Tag Archives: Lower East Side

The End of an Era: Streit’s Matzo Factory To Leave the Lower East Side

Fresh baked matzah from Streit's factory; Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.kosherlikeme.com.

Fresh baked matzah from Streit’s factory;
Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.kosherlikeme.com

After nearly 100 years, Streit’s Matzo Factory on the Lower East Side will be moving out. It’s especially sad to me because I give Jewish Food Tours in this neighborhood, and one of the highlights is stopping by the factory and store to get a taste of freshly baked matzah, still warm from the oven. It’s also a loss since it is one of the few remaining family owned businesses still standing in lower Manhattan, going back to the turn of the 19th century. (Hopefully Yonah Schimmel’s, Katz’s Deli, and Russ & Daughters will hang in there!) They will remain open until the end of this month, and move to their warehouse in New Jersey. Eventually they will reopen in a new location, to be announced!

Check out this article on npr to learn more.

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Making Matzah at the Factory

 

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Streit’s Matzo Documentary: A Recipe for Success on the Lower East Side

Window sign at Streit's matzah factory on the Lower East Side; Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.kosherlikeme.com.

Window sign at Streit’s matzah factory on the Lower East Side;
Photo by ©Liz Rueven, http://www.kosherlikeme.com.

Streit’s Matzos has been around since the early 1920s and is the last family owned factory of its kind still standing in the United States. Like only a few places still functioning on the Lower East Side, Streit’s represents an important party of Jewish-American history. It’s worth stopping by to see (and taste) for yourself what makes this place so special!

Check out the campaign to make a documentary about Streit’s!

Koula’s Greek Matzah Meal Spinach and Dill Pie

KoulaKofinas_SpinPie_BlogSeveral years ago I was invited down to a Passover demo at Kehila Kedosha Janina, a Romaniote synagogue (built in 1927 by Jews from Janina, Greece) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. I was warmly greeted by Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos (the synagogue’s museum director) who introduced me to the community. I was touched by how welcoming the members were, and through this event I gathered many contacts (who I later interviewed) for my Passover cookbook research.

Below is a recipe that was demonstrated by Koula, and adapted by me later on. It is not only delicious, but a dish that is great to serve with either a meat or dairy meal because it is parve.

Koula’s Greek Matzah Meal Spinach and Dill Pie
(Yield: Serves 6 to 8 / Makes Nine 3-Inch Squares)

For Filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1½ cups coarsely chopped yellow onions
Three 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach leaves, defrosted and well drained
½ to ¾ cup finely chopped fresh dill leaves
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 to 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons matzah meal

For Dough:
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
1½ to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups matzah meal

Prepare the Filling:
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Add the chopped onions and mix well.
Cook until soft and transparent, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the defrosted spinach leaves and mix well to coat with the oil and onions. Cover with a lid and cook, over medium heat, until the spinach becomes very soft and the water has cooked off or been absorbed, about 30 minutes.

3. Throw in the chopped dill, parsley, salt, and pepper and mix well, and remove from heat.
Pour spinach mixture into a large mixing bowl and cool until slightly warm or to room temperature.

4. Mix in the beaten eggs and matzah meal. Set aside to prepare the dough.

Prepare the Dough:
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with oil.

6. In separate large mixing bowl, pour in the oil, water, and salt and mix briefly. Slowly pour in the matzah meal and mix until a soft dough is formed. Using your hands, scoop up the dough and pat into
a smooth ball. Divide dough into two even balls.

Assemble the Pie:
7. Using your fingers and the palms of your hands, flatten one ball of dough evenly along the bottom f the pan, making sure to reach all of the corners (do not press dough up along the sides).

8. Pour the spinach filling over the bottom layer of dough and spread out evenly with a butter knife
or rubber spatula.

9. To cover the filling with the remaining dough, sprinkle the dough evenly over the top like you would
a fruit crumble, then dip your palms briefly in cold water and gently press down to make the top
more compact.

10. Pierce the surface of the dough 5 or 6 times in several places with a fork or small knife to create air holes. Bake on middle rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and along the sides. Cool to room temperature before cutting into 6 rectangles or 9 squares for serving. (You can also try to flip the pie completely out of the pan by placing a large square platter over the top of the pan and carefully and quickly flipping it over so that the bottom crust becomes the top.)

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

Streit’s matzah factory preparing six months before Passover!

