Operation: Purge the Hametz

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The countdown is on. Pesach is just around the corner, and you may feel like you should put on sneakers, since you’re literally racing against the clock. Though you’ve done the Pesach cleaning once over, and your house is kind of clean, you’ve still got lots of crumbs to conquer and only a week-and-a-half remaining.  

So in an effort to get started, you don your apron, pick up the dust-buster, and grab a roll of paper towels. And as you catch a glimpse of your reflection in the hallway mirror, you know what this means: Operation Purge the Hametz has begun, and you are prepared for battle. Ready or not, Pesach is coming.  

Ladies (and gentlemen!), we’re all in the same boat. Whether you live in a three-bedroom apartment or a three-floor home, it’s time to do some serious Pesach cleaning. Because before you blink, it will be seder night, and at that point your home had better be hametz-free. Consider yourself as an army-general on a series of highly important missions, and hametz is the enemy. 

Mission 1: Empty Those Cupboards 

Granola bars out, matzah in. It’s time to get rid of every last cracker, pretzel, and Cheerio from your pantry. So enlist your kids – and maybe the neighbor’s kids, too – and get snacking. In the event that the group of children you have invited to your hametz-fest can’t seem to devour it all, send your kids to school with the extras. The perpetual snack-forgetters won’t be able to thank you enough. Another way to get rid of all the not-for-Pesach foods is to lay them out on a table in your kitchen. As the members of your family pass them by, they may be overcome with a serious case of the munchies.  

Once the shelves that used to hold cans, boxes, and jars of hametz are bare, it is time to check for crumbs. Clean each shelf extremely well, and use long skewers to get into those hard-to-reach crevices and corners. Line the shelves with plastic or foil, and you are ready to stock them with your kosher-for-Passover purchases. 

Mission 2: Purge the Perishables 

Fridge and freezer alike need to be emptied. Use the ingredients that can’t be used for Pesach to create culinary delights that your family can enjoy during the next few days (until your kitchen is koshered). Also, consult with your rabbi to find out which edibles can be sold before Pesach, and which ones should be thrown out. Accumulate all the bread (rolls, hamburger buns, pita, and the like) in a large shopping bag, and set it aside to be burned on erev Pesach. 

Scrub the fridge and freezer until they gleam. Put the perishable items that you will be selling on one shelf (make sure they are completely sealed), and cover those sold items on that shelf with aluminum foil or butcher paper, so they cannot be seen. Once all spills and crumbs are things of the past, your kosher-for-Passover perishables can move in.  

Mission 3: Shop Till You Drop 

Speaking of kosher-for-Passover perishables (and non-perishables), stock up on all the food you will need for the eight days of Pesach. Bring your lists of ingredients and seder-necessities along for the ride, so you can be sure to buy what you need.  Since the prices of kosher-for-Pesach edibles tend to be exorbitant, try not to over-buy in order to keep spending in check. Remember, Pesach is eight days long, not eight months long. So while you need to stock up, you shouldn’t overstock. 

Note: Homemade potato salad, matzah-pizza, and matzah-cereal (matzah pieces with milk and a dash of sugar) are delicious and filling creations that are also cheaper than the store-bought options.  

Mission 4: Occupy the Kids 

Once you get home and are ready to unload your groceries, you are likely to have a restless troupe awaiting you. Shouts of “I’m hungry!” or “There’s nothing to do!” may ring through the air, but you can be prepared.  

Accomplish this mission by sending the children on a mission of their own. Have them make “Absolutely No Hametz in Here!” or “This Room Is Clean for Pesach” signs to hang up throughout the house. Bring home some store-bought pizza or other take-out food, and assuming that the weather allows it, instruct them to eat on the porch. This way, they can munch without trekking hametz through your very clean house. 

Mission 5: Tackle the Kitchen 

This is likely the most difficult mission you will face. Koshering the kitchen so it’s Pesach-ready can give even the most seasoned Pesach-cleaning general the jitters. That being said, it is also the only way to make Passover cooking possible. So recruit family members and any cleaning help that you can afford, and prepare for battle. 

