This year for Khanike I continued my zine series Schmalz, by giving people gifts of the actual stuff (courtesy of my roommate, who works in a kitchen and reduced more than 10 pounds from a 24 hour stock!).
One of my friends said, “what is this stuff!” and fortunately, one half of the zine addresses just that. “What the Heck is This Stuff,” gives folks a background on schmalz and why I’m giving it out on Khanike. Below is my brief explanation, found in the mini zine. Enjoy!
What the Heck is This Stuff…
Schmalz is a Yiddish word meaning rendered poultry fat, in this case, from chicken. You can make it yourself by frying fat trimmings and skin gleaned from raw chickens. An essential part of Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) cooking, Schmalz became less prevalent in the last half century because it was viewed as unhealthy. Incredibly rich in flavor, schmalz has can be used to describe a person or work of art that overdoes it, lays it on too thick. Because Hanukkah is a holiday in which we fry things in oil, I thought this was a nice gift.
Another thought is that Hanukkah is a narrative of resistance to forced assimilation. According to the story, King Antiochas outlawed Brit Milah (circumcision) and erected a statue of Zeus and sacrificed pigs in the Second Temple. The Maccabees led an armed revolt. This began when Mattathias, a priest, killed another Jew, one who wanted to comply with the law to sacrifice to Zeus. After a bloody war the temple was taken back and rededicated, in which oil for one day burned for eight. Hanukkah sets this story into ritual.
Schmalz is a Jewish version of lard, made out of poultry instead of pork, which was common in the European cultures where Ashkenazim found themselves, and its use was almost lost to assimilation. The revival of schmalz is a small Hanukkah story. But the story of the Maccabee’s resistance to oppression speaks to many people and struggles, ones that have happened and those that have yet to come…
Another friend looked at the zine before opening it, “will this tell me what to do with this stuff?” and the answer is, yes! The second half includes a few uses and recipes. Check it out!
What To Do With It….
Fry a Latke!
You can add a tablespoon to your regular vegetable oil or use only schmalz for even more rich flavor!
Make Gribenes (Fried Chicken Skin)
Heat a pan with ¼ p of schmalz. Fry 1 medium diced onion with a ¼ pound of towel-dried chicken skin until dark brown and crispy. Strain and place on paper towel. Season with lots of salt and pepper!
Schmear it on Toast
Great with dark rye toast. Top with capers and thin sliced red onion, if that’s your thing.
Make Matzoh Balls
Combine: 3 large eggs, beaten to blend, ¾ cup matzo meal ¼ cup melted schmaltz, 3 tablespoons club soda, 1¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Mixture should be like wet sand. Refrigerate for at least ½ hour. Delicately form into ping pong sized balls, refrigerate for 2 hours. Once a pot of chicken broth is boiling, drop the matzoh balls in, and cover with lid (don’t peek!) for 30 minutes.
A Freilikhen Khanike!