Long lasting food is what we are all searching for when stocking up our pantries. As preppers, we have to think long-term and figure out which are the foods suited for us, but most importantly, how much will we be able to depend on them. Today we will look at Matzoh, a biblical food that stood the test of time.
“And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste: for they said, We be all dead men.
“And the people took their dough before it was leavened . . .” Exodus 12:33. 34.
“Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days, and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee . . .” Exodus 13:7.
The unleavened bread that kept the Hebrew nation alive thousands of years ago is still available and is still one of the most useful and practical survival foods you can get. Matzoh (which rhymes with “lotsa,” as in “lotsa luck”) is an unleavened bread that is prepared today much as it was thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt. It is used in Jewish holiday meals and as a snack by Jews and gentiles around many parts of the country.
Matzoh comes in corrigated cracker-like sheets, about 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches and about I/8-inch thick. It is packaged in wax-paper sealed boxes of one-pound and unlike the leavened bread we are all familiar with is compact, easily stored or transported, and unlike common crackers can be stored unchanged in quality or taste for years! My observations have been that these one-pound boxes are usually closer to 19 ounces in weight. They come with 15 matzohs of a bit more than an ounce each.
Bread and bread products are an important part of any nutritional plan. Bread is difficult to store as is, so many survivalists store its main ingredient, flour. The main problem with flour is that it cannot be eaten without mixing and cooking. For compactness and cost flour can’t be beaten, but if water is short or ovens are difficult to come by or imprudent to use at the moment, flour isn’t much help.
The following recipe makes 6 proper-sized matzohs, which should be the right amount for a small gathering. You’ll be able to mix, roll and bake your bread in 18 minutes.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup water
If you have a kitchen timer, set it for 18 minutes. Timing is not crucial for many, but it’s a deciding factor for others when time is of the essence. Make sure you have everything ready to go, so you don’t waste any time gathering all the needed equipment or ingredients.
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, oil, and water together until a ball comes together.
3. You should roll each piece very, very thin. For this task, a heavy Marble Rolling Pin works great, since you need to get the job done fast and you want it so thin. In the old days, matzoh wasn’t square, so just let the dough dictate the shape. Your main concern should be getting it as thin as possible.
4. Use a fork to dock the dough, so it won’t puff too much in the oven.
5. Slide the dough on to the preheated baking stone using a Pizza Peel and bake for about 2 minutes and then flip the dough to bake the other side.
6. To achieve the 18 minutes goal, bake more than one at a time to get them all done. I used two baking sheets in the oven at one time.
Matzoh, on the other hand, can be eaten and enjoyed in its present form, or ground up and used for most of the things that you would use flour for and much, much more. There are literally hundreds of recipes for foods made from matzoh or matzoh meal (ground up matzoh).
Matzoh, whole, makes a delicious snack or even a meal when spread with cheese or some fat product such as butter, margarine, or some kinds of rendered animal fat. Chicken fat has long been a favorite. I personally prefer butter and cream cheese with a little salt. For the kids, butter or margarine sprinkled with sugar is a big hit.
Ground coarsely and mixed with hot water and/or milk it makes a good hot cereal, ground more finely it makes really outstanding chicken breading or a true classic of Jewish cuisine, matzoh balls. These are fluffy white dumplings that go great in chicken soup. Really wonderful stuff! These are only two of the hundred things you can do with matzoh meal.
Matzoh is bread you can store, and flour you can eat. One of the nice things about matzoh is that it can become a normal part of your diet. Unlike other “survival” foods it is neither strange in taste or composition nor super expensive. People have a lot of problems paying enough for a bag of freeze-dried something-or-other to buy a nice meal at a restaurant. Although the stuff will keep for years, it’s always a good idea to be able to rotate your stock.
With matzoh that’s not a big problem. You may have to acquire a taste for it. It is not unpleasant, but it does not taste like the kind of saltine crackers you may be used to. It tastes a bit plainer, more subtle a wheat flavor, and its texture is more substantial than crackers, perhaps a bit chewier.
