A charoset competition covered in our pages in 1978, with contestants (left to right) Augusta Levin, Kate Shannen, Sonia Mintz, Frieda Gross, Rachel Fishman, Celia Gold, Ruby Tobias and Bessie Goldberg. There's no word on who won! (Photo/J. Archives)
A charoset competition covered in our pages in 1978, with contestants (left to right) Augusta Levin, Kate Shannen, Sonia Mintz, Frieda Gross, Rachel Fishman, Celia Gold, Ruby Tobias and Bessie Goldberg. There's no word on who won! (Photo/J. Archives)

Decades ago, our Passover recipes boldly name-dropped brands

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What to cook for Passover? Apparently it’s an eternal question — at least in our pages.

In 1944, we ran the following:

“Passover comes along and the housewife begins to worry about her recipes. They are always among her major worries, regardless of how expert she is. But Passover and rationing present a special problem. Here are some suggested recipes from which you may create many variations by experimenting to your heart’s content.”

While rationing is no longer a concern, it’s fun to look back at some of the recipes we ran that helped readers prepare for the seder.

Today, we would never let men off the hook for Passover prep. But how could you pass up this recommendation from Lillian Morris, the author of that 1944 article? “I found that my friends like this cake, and some of them are pretty difficult to please. The preparation is simple and certainly doesn’t take up too much time.”

Matzoh Cake

  • 1/2 pound sugar
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • 6 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup matzoh flour
  • Passover oil

Separate the eggs. Beat the whites; then mix with the sugar. Add the yolks to mixture and beat well. Add a little Passover oil, flour and salt.

Mix thoroughly. Bake in hot oven for five minutes, and in moderate oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

In the “Pantry Patter” column in 1936, we served up Passover pancakes, which included a heaping cup of sponsored content. Ads for some of the key ingredients ran next to the recipe.

Matzo Pancakes

For one pancake, soak two Manischewitz matzos in cold water till soft, drain and add two Nulaid eggs. By using Nulaid eggs you are assured of freshness and quality.

Then add a quarter-cup full of Borden’s milk, that rich, creamy milk, a little sugar and cinnamon for taste and a quarter-cup of raisins. Mix well and fry in Borden’s delicious creamy butter.

A 1936 matzah ad. (Photo/J. Archives)
A 1936 matzah ad. (Photo/J. Archives)

In the delightfully titled 1981 “Adventures in Eating,” we recommended Chicken Veronique for Passover.

“This recipe for Chicken Veronique has been adapted for Passover using matzo meal for the breading. Planters Peanut Oil is essential for the success of this Passover dish as it is kosher and pareve every day of the year, including Passover.”

Chicken Veronique

  • 2 Tbsp. matzoh meal
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 (3-4 pound) broiler-fryer, cut in serving pieces
  • 1/4 cup Planters Peanut Oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. slivered orange peel
  • 1 cup halved seedless white grapes
  • Halved orange slices

Combine matzo meal, salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper; use to lightly dust chicken pieces.

In a large skillet, brown chicken in peanut oil. Add wine, orange juice, honey, parsley and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add orange peel and continue cooking until chicken is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove chicken to serving platter. Garnish with grapes and orange slices. Serves five.

You may have noticed the (branded) inclusion of peanut oil in that recipe. Let’s talk a bit about peanut oil! According to the 2020 book “Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food,” Lithuanian Jews adopted peanut oil to replace chicken fat, with the belief that a peanut wasn’t a legume. (It actually is.) By the 1970s, it was a common Passover ingredient.

“However, late-arriving Hungarian and Israeli folkways fought and triumphed over the Lithuanian foodway by the final decades of the 1900s,” writes Jewish studies professor Zev Eleff, a contributor to the book.

Peanuts and peanut oil are now widely considered not kosher for Passover.

Planters definitely spent some advertising dollars on pushing its oil, though. One recipe for Passover that we featured in 1970 definitely doesn’t meet the stringent editorial guidelines about separating news coverage from ad sales.

In a recipe for dessert dumplings, we wrote:

“Lightest and most subtle of the common cooking oils, peanut oil does not impart a taste of its own to other foods. In fact, it actually brings out the flavor of added ingredients. Peanut oil offers special advantages for Jewish-style cooking throughout the year as an all-purpose cooking oil.

“To help you plan more interesting and varied menus is a 32-page cookbook. ‘Five Great Cuisines with Planters Peanut Oil.’ It features a special section on Jewish cuisine in addition to culinary classics and improvisations from France, Italy, China and the U.S.A. Lavishly illustrated with 20 full-color photographs.”

Cinnamon Dumplings with Plum Sauce

  • 2 cups hot whipped potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/4 cup Planters Peanut Oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 jar (12-ounce) plum preserves
  • 1 Tbsp. water

In a large bowl combine potatoes and salt. Alternately blend in eggs and matzo meal. Stir in 2 tablespoons Planters Peanut Oil.

Shape into 1-inch balls and drop into boiling water. Allow to boil gently about 3 to 5 minutes. (Dumplings float to surface when done.) Remove and drain. 

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Roll potato balls in cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place in a large shallow baking pan. Sprinkle balls with remaining 2 tablespoons Planters Peanut Oil. Bake in a hot oven (400 degrees F) 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine preserves and water in a saucepan. Heat until melted and warm. Serve over dumplings.

Makes about 6 servings.

The last recipe we’ll leave you with comes from the 1939 article “Culinary Virtuosity.”

“Many of America’s greatest professional musicians are amateur cooks, who seize upon the Passover as the time to return home and practice their culinary virtuosity in line with their own gastronomical tastes,” we wrote.

Very intriguing is this recipe for a dairy-heavy concoction from Birobidzan, the Siberian colony that Russia intended — for a while — to become the home of the Jews and the world center of Yiddish culture. American dancer Pauline Koner submitted this recipe, which has four kinds of dairy products in one dish: “Miss Koner spent an especially colorful Passover two years ago in Biro-Bidjan, where the festive board during the holiday week featured a delicious dessert known as Pasha.”

Pasha

Rub 3/4 pound cream cheese (free from moisture) through a sieve and mix in a bowl with 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup of butter, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 cup of chopped almonds, 3/4 cup of candied peel, 1/3 cup of stoned raisins, blending thoroughly.

Line a mould with muslin, fill the mould with the mixture, cover with muslin, put a weight over it and stand in a cold place for 12 hours. Serve with cream.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.