Passover, or Pesach, is an important Jewish holiday commemorating the Israelites' exodus from Egypt when they finally became free from slavery. This joyful event is celebrated every year with a Passover seder, which involves retelling the story through stories, songs, and symbolic foods. One of the most important ritual foods at Passover is the Passover lamb!

What is the Story of Passover?

passover lamb

The holy book used in Judaism is called the Torah, and it contains the first five books of Moses, or the Old Testament. As explained in the Torah, in Exodus 12:29, God's final plague was what led the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. God instructed the Jews to find a lamb with no blemishes, sacrifice it, and put its blood on their doorposts.

That night, the angel of death took the life of every gentile's firstborn son, passing over each home that had the blood of the Passover lamb on its door- hence the name "Passover." The pharaoh finally released the Jewish people, and they immediately left the land of Egypt. Although this is a Jewish holiday, it's related to Easter and has themes relevant to Christianity as well. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem, Israel, and gathers his followers to celebrate the Passover meal, called the Last Supper in Christianity.

The first Passover happened back in the 5th century BCE, and it has been a time of feasting and celebration ever since! This holiday is celebrated at sundown between the fourteenth and fifteenth day of the Hebrew month Nisan. This always occurs in the spring in the U.S., and this year, it fell on March 27th.

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Although the events it commemorates are serious, the Passover Seder is a time for joy and family, and it can be celebrated at home or at a temple with one's congregation. Each food, from the bitter herbs to the unleavened bread, is part of the story, and everyone takes turns reading from the Haggadah in both English and Hebrew. Since the lamb was the animal used by the Jewish people as a Passover sacrifice, it's one of the most symbolic foods. Here's how to make your own!

How to Make Delicious Passover Lamb

Juice and peel the lemon, setting aside the juice. Wrap peel, bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, and whole cloves in a cheesecloth, and tie them together to make an herb bundle. Season the lamb shanks with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Sauté the minced onions in olive oil until they begin to brown.

Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and put in the lamb shanks. Sauté until browned on all sides, 12 to 15 minutes, and then transfer the lamb shanks to a plate.

Return the onions to the pot and add in wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, tomato sauce, herb bundle, and thyme. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep simmering for a few minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pot frequently to keep the mixture from sticking.

After a few minutes of simmering, place the lamb shanks back into the pot and add in chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Leave pot simmering uncovered for 30 minutes.

Then, turn the shanks over and reduce heat to medium-low, just barely simmering. Leave for an hour and a half, turning shanks every 30 minutes.

When the meat is deliciously tender, take the shanks out and remove the herb bundle. Squeeze the herb juice into the simmering sauce. Skim the fat from the sauce, and then continue simmering on medium heat for 15 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the lamb shanks with a garnish of fresh rosemary, and spoon liberal amounts of sauce over the lamb before serving. Enjoy your tender and delectable Passover lamb!

Watch: The 5 Most Important Holiday Baking Tips

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Passover Lamb 

Prep Time: 1 hour | Cook Time: 2 hours

servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Juice and peel the lemon, setting aside the juice. Wrap peel, bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, and whole cloves in a cheesecloth, and tie together to make an herb bundle. Season lamb shanks with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Sauté the minced onions in olive oil until they begin to brown.

Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and put in the lamb shanks. Sauté until browned on all sides, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer lamb shanks to a plate.

Return the onions to the pot and add in wine, tomato paste, lemon juice, tomato sauce, herb bundle, and thyme. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep simmering for a few minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pot frequently to keep mixture from sticking.

After a few minutes of simmering, place the lamb shanks back into the pot and add in chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat. Leave pot simmering uncovered for 30 minutes.

Then, turn the shanks over and reduce heat to medium low, just barely simmering. Leave for an hour and half, turning the shanks every 30 minutes.

When meat is deliciously tender, take shanks out and remove herb bundle. Squeeze herb juice into the simmering sauce. Skim the fat from the sauce, and then continue simmering on medium heat for 15 minutes until thickened and reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the lamb shanks with a garnish of fresh rosemary, and spoon liberal amounts of sauce over the lamb before serving. Enjoy your tender and delectable Passover lamb!

Notes

Some Jewish communities avoid eating lamb during Passover, while others eat it as a special Passover delicacy, calling it the lamb of God or paschal lamb. For those who love a good lamb shank for Passover dinner, this recipe is yummy and easy!