How Our Seafood Producers Navigate the Waters of Kosher for Passover Supervision

For the Jewish people, Passover is not just another holiday. Our reliving of the Exodus from Egypt is also a time when families make time to be together and indulge in our favorite national pastime… eating. Besides matzah, wine and chicken soup, few foods conjure up traditional feelings more than the fish products our families have enjoyed for ages.

Manischewitz Gefilte FishFor this reason, many of our certified fish producers have discovered the Passover market to be one worth their investment. To be kosher for Passover, the OU requires that most fish products be manufactured under on-site rabbinic supervision. As with any special production, some changes in production will be required. For most piscatorial provision providers, these changes are fairly minor and simple to comply with. Companies generally schedule those productions between December and February, in order to have product ready to ship in time for this year’s late April holiday.

Few fish products are more traditional than gefilte fish. For Passover meals, be it jarred, canned, frozen or fresh, no food is more widely served as a first course than gefilte fish. The on-site supervisors will either be present to watch the filleting, or the manufacturer will purchase fillets that were already skinned under on-site supervision. The major changes to production would be the substitution of either Passover-certified matzo meal or potato starch, as well as carrageenan and xanthan gum, and the use of Passover certified oil instead of soy, corn or canola. If the fish is being cooked (jarred or canned), the equipment will also have to be kosherized under on-site supervision.

What would Sunday morning breakfast be without matzo, lox and a shmear? Thankfully, many of our smoked salmon producers have risen to the need for the original raw fish delicacy. Supplanting sugar for corn syrup in the brine, and having special Passover certified coloring agents and spices are the biggest changes here. In the case of a hot-smoked fish (whitefish, sable or chubs, for example) the OU may require a kosherization of the smoking ovens (depending on the nature of their use during the year).

Canning fish under Passover supervision is somewhat more complex. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all available to the Passover consumer with the OU-P kosher symbol. For each of these fish, the rabbi must first kosherize the retort ovens before production begins. In the case of tuna, the Rabbinic Field Representative will look at each fish as it is brought into the processing line, to confirm that it is a kosher fish. The rabbi will have to confirm that all processing additives (whether they are flavors, sauces, oils or broths) conform to the Passover Schedule A. He will also need to be directly involved in the cooking process. This involves either turning on the retort or adjusting the boiler. Labeling must be done under Passover supervision as well. In the case of canned salmon (where bright-stack is sent to various labeling houses around the Pacific Northwest), the Rabbinic Field Representative will confirm that the can codes conform to his Passover certified list before labeling can commence.

Herring is also available to Kosher for Passover consumers. From its initial processing, the rabbi will keep the semi-processed herring under seal until it is bottled. The Passover Schedule A will typically include sources of Passover-approved vinegar and glacial acetic acid that differ from those used all year. Special sauces, pickling spices and other additives must be specially approved for Passover as well.

Over the past few years, you may have noticed Passover-certified fish sticks in the freezer case! These tasty nuggets swim through kosherized fryers (filled with Passover certified oil), cloaked in either potato starch or matzo meal-based breading and Passover approved spices. Any way you cut it, the OU is certifying whatever fish products the kosher consumer needs in order to enjoy the Passover “Sea”son!

OU Kosher Staff