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March 29, 2018 3:06 pm

New York Shop Uses Gas Masks to Make Its Famous Horseradish for Passover

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Al Kaufman, owner of Pickle Guys, grinding horseradish. Photo: Screenshot.

Employees at a shop in New York City’s Lower East Side wear gas masks to make the store’s famous, freshly-ground horseradish ahead of Passover.

The shop Pickle Guys grind the root vegetable year-round, but in the week leading up to the Jewish holiday of freedom they prepare an estimated 4,000-5,000 pounds of horseradish, the store’s owner Al Kaufman told PIX 11.

Horseradish is a staple on Passover Seder tables because it signifies the bitterness that Jews suffered as slaves in Egypt.

Workers at Pickle Guys use the gas masks when peeling, grating, brining and packaging the horseradish. The masks have been used in the process since the mid-1990s to protect against a chemical in the root called allyl isothiocyanate, which triggers the sinuses and can produce tears, according to the New York Post.

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“Before, we used to sit there and cry,” Kaufman told the newspaper. “The only thing we had was a fan [to air out the store], but some of the guys who used to work here were ex-military who served in Desert Storm. They would grind horseradish and say, ‘This is crazy,’ so they brought in their gas masks.”

The gas masks improves working conditions in the store and also attracts curious customers. Kaufman added, “People come in to take pictures. When they see the masks, they know it’s going to be a good batch this year.”

A small jar of the fresh horseradish sells for $10 and a large one goes for $19.

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