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Matzo Makers Working Overtime As Passover Approaches

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With just a week to go until the start of Passover, many were preparing for the holiday Monday by stocking up on matzo.

As CBS 2’s Diane Macedo reported, the unleavened bread is made and eaten all year long. But this close to the holiday, the production hits a whole other level.

“Passover’s coming very soon,” said Aaron Gross, president of the family-owned matzo maker Streit’s on the Lower East side, “and for Passover, you have to eat matzo. You can’t eat any leavened bread for eight days.”

This means for Streit’s, it’s crunch time.

“We’re baking 25,000 boxes a day, and go pretty much almost every day,” Gross said.

The ramped-up production started back in October, as did special religious precautions.

“The second the water and the flour touch, the whole process has to be done within 18 minutes,” Gross said. “In order for it to be kosher of Passover, you can’t give the bread time to rise.”

The idea is to replicate the hastily-baked flatbread Israelites ate during their exodus from Egypt, according to the Passover story. But just a speck of leftover dough can render a batch non-kosher, so Streit’s brings in rabbis to oversee the process.

“He has his clock over there and there’s a rabbi here, so for 15 minutes they’ll mixing on one machine, and then they go over to the other one the rabbi cleans — they wipe down everything, change their gloves, towels they’ve been using — so again, nothing older than 18 minutes goes through our machines and through our ovens,” said Rabbi Mayer Kirshner.

The flour and water also meet special requirements, and are mixed for just three minutes before being quickly sheeted and sent to the oven.

Once the matzo is all baked, it has to be broken into perfect squares so you can box it up — which means the shape has to be exact and the number has to be exact. Accomplishing that is sometimes much easier said than done.

But the customers at Streit’s said the effort pays off.

“I’m sure we’re going to do some matzo ball stuff, we’ve got our soup mixes – we’ve got, you know, the full line of Streit’s matzo — you know, getting ready for the house,” said customer Michael Levine. “So it should be a good time.”

This year, Passover begins on the evening of April 14 and ends the evening of April 22.

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