This April, we celebrate the religious seasons of Passover and Easter during the same week. In fact, the holidays often coincide with each other because both have days set by a lunar calendar (compared to our solar calendar) that recognizes full moons and Spring. Easter is always on the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. Passover is on the 15th of the month of spring—usually April—which is also a full moon. However, roughly every three years, a month is added to the lunar calendar, causing the timing to be a little off. During those “lunar leap years,” Easter comes about a month before Passover.
There is biblical and historical evidence that the Last Supper for Christians was a Passover Seder meal, as Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish, and returned to Jerusalem during Passover. In theme, the two holidays are similar in that they both celebrate liberation—Passover in the liberation of slavery from Egypt, and Easter in the liberation of humanity from sin and death.
The food traditions of Passover are deeply symbolic with a first and possible second Seder meal celebrated after nightfall on the first two nights of Passover. Not featured during the meal are leavened foods made of grain, known as “chametz.” Chametz is prohibited during Passover, therefore, you won’t find any pasta, cookies or bread at the seder. Each food on a Seder plate is symbolic for a specific aspect of Passover: A roasted lamb shank bone represents the Passover sacrifice, an egg represents spring and the circle of life, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, haroset (an applesauce-like mixture with wine, nuts, apples, etc.) represents the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt, karpas (or greens, often parsley) to represent spring and salt water represents the tears of the slaves.
In addition to eating the foods represented on the seder plate (with the exception of lamb, which is not eaten), a Passover meal is served. The menu will differ, depending on family tradition, but traditional dishes include matzo ball or chicken soup, gefilte fish, beef brisket, chicken and potatoes.
Many families look to Joe’s for lamb shank, brisket, chicken and the boneless fish filet needed to make gefilte fish. We don’t sell lamb shank without the meat, so typically this is purchased the week before Passover so the work of cooking the shank and using the meat is finished before the holiday. Joe’s beef brisket is always graded the top 1/3 of USDA Choice to the bottom 1/3 of USDA Prime and makes for a wonderfully juicy meal. Our chicken is raised by Amish families without the use of GMO grains, hormones, or antibiotics and is, in our opinion, the finest you can buy in Indiana. The tradition and methods of making gefilte fish has seemed to fall on the elder in the community and we are happy to filet, pin bone and skin whitefish or walleye when available.
For Easter, lamb is a traditional main course. We have boneless and bone-in lamb legs, lamb loins for chops, shanks, ground lamb and lamb ribs for roasts or chops available. Quantities are limited and like many other items this year, prices are at a premium. Order lamb early if lamb is part of your Easter tradition.
Ham as an Easter tradition is purely an American addition. In the Colonial days, preserving or curing pork happened in the fall. Usually, it was cured enough by spring to enjoy with Easter. We offer whole muscle hams at Joe’s in both boneless and bone-in varieties. Both are smoked in Ossian, IN by a small producer we have used for the last 16 years. For those who want that “honey baked ham” experience, we offer a half Spiral Sliced Ham from artisan producer Nueske of Wisconsin fame.
Whether your faith tradition is bound to Passover or Easter, we have you covered for your protein needs at Joe’s. However, the key to getting exactly what you want is planning and getting us your orders in advance so that we can fill your needs! Like other businesses, the supply chain situation for our products involves less ‘just in time’ delivery, so quantities will be limited to what we have on hand as we get closer to Friday, April 15th!