Pros:For Passover, this is okay ...
Cons:... but I wouldn't use it the rest of the year.
The Bottom Line: If you want ketchup during Passover, it's good enough. Yes, it's not as thick and tasty as Heinz, but it's Kosher for Passover -- the main requirement.
My Passover menu has been adversely affected by the lack of Kosher for Passover products available in the Reno/Sparks area. I went to our nearby Safeway because my husband mentioned that they had a table display of Passover products. I had to ask the clerk to remove three of them because they were stamped “not for use during Passover.” A Smith’s supermarket in the southern part of Reno had a slightly larger selection, and they were all Kosher for Passover. Therefore, I felt the need to buy whatever was available in the one store that actually had more than just matzoh. This is how I ended up buying Gefen Tomato Ketchup.
Recommend this product?
Typical Passover dishes don’t need ketchup. Hot dogs and hamburgers need buns. There are no buns for Passover. Therefore, I felt obligated to make burgers twice for dinner to make it appear as though we needed Kosher for Passover ketchup. Luckily, a recipe for apricot chicken in Bubby’s Guide to Traditional Passover Cooking called for ketchup (yummy and easy).
The major difference between standard ketchup and Kosher for Passover ketchup is that the former contains corn syrup. Ashkenazi Jews, whose ancestry traces back to Eastern Europe, aren’t permitted to eat corn, rice, or beans. This includes products containing any form of these. That means no corn syrup or soybean oil. When these two ingredients are taboo, nearly every condiment and salad dressing in the fridge is considered chametz. They also contribute to the flavor and texture of them, so the Kosher for Passover versions will taste different. Generally, the difference is slight but not always.
Gefen Ketchup doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not as thick as my usual brand and has a slightly different flavor. It reminds me of thinned down tomato paste more than ketchup. It’s not thin, just not quite as thick. When I pour some on my plate, there is no ketchup hesitation. I only needed to squeeze the bottle on my second and third use because I had used about a half cup of it in the chicken recipe.
Speaking of that recipe, the difference in flavor and consistency that is noticeable atop a burger doesn’t affect the flavor of sauces in which you add ketchup. We’ve made the apricot chicken at other times of the year, so I would know if the flavor was different when we make it during Passover.
During my childhood, my mother didn’t buy ketchup that was Kosher for Passover. We simply didn’t need it.. My mother made roast chicken, boiled chicken and soup (it’s not dinner unless there are two chicken feet sticking out of a giant pot), turkey, pot roast, and halibut. Potatoes were either boiled or grated into kugels and latkes. Hence, no need for ketchup. She would have used tomato paste and several other ingredients for that chicken.
There is one other possible reason that Kosher for Passover ketchup seems like a recent idea to me. When I was a child in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, corn syrup was probably not the ubiquitous sweetener it is now. Ketchup probably contained cane sugar – like sodas and chocolates once did. I haven’t researched this theory of mine, but it makes sense. There is also a revolution on the horizon because some rabbinical discussions about corn syrup have come up with the thought that by the time corn becomes corn syrup, it’s no longer corn. If that opinion becomes the new rule, it will mean many products will be considered Kosher for Passover even though they contain corn syrup. On the other hand (as Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye would say), many Jews will cling to the idea that corn syrup is chametz. I’ll probably still buy Gefen Tomato Ketchup for Passover. After all, it’s only eight days. For that short a time, it’s certainly good enough. I’ll go back to Heinz after Passover. Why make a big tzimmis* out of it?
*Tzimmis is a candied stew usually made with carrots and prunes. It’s a traditional side dish during Passover. Because of the time it takes to cook tzimmis, it’s also a Yiddish slang term similar to making a mountain out of a molehill. It goes along with hokking a chinuk (literal translation: banging on a tea kettle), Yiddish for beating a dead horse or pursuing a salient point – depending on whether you are the speaker or the captive listener.