After two years of seders on Zoom, it’s time to serve brisket to a crowd

Coke Brisket (Doug Gilletz photo)

After two years of Zoom seders, my siblings and I are gearing up to celebrate Passover in person. Most of our children have partners and there are grandchildren now so we will be a sizeable group at the seder.

I will spend a couple of days making two very large pots of chicken soup. It’s quite a time-consuming endeavour, which I usually execute out of a sense of duty, because the chicken soup—my late mother’s recipe—is the most anticipated dish of our seder.

I am actually looking forward to the task this year because I’m thrilled about the whole family being together again.

Beef brisket is a staple for many holiday festivals, and a dish that appeals to carnivores of all ages. My sister’s brisket is a particular family favourite and has long been the benchmark by which my three sons rate all other briskets.

However, there may now be a serious contender. My middle son has learned to make brisket in a smoker. In fact, this year his wife volunteered him to bring a brisket to his in-laws’ seder.

For the past few weeks, he’s been in training to prepare for the big night. He has watched hours of videos on YouTube and he’s had considerable hands-on practice by making a brisket almost every weekend in March.

I sampled the meat to make sure it would taste good enough for the seder and I was impressed. However, it turns out that using a smoker is quite a long and finicky process and you have to play around with the smoke and the charcoal over an 11-or 12-hour period.

Preparing a traditional-style brisket, however, entails relatively little effort. Once you season the meat and add the sauce, you place the roast in the oven and forget about it for the next three or four hours.

The following two traditional brisket recipes are delicious and easy to prepare. They would be a hit at a seder or any other holiday celebration and the leftovers make a delicious meal.

Aunty Randi’s Barbecued Brisket, the recipe that my sister always makes, actually comes from her sister-in law, Randi Winston Wolfish.

The second recipe, the late Norene Gilletz’s classic Coke Brisket, can be found in her cookbook, Meal LeaniYumm!



1 5–7 lb (2-3.5 kg) brisket

3 cloves of garlic, slivered

Pepper, salt and paprika to taste

1 package (about 30–40 g) of kosher for Passover Onion Soup Mix

1 cup (250 ml) honey

1 cup (250 ml) kosher for Passover ketchup

½ cup (125 ml) kosher for Passover barbecue sauce

½ cup (125 ml) water  

Make slits on top of brisket and insert the slivers of garlic and then place the meat in large roasting pan.

Combine the soup mix, honey, ketchup, barbecue sauce and water in a saucepan and cook over low heat until blended. Pour the sauce over the brisket and cover tightly with foil.

Bake at 325°F for 4 hours and remove the foil for the last 30 minutes of cooking. When cooled, slice the brisket thinly across the grain. To serve, reheat the slices in the sauce. Makes 12-14 servings.


COKE BRISKET (Norene Gilletz)

3 onions

1 4½–5 lb (2–3 kg) brisket

4 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil

1 tbsp (15 ml) paprika

1/4 cup (60 ml) apricot jam

2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice

1 cup (250 ml) diet cola*

*NB regular cola can also be used

Spray a large roasting pan with non-stick spray or olive oil. Place onions in the pan and place the brisket on top of the onions. Rub the meat on all sides with the garlic, seasonings, jam and lemon juice.

Pour the cola over and around the meat. Marinate for an hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cover the brisket tightly with foil. Allow 45 minutes per pound as the cooking time and bake until the meat is fork tender. Uncover the meat for the last hour, basting occasionally. Remove the meat from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Refrigerate overnight if possible.

Discard the hardened fat that congeals on the surface. Slice the brisket thinly across the grain, trimming away any fat. To serve, reheat the slices in the defatted pan juices. Makes 12 servings.