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On our way to Streit’s matzah factory!
Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.KosherLikeMe.com

On February 12th I gave one of my Jewish food tours of the Lower East Side. I had three people on my tour: one woman who was also a docent for marketplaces in Turkey, one visitor all the way from Australia, and Liz Reuven, a food blogger for Kosher Like Me. After making our way down East Houston Street to have delicious tastes from Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, Russ & Daughters appetizing shop, and the famous Katz’s Delicatessen, we continued down Rivington Street towards the Streit’s matzah factory. I never am quite sure if Streit’s will be open since the owners are very observant (and there are often small holidays that I don’t even know about!), but that morning we were lucky. As soon as we walked into the store the warm smell of freshly baked matzah greeted us. Directly to the right of the door large, flat squares of perforated matzah were being pushed out of the machine, reminding me of of an old fashioned printing press. And behind the counter was Rabbi Kirshner, warmly welcoming us into the store
and factory.

Window sign at Streit's matzah factory on the Lower East Side;Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.kosherlikeme.com.

Window sign at Streit’s matzah factory on the Lower East Side.
Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.KosherLikeMe.com

Streit’s was first founded by Aron Streit (an immigrant from Austria) and his wife in 1916. The factory was originally set up on Pitt Street on the Lower East Side, but the present location on Rivington Street has been the same since 1925, and is still family owned. Each trip to the factory I learn something new and interesting. For example, the factory looks small since you see only the store and one of the machines upfront, however the factory is actually four buildings wide and several floors high, and where ALL of the Streit’s matzot and other products are produced for all commercial sales. On the shelves you can purchase more than just simple matzah. Red jelly candies called, “Gefilte Fish” hanging in small bags on the wall bring small chuckles from customers, while on the shelves sit a variety of matzah types such as whole wheat, organic, spelt, and egg — all of which reflect the modern palate. Rabbi Kirshner noted that for half of the year they are producing matzah and related products for every day consumption. I was curious about who all of these people were that bought matzah year-round (for me it’s really just something that you do during the week of Passover once a year) and he further went on to explain that there were a number of customers who enjoyed the crispy texture of the matzah, and felt it to be a healthier substitute for crackers and breads since it was low in salt, sugar, and fat. These matzot also contained some added ingredients, such as vegetable oil or seasonings, while the ones made just for Passover time only have flour and water.

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The original matzah making “printing press”.

Fresh baked matzah from Streit's factory; Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.kosherlikeme.com.

Closeup of matzah rolling out of oven.
Photo by ©Liz Rueven, www.KosherLikeMe.com

The preparation of kasher-ing and cleaning the entire factory and machines (to produce matzah that is KLP, or Kasher L’Pesach) began as early as Sukkot, six months before Passover begins (on this morning I noticed that the non-KLP products were on sale by 50% in order to start cleaning the shelves and make way for the KLP ones in mid-March). During this time they meticulously take apart each machine (removing every tiny screw), carry them to the curbside, and clean them in the appropriate fashion before reconstructing the machines again. This is serious stuff, and I thought about the amount of time, money, and dedication it takes to keep this business going. The other very important factor is the preparation of the matzot for Passover. For these you have the rabbis overseeing the production to make sure that the total time that it takes for the matzah ingredients to be mixed together, rolled out, cut, and completely baked must be no more than 18 minutes from begging to end. The understood rule is that it is believed that up until 18 minutes the dough has not had enough time to rise in any way. After 18 minutes the leavening process begins, making the matzah unkosher for Passover consumption. In order to be sure that there is no contamination, the mixers have to be thoroughly cleaned between each batch so as to be sure that there are no small remnants of dough left that could have leavened during that time and affect future batches. I started to shake my head in amazement thinking how exhausting this whole process was. But then I smiled realizing that what made this factory so unique was not simply that it still existed after all of these years on the Lower East Side, but that its owners had been training its staff how to follow the same stringent rituals of producing their matzah as their great-grandparents had. The patient and religious attention to detail is paramount to the quality and integrity of the product, and what it symbolizes. I have had several individuals confide in me that they would never eat matzah any other time of the year because “it tastes like cardboard”. But on Passover, the taste is familiar and delicious. This is because the matzah tells a story of our Hebrew ancestors when they were fleeing from Egypt and did not have enough time to let the dough for their bread rise in the usual way. When you bite into that first piece of matzah on the first night of Passover, you know that the traditions have been kept for centuries, and even as a fairly secular Jew, I respect that dedication to observance. This is the aspect of Jewish food, and particularly Passover food, that I love and want to help keep alive. Without the rigorous attention to detail inherent in these ancient Passover rituals, the matzah would cease to be special, and so would the holiday itself, even to those of us who are less observant.

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Me with Rabbi Kirschner.

Here are some links to other things regarding matzah and Streit’s that you might be interested in:

YouTube video of Rabbi Kirshner speaking,
January 31, 2013

“The Amazing Matzo Stimulus,”
New York Times, April 2012.

The Seder

A Simple Passover Haggadah

Eshkol HaKofer

Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe!

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In my Iraqi Kitchen: Recipes, History and Culture, by Nawal Nasrallah

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