Matzoh for breakfast
One morning I had a dish called matzoh brei for breakfast. You beat a couple of eggs in a bowl and add a piece of matzoh crumbled into an inch or two square segments (size or shape of the pieces is unimportant). Mix them together and fry, keeping the whole thing in more or less one piece, like fried eggs. It should brown just a bit, you’ll find the inside still moist, and serve it hot.
Adults are supposed to prefer it with salt and pepper, but I like it the way kids do, with sugar or syrup on it. It is way more substantial than French toast and doesn’t wilt under syrup. Works fine with powdered eggs too.
As I mentioned, among the hundreds of recipes using matzoh or matzoh meal, the most famous is for matzoh balls.
Start with two tablespoons of fat (what type is not critical, oil is fine, too) and mix together with two eggs, or the powdered equivalent. Add half a cup of matzoh meal and one teaspoon of salt. When this mess is mixed in really well, add two tablespoons of water or soup stock. Let this covered bowl sit in a refrigerator, or a cool spot for about half an hour. Bring some salted water to a boil, two or three quarts is sufficient, reduce heat so that It bubbles a bit and drop in balls formed from the mix, a couple of inches in diameter.
Let them cook in a covered pot for a half to three-quarters of an hour. You can store these balls for a while or pop ’em right into soup. If water is in short supply, the water you cooked the matzoh balls in can be re-used to boil meat or vegetables in as soup. By the way, you should get six to 10 balls out of the mix in this recipe, depending on how big you make them.
Pre-ground matzoh meal is available from the same companies that make matzoh. But, using the principle that it is better to have something around that can be eaten and enjoyed, as-is, it is best to buy whole matzoh. Some of the companies that bake matzoh and matzoh products usually have cookbooks available for little or nothing giving you a variety of unusual and commonplace uses for matzoh.
You can make cake, pancakes, stuffing, meat or vegetable breading, and a whole bunch more. Local Jewish women’s groups often publish interesting cookbooks, and many cookbooks with matzoh recipes can be found in the larger chains of bookstores around the country. Frankly, if you want to keep it simple and cheap, write to the addresses given on the boxes of matzoh.
Where To Get It
“All this is well and good,” you might ask. “, but where do I find Moses’ favorite snack these days?” In the big cities where there are large Jewish communities, matzoh can be found in most supermarkets. There is a lot of strange stuff in supermarkets that you don’t notice if you’re not looking for it. It may be in the gourmet of foreign section, or there may be an area set aside for typically Jewish foods.
There are Jewish communities in towns all across America, so look in your local market, you might find it there. Ask the managers if they have Jewish food . . . if he looks puzzled mention kosher, or just ask for matzoh.
The bigger cities are your best bet though. I think that you will find that the prices vary from place to place and from brand to brand. Buy the cheapest, as I said: “one is about the same as another” and freshness is not a concern. It is also available, at times, with five boxes packed together in a large, airtight, plastic wrapper. Double the protection.
By the way, if your matzoh does get a little damp (it gets a bit flexible and chewier) a few minutes in an oven crisps it right up, good as new. There is a secret to getting a really good bargain on matzoh. Because of its origins in the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt in Bible times, it is used as part of the ritual celebration of the Hebrew’s liberation from slavery under the Pharaoh of Egypt.
This holiday is called Passover (because the Lord “passed over” the homes of the Hebrews when he smoat the first-born of Egypt) and occurs about the same time of year as Easter. Each year matzoh is prepared for that year’s celebration and is used only for that year’s holiday.
The rules of the Jewish religion do not permit it to be used for the next year’s Passover. Aside from its religious significance, a year’s Passover matzoh is identical to matzoh baked at any other time of year, and for any other Passover. Once the holiday is over in a particular year, that year’s Passover matzoh that is left over is usually sold at a fraction of the normal price. Even at normal prices, matzoh is a bargain in survival food, but surplus Passover matzoh is cheaper.
Since it keeps almost indefinitely if you can catch one of these sales you can stock up for a store set to last for years.
The “bread of haste” baked without the time to leaven sustained the Hebrew people through the long struggle to freedom and safety. One day you too may find that matzoh, the unleavened bread of the Exodus, will help sustain you through an emergency of man-made oppression, like war, or an act of God, like a flood, earthquake, or blizzard.