials to the University of Minnesota is a collection of Jewish cookbooks. These cookbooks, mostly from local women’s groups, are filled with great recipes, including ones particular to Jewish holidays.
In Hot off the Range, compiled by the Jewish Women of the Hibbing-Chisholm Hadassah in 1981, they list suggested menus for Sabbath and holidays.
And here is just a taste of a few of the Passover-friendly recipes found in the cookbooks —
From the New Kosher Cookbook by Beth El Women’s League:
Almond Torte (Passover)
8 eggs, separated
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 cups finely ground almonds, blanched and slightly browned
½ cup matzo meal
2 oranges (juice and rind put through grinder)
Beat yolks well; add sugar and beat. Add rest of ingredients and beat well. Fold in stiff egg whites. Bake in torte pan 1 hour at 325 degrees. Cover with frosting if desired.
In the wonderfully titled Magical Moments with Matzo: A Passover Cookbook of our Favorite Recipes, compiled by SCOPUS Hadassah in Minneapolis, there are instructions on preparations for Passover, hints for a well-planned seder, and suggested menus. One recipe:
Passover Cheese Blintzes
1 ½ cup cake meal
1 tsp. salt
¼ cup potato starch
Milk for thinning
Beat eggs and add other ingredients. Thin batter with milk until very runny. Grease small (8 inch) frying pan. Pour batter and roll until batter covers pan. Fry until set or a little brown. Turn out onto clean dishtowel and cool.
1 lb. farmer cheese
1 tbsp. sour cream
Salt and cinnamon
Mix together. Put tablespoon in center of pancake and fold to cover filling. Can be fried in butter or baked in oven. Serve finished blintzes with sour cream or jelly.
Adventures in Jewish Cooking, compiled by members of the Eau Claire Jewish community in 1978, contains an entire chapter dedicated to foods suitable for Passover.
If you are interested in more recipes from the cookbooks–whether to make your Passover a bit yummier or to simply broaden your culinary horizons–visit the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives in Andersen Library. A few cookbooks are on display outside the UMJA suite on the third floor; all materials are available to be viewed by the public. Check out our website and contact us for a visit.