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Friday, March 20, 2009

Passover is Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free - Sometimes

The Jewish festival of Passover, which starts on April 9 this year (Hurray, I'm early for writing a timely article for a change) can be a confusing time for those with food allergies. As Wikipedia reminds us:

In the story of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves, with the tenth plague being the killing of firstborn sons. However, the Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb, and upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover". When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is also called חַג הַמַּצּוֹת (Chag HaMatzot), "The Festival of the Unleavened Bread". Matza (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday. This bread that is flat and unrisen is called Matzo.

Here comes the confusing part.
Specifically, five grains, and products made from them, may not be used during Passover — wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt — except for making matzo, which must be made from one of these five grains.

Got that? All specially-made Passover products are gluten-free, except for matzos themselves.

And to add another layer of complication, Jim Romanoff of the Associated Press wrote that "Many families keep their Passover Seders dairy-free." (Seders are the ceremonial meals served during the holiday.) Not everything for Passover will be dairy-free though. And here's another bit of long-standing confusion. Kosher foods are divided into those with meat, those with milk, and those that are neutral or parve. Parve (sometimes pareve) foods are completely dairy-free, so those of us with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies should look for foods that are labeled parve, with the full word spelled out. You'll sometimes see a capital "P" on kosher foods. That P means it's kosher for Passover, not that it's parve. That means P foods can have dairy in them.

And that brings us to a dairy-free - but not gluten-free - recipe for bread pudding, a delicacy that would normally be unavailable during Passover.

Romanoff gives a recipe for Baked Matzo Pudding with a Cherry-Almond Sauce, the sauce made with almond milk, a non-dairy milk substitute.

Salud! Oops. L'Chaim!

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