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Butcherie takes guesswork out of Passover shopping

JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

A last-minute Passover crush kept Butcherie, which specializes in kosher food, busy in Brookline.

BROOKLINE—When Maxine Maran wants to buy chopped beef liver for Passover, there is no question about where she will go. Yes, it is a half-hour drive from the suburbs, and yes, the lines can sometimes snake around the store during the holiday crush. But as she sees it, there is no alternative: It has to be the Butcherie.

‘‘They have the real deal,’’ she said, as she inspected a container of chicken broth loaded with thick chunks of carrot in the prepared foods section Thursday night. ‘‘When I want real Jewish food, I come to the Butcherie.’’

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For local Jews, shopping at what is perhaps the Boston area’s largest strictly kosher market has become an annual rite of Passover, the eight-day holiday commemorating the liberation of Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. In the final hours before Passover began Friday night, last-minute shoppers stripped the shelves bare.

There were Orthodox men in black hats and young women in running shorts, mothers pushing strollers and children scampering down the chocolate aisle. They loaded their baskets with fresh meats and cheeses, traditional prepared dishes like knishes and potato latkes, and imported food from all over the world.

‘‘I come here every year and rarely in between,’’ said Amy Munsat, an architect from Cambridge, who was seeking advice from a genial butcher Friday on what size brisket to buy for a dozen guests. ‘‘It’s just a ritual I have.’’

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During Passover, observant Jews abstain from leavened bread to honor the haste with which the ancient Jews had to flee Egypt, too fast to wait for bread to rise. Many Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot, or foods that resemble leavening, including rice, corn, and legumes. (Sephardic Jews, descended from those who lived on the Iberian peninsula, do not share that tradition.) Food prepared with utensils or machinery that have touched those items is also shunned.

Commercially prepared foods labeled ‘‘Kosher-for-Passover’’ are deemed fit for consumption by specially trained rabbis who supervise their production. At regular supermarkets, finding enough Kosher-for-Passover food to get a family through eight days can be tough and can require a lot of label reading.

At the Butcherie, where shelves are under strict Orthodox supervision, there is no guesswork. Except for a couple of clearly marked shelves, everything is kosher-for-Passover.

Roy Feldman, who recently moved from the Boston area to New York’s Upper East Side, was picking up last-minute sundries for a seder for 20 at his son’s home. In New York, he said, there are more kosher stores, but ‘‘nothing that’s better than this,’’ he said. ‘‘They really have everything in one place.’’

The store’s mashgiach, who ensures the store’s inventory meets the strictest kosher standards, is on hand to answer customers’ questions. Ayelet Lipton, 29, asked him to double-check whether a cocoa powder she wanted to buy for her young son’s birthday cake was kosher-for-Passover. ‘‘If you tell me it is, I trust it,’’ she said with a smile as he handed it back to her with a nod.

Customers come from around New England and even Canada and other sections of the United States. Some imported goods, like Hashahar H’Aole Cocoa Spread — a mainstay of Israeli breakfast tables — are difficult to find elsewhere in the region.

Lillian Stiles, 22, a student at Boston University, was shopping for her family back home in Oakland, Maine, where she said local grocery stores offer observant Jews few choices. ‘‘They expect you to subsist on matzo and macaroons for a week,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s why we come here.’’

If you had to eat only matzo for a week, the Butcherie has wheat, gluten-free, organic, unsalted, high-fiber, and white chocolate-covered; there is also matzo handmade in Israel.

The store begins preparation for Passover months before, ordering products, rearranging the store, and preparing special holiday food like beef knishes and sweet potato kishka. By the end of Passover, the Butcherie will have made and sold about 22,000 matzo balls and 10 pallets of brisket, said Joshua Ruboy, one of the store’s partners.

Those who wait till the last minute may be out of luck. The best spongecakes from Israel were long gone by midweek, as was Jack’s horseradish, the Butcherie’s own recipe.

‘‘You’ll have to wait for the High Holidays,’’ Ruboy said.

Lisa Wangsness can be reached at lwangsness@globe.com.
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