If this isn’t a burning issue for you, then either you never buy too much food or you don’t care about matzo meal. In either case, keep reading because this isn’t just about my food-hoarding tendencies, matzo meal, or Passover.
I do buy lots of matzo meal. And I hoard it. But there is a reason for my matzo-purchasing frenzy.
Every Passover I make dozens, sometimes literally hundreds, of Passover rolls. We eat them at the Seder and I send anyone at the Seder who wants them, home with an extra bag. Matzo rolls help minimize the need to consume plain matzo. If you’ve ever eaten matzo (not chocolate-covered of course), you know what I’m talking about when I say that 7 or 8 days of eating it feels like a life sentence around day 3.
Anyway, I have had 3 boxes of Streit’s matzo meal in my pantry during this year, just waiting for the next round of Passover rolls. But as I considered opening them, I noticed that I couldn’t read the date on the top of the box. Eventually I held one box at a certain angle in the sunlight and decided that it said 01 27 2013.
With no indication as to what that date meant (sell by? best by? use by?), I did what any sane person would do; I googled “how long can you keep matzo meal?” The results were unimpressive and definitely not authoritative. Many entries appearing to be random guesses from unknown people whose cooking skills and common sense were suspect to say the least.
Next move? I checked the Streit’s website. Although I didn’t find the answer, I loved the pictures and company history. It’s still a family-owned business, started in 1916. Although it is no longer located in the same lower East Side buildings in Manhattan, it is still close by. And at least according to Streit’s, it is the “only family owned and operated matzo company in America.”
What next? I called the company and used their automated dial system to leave a message for the Consumer Relations Department. When the automated message said that Rabbi Kirschner was unavailable but that I could leave a message, I nearly plotzed! A rabbi? But I was on a mission, so I got up my courage. I left a voicemail explaining my situation and asking whether it was OK to use the boxes of matzo meal. Then I went about other business, convinced that I wouldn’t hear from anyone.
But boy was I wrong! Less than a half hour later (in the middle of the Passover rush season for a matzo factory I might note), I got a call back from Rabbi Kirschner himself. He was unbelievably nice and helpful. Paraphrasing his advice but unable to replicate the wonderful cadence of his voice and the calm authority with which he spoke, I can report that if it’s been kept in a cool, dry place, (it has been), doesn’t have anything crawling around in it (most certainly it does not) and if it smells and looks right, then the matzo meal is fine to use. He explained that the date on the top is merely a suggested “best by” date, but that it’s fine to use well beyond that time.
Advice just like my mother would have given me if I’d called her! (But of course, if I’d called her, I would have gotten into a long conversation about other stuff and who needs that in the middle of a project?)
So many lessons (to learn or relearn) from one afternoon’s plan to make matzo rolls:
- There’s no harm in asking. You might learn something.
- Common sense – you’ll never be sorry if you use it. (And the answers to many questions seem like common sense when you think about them, even if the person who gives the answer is an expert and you wouldn’t have trusted the same answer if you or your mother had come up with it on your own.)
- And when in NY, go for the Streit’s matzo factory tour – I certainly will next time I’m up there.
PS – When I told this story to my husband, he looked at me as if the question “How long can you keep matzo meal?” was a no-brainer. Being Jewish, he answered the question with another question, “Does cardboard have an expiration date?”