Set aside utensils that can’t be koshered (such as china or pottery) or those that cannot be fully cleaned because hametz has possibly been trapped in the grooves (like cheese graters, colanders, and mini choppers). Place them in a cabinet or drawer, and seal it shut. Next, thoroughly clean any items that will be koshered, and make sure not to use them for 24 hours.  

Sweep, spray, and scrub the kitchen until it is completely clean, taking extreme care to eradicate any crumbs in all drawers and cabinets. Now you can begin the koshering process (see chart on right). 

Once the koshering process is completed, send all able-bodied men to carry in the boxes that contain Passover dishes. After washing and drying, place them in a clean cupboard. Congratulations! You have graduated kitchen-koshering boot-camp. You may begin cooking. 

Mission Six: Prepare the Sephardic Pesach Staple 

Here’s a riddle: What is white, pairs great with every food, and is part of every Sephardic Passover meal?  

You got it! It’s rice. But in order to use this side dish that we all love, it needs to be checked and cleaned before it is cooked. You must sift through the pounds of rice three times, being sure to look out for kernels of wheat. Or, for a hefty fee, you can purchase pre-checked rice from someone who has already done all the work. 

Mission 7: Shell Out Those Meals 

Now that the rice is ready, “Cook-and-Freeze” is the name of the game. Lots of meals are coming your way, and it’s best to prepare as much as you can in advance. So put on your chef’s hat for this one. Add a dash of this and a pinch of that, and your kitchen will soon be enveloped by that incredible Pesach aroma.  

Mission 8: Clean Those Wheels 

This is a great way to keep the older kids busy. Send them to get rid of all the garbage and crumbs from your cars, and if any of your teens are old enough to drive, they can even pay a visit to the carwash.  

Mission 9: Bedikat Hametz 

Bedikat hametz – when you and your children hide ten tightly sealed bags of bread and let your husband search for them – is the last attempt to find any morsels that may be in hiding. This is the time to scout out the field and check in all those inconspicuous places for any hametz-mines. Be mindful to search underneath every bed, and inside every briefcase, handbag, and coat pocket.  

Mission 10: Relax and Enjoy 

There’s not a speck of hametz in sight – you have conquered the enemy. You have triumphed. After all this time of trying to claim kosher-for-Pesach territory, it may be difficult to unwind. But you need to take a few deep breaths, put on your Pesach best, and get ready to enjoy the beautiful holiday that you have worked so hard to prepare. So sit down in a crumb-free chair, and relish in your achievements. Missions accomplished! 

 

Sidebar – Place next to Mission #5 

Koshering Process Chart 

UTENSILS 

  1. Take the largest pot you have (make sure it hasn’t been used in the past 24 hours!) and fill it with water; bring to a boil.  
  1. Heat a rock on the stove until it is glowing red. Using Passover tongs, drop it into the pot, causing the water to overflow. Spill out the hot water, and rinse the pot in cold water. 
  1. Refill the pot, and bring the water to a boil once more. 
  1. Immerse utensils, ensuring that each one is completely submerged in boiling water, and that they don’t touch the sides of the pot. 
  1. After immersion, each utensil must be rinsed in cold water. 
  1.  Dry and put away in a hametz-free drawer. 

COUNTERTOPS AND SINKS 

  1. Ascertain the material of the surface.  
  1. Formica and the like can’t be koshered, so clean thoroughly and cover. 
  1. Granite, marble, stainless steel, and metal can be koshered. For these surfaces, make sure that hot water has not touched them for 24 hours. Boil water in a kosher for Passover pot and pour all over the surface.  

OVEN 

  1. Don’t use for 24 hours before koshering.
  2. Clean thoroughly. (Try to do this when the children are out, as oven cleaner is dangerous and the fumes can be overpowering.)
  3. Set to highest possible temperature, and leave on for as many hours as it takes for the racks to become glowing red.
  4. You can also use your oven’s self-clean feature or a blowtorch to accomplish this.
  5. Don’t ever leave the oven unattended while on.