Preparing for Passover: Finding Chametz

Passover is almost here, and I waited until today to really start getting ready for it. The holiday involves a lot more than just swapping bread for matzoh, and even though I’m not having a seder here, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Today, I found all the chametz in my apartment.

Yeah, that’s just the stuff from the pantry. So what is chametz? Basically, it’s anything with wheat or leavener in it. Except matzoh. So obviously, bread and pasta and crackers are out, as well as yeast and baking powder and baking soda. My cornbread mix is mostly flour, so it goes too. The flour. The buckwheat noodles.

Some of this may be confusing if you’re new to Passover. Matzohs are made from flour, so why are they kosher for Passover while the bag of as yet unleavened flour isn’t? Well, you see, other factors than added leaveners can cause leavening. If water got to the wheat at any point after its harvest, a small amount of fermentation could potentially have occurred, allowing for a bit of rise. If you have access to kosher for Passover flour, you can hang onto it, but there are really only two things you can make with it during Passover: matzoh and egg matzoh. I don’t have KFP flour, so I’m using Manischewitz for all my matzoh needs.

To find all of your chametz, go through and look at every item in your pantry. Incidentally, this is a great time to organize the pantry and throw away expired foods you may have forgotten about.

Look at every single thing, and read every single ingredient. Not everything that contains wheat or leavener is obvious. Soy sauce has more wheat than soy in it, cocoa mix and malt powder have wheat too, and even my canned enchilada sauce (why did I even buy that? I always make my own!) has yeast. The rosemary crackers gave me a moment’s pause. Yes, they’re made of wheat and rosemary, but they are completely unleavened. I mean, these things are flatter than matzohs, and so much tastier. In the end I decided to play it safe and just eat the rest of the box for lunch, with cheese. It isn’t Passover quite yet!

Next came the refrigerator and freezer.  This goes a bit quicker because unprocessed fruit and vegetables are completely fine. Every processed (read: comes in a package with writing on it) item, same as before. Check every item, every ingredient. Alas, poor Thin Mints. I have a feeling I shall never see you again. (And yes, I keep Thin mints in the freezer. Also hamburger and hot dog buns, because we use them about once every million years, but never seem to have them when we’re craving burgers.) Leftover chicken pot pie has a lovely flaky pie crust, so it must go.

That just leaves the spice cabinet. It’s worth noting that when people refer to kosher salt, they’re just talking about the large grain good stuff, which is used for kashering meat. Which I don’t feel like talking about right now. Ask in the comments if you’re really curious. A lot of table salt is also kosher. Just look for one that doesn’t contain iodine, or look for a kosher symbol on the box. The growing popularity and public awareness of gluten-free diets and celiac disease and gluten intolerance has actually made checking spices way easier. I just look under the ingredient list for something along the lines of “may contain gluten” or “processed on equipment which also processes wheat” and of course, checking the ingredients themselves for wheat.

Only two culprits this year. And yes, bacon salt is kosher. I was surprised, too. But there’s wheat in it.

I set aside a few things to keep until Sunday night (Yes, I could wait until Monday morning, but I’d rather not have to worry about clearing out chametz on my way to work.) I have bread to go with dinner the next couple of nights, an ice cream sandwich that I’ll tell you how to make after Passover, and a few Thin Mints.

To replace all of these things, there is only matzoh.

And I realized while cleaning my pantry that the first box of matzoh I purchased last week isn’t KFP.  (See? Right there on the upper right corner of the box!) Grr. Oh, well. We have a lot of grocery shopping to do this weekend anyway.

All the non-kosher for Passover foods I found went into a great big bag in the bottom of my pantry. I’m going to give it to a friend for the duration of the holiday. It’s important to note that giving away or selling your chametz has to be sincere, even though it is usually temporary.  Which is why I doubt I’ll ever see those Thin Mints again: I expect them to be eaten by the person I give them to. Seriously, who wouldn’t eat Thin Mints, given the opportunity and free cookies? The point is, if you’re going through with the whole Passover fast, you have to do it properly. No fighting with the person you give your Chametz to because she ate your pasta. You gave it to her. Try to mean it.

So we’re done with the major chametz clearing. Over the next couple of days I’ll talk about the other fun stuff I’m doing to prepare for this sad, breadless week.

  1. #1 by Ariel on April 15, 2011 - 1:51 AM

    To be fair, it’s really those dratted polar bears who eat thin mints.

    *shakes fist at wily polar bears*

    • #2 by koshercorvid on April 15, 2011 - 9:49 AM

      To be fair, polar bears have the right to eat thin mints that are just wantonly left in their homes. Likewise pastas and goldfish. Preferably not in the same dish, though!

  2. #3 by lexy3587 on April 15, 2011 - 8:17 AM

    Mmmm thin mints are best when straight from the freezer. though how you have any boxes left, considering that the girlguides in my area only sell them in the fall, is baffling!
    This was interesting – I hadn’t heard about this part of passover before. It sounds like a bit of a pain, though – to have to make sure it’s all not in your house… why not just ‘not eat’ those things for a week? Bearing in mind, however, my entire lack of religious education, I bet there are good reasons… apart from the fact that, with thin mints in my freezer, I would have a very hard time trying to NOT eat them.

    • #4 by koshercorvid on April 15, 2011 - 9:47 AM

      Girl scouts sell them in February here, and I have about two boxes left of the dozen I bought. Because I am a voracious snackavore.

      I could just seal the stuff off in a cabinet and recite something silly about disowning it and them not open that cabinet. . .but I have a tiny apartment kitchen. I don’t have the space to just not use for eight days. As for the difficulty aspect, I just roll Passover prep into spring cleaning and it works out nicely. I’m taking a break from vacuuming all those tiny obnoxious corners I haven’t vacuumed in a year now. Cat hair gets everywhere!

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