You may have tried matzo many a time, but how much do you really know about it? This simple baked good has a few stories to tell.
As Passover beckons, you’re likely to see the stores filling up with one very special (not to mention holy!) type of flatbread. Matzo is everywhere at the moment. But how much do you really know about it? Steeped in religious significance, there’s a whole load of facts you should know about this simple baked good. Here are just five.
1. It has many names
Matzo, matzah, matza, matzoh… This is a bread with many different names. Since the word comes from Hebrew and has no direct English translation, you will hear people refer to it in a variety of ways.
As if that weren’t confusing enough, it’s sometimes called the “bread of affliction” or “poor bread.” These are translations of the terms used for the bread in the Torah, which are now used by English-speakers around the world.
2. The world’s largest matzo ball was made in New York
Back in 2009, one of the most exciting foodie Guinness World Records was set. Yes, the largest matzo ball was made by Noah’s Ark Original Deli in New York. According to the official site, the giant bread ball consisted of 1,000 eggs, 80 pounds of margarine, 20 pounds of chicken base and 200 pounds of matzo meal. That’s a whole lot of ingredients. What’s more, the finished result weighed a whopping 267 pounds. That’d be a lot of matzo ball soup!
3. The first matzo machine was invented in 1838
Ever wondered how they produce so much matzo? Well, it’s quite simple, really. Back in 1838, a French man named Isaac Singer was the first to invent the dough-rolling machine that would help mass-produce the bread. When the machine was first unveiled to the public, many rabbis refused to accept it. However, over the years, it became the fastest, easiest way to make matzo.
4. It has to be made in 18 minutes
To make a traditional matzo, you’re going to have to be pretty speedy. The bread has to be made within a short and sweet 18-minute window. If you end up running over the deadline, the baked result can no longer be called a matzo. Instead, it is known as a chametz or “leavened matzo” and cannot be consumed by Jews during the holy time of Passover.
5. There’s a reason Jewish people eat it during Passover
Have you ever wondered why Jewish people eat only matzo (and no other leavened bread products) during Passover? According to the Torah, when the Egyptian Pharaoh finally agreed to set the enslaved Jews free, they had to leave fast. The Pharaoh soon changed his mind and decided to chase Moses’ people.
That meant that they had very little time to prepare food for the long journey ahead. So, rather than baking bread, they made a simple concoction of flour and water, which came out flat when baked. The result was (yep) matzo.
Try These Perfect Passover Recipes
Pop this homey dinner in the oven for about an hour, then enjoy! It’s got plenty of flavor—the meat juices help cook the veggies just perfectly. —Sherri Melotik, Oak Creek, Wisconsin
A variety of winter vegetables gives the broth for this classic Jewish soup a deep flavor. You can use a few green onions instead of the leek. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Give tender beef a festive touch with cinnamon, cloves, coriander and a kiss of sweetness from orange and dates. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Radishes aren’t just for salads anymore. This abundant springtime veggie makes a colorful side to any meal. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
Next time you’re rushed by last-minute guests, try this fancy, flavorful salmon. With pistachios, brown sugar and dill, it’s a guaranteed hit. —Cathy Hudak, Wadsworth, Ohio
My family is turning to quinoa more and more these days. It’s a super grain that’s packed with protein and vitamins. Plus, it can be paired with any kind of main course. —Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
It’s elegant. It’s special. And it will have your guests thinking you went all out. They don’t have to know how simple it is. —Susan Nilsson, Sterling, Virginia
In general, procedures for roasting meat apply to poultry, too. That means if you use a dry rub on a steak, a dry rub will benefit a chicken. A blend of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne go on the skin and inside the cavity for a bright, spicy roast chicken. —Margaret Cole, Imperial, Missouri
Popovers have an important role at the Passover table, substituting for bread. When puffed and golden brown, they’re ready to share. —Gloria Mezikofsky, Wakefield, Massachusetts
Here’s one dish that never gets old in our house. Tender and juicy, with a great sweet and sour twist. We’d eat it every night if we could! —Jolie Albertazzie, Moreno Valley, California
We have a family member that has diabetes, so dessert can get tricky. These sweet, nutritious stuffed figs keep us all happy. —Bob Bailey, Columbus, Ohio
This addictive vegetable combo is a fresh take on one of my mother’s standard wintertime dishes. I usually add more carrots—as many as the pans will hold. —Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
I love lamb stew, but wanted to try something a bit different, so I created this recipe that uses Moroccan spices. It’s a wonderful way to use lamb, and it’s easy to make in the slow cooker. The stew tastes even better served a day or two later, when the flavors have really had a chance to meld. —Bridget Klusman, Otsego, Michigan
It’s hard for our family to imagine eating mashed potatoes any other way but this. It tastes great on its own or drizzled with tahini sauce. —Nikki Haddad, Germantown, Maryland
The trick to avoid overcooking a good piece of fish is to cook it at a high temperature for a short amount of time. Do that and the fish stays moist and tender. —Sherry Day, Pinckney, Michigan
Every Christmas, friends have a huge potluck party. I wanted to bring something unique, so I topped off endive and watercress with jewel-toned pomegranate seeds. —Alysha Braun, St. Catharines, Ontario
My roasted salmon is so simple but elegant enough to serve to company. I make it on days when I have less than an hour to cook. —Luanne Asta, East Hampton, New York
When it comes to fixing asparagus, I think it’s hard to go wrong. The springy flavors in this easy recipe burst with every bite. —Jenn Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
Charoset with apples, walnuts and spices has a special meaning for the Passover holiday. It represents mortar used for brickmaking when the Israelites were in Egypt. The sweetness represents freedom. —Gloria Mezikofsky, Wakefield, Massachusetts
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