A food review by Daniel B.
For someone who loves bread, pasta, cereal, and grains in general, the eight days of Passover can be a drag. The first few days are usually fine. That’s when matzah, a dry unleavened cracker affectionately called “The bread of affliction,” is still a novelty. Pretty much anything can be tasty in small quantities if you slather enough butter and salt on it.
But as the days wear on, even soaking the matzah with an egg batter and frying it in butter to make matzah brei can’t adequately disguise the stuff. By day eight no amount of Grade B maple syrup can make it any more bearable.
On the other hand, Passover’s festive holiday meal–the seder–can really be quite a joy. Some people will have just one seder on the first night, Monday. Others will have two. A few hearty folks will go through the ritual dinner three times.
All around the country, at every seder I’ve attended, throughout my entire life there has always been one constant. A bottle of Kedem concord grape juice on the table.
Kedem is an awful marketer. But they can afford to be. They have a lock on the Kosher for Passover market.
During the holiday, people who observe the restrictions regarding grains, have to look for a special label on foods and beverages. It’s different from the regular kosher symbol, and specifically relates to whether or not the production facility took pains to ensure nobody brought any potentially contaminating products into the building.
So Kedem doesn’t include any details about where the grapes come from on their label. The bottle says “Product of U.S.A.” but the fruit could still come from anywhere. This potentially misleading phrase only takes into consideration that the company is located in Marlboro, NY. “Made with Concord grapes” is a phrase on the label which also give the company some wiggle room to include other varietals in the blend.
Luckily there was a fascinating video interview posted on YouTube about how Kedem juice is made. If you like watching factory footage of machines filling juice bottles (I do), you’ll love it. But Jay Buchsbaum, the company’s VP of Marketing, clears up a few questions.
He says that the juice in the bottle is exclusively from Concord grapes grown in upstate New York. Most of the grapes come from the Finger Lakes with some supplemental grapes coming from the Hudson Valley. But all of these grapes are crushed at their winery in Marlboro before being sent down to their factory in New Jersey for bottling.
The juice itself is delicious. It’s sweet. It’s quite sweet. It’s sweeter than soda, with eight ounces of juice having as many calories from sugar as twelve ounces of soda. But there is some balancing tartness from the grapes and bitterness from the grape skins, so it isn’t cloying.
One of the rituals of the seder is that everyone must drink four cups of wine. As a kid this meant four glasses of Kedem grape juice. And for those poor deprived children who don’t get nearly enough sweets, this is a rare treat indeed.
I also like that it comes in a glass bottle. It’s juice that can be served to kids, but is fancy enough for a spot on the adult’s table.
About Daniel B.
A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.