Recently I came across my own handwritten recipe for Matzoh balls. I wrote this out sometime in the early 90s, one of the last times I was home and visiting with my grandmother. We were making matzoh balls as I wrote it and the page has a few grease marks and smudges. I doodled a little as she coached me. Looking at the doodles I remember that there were other tips and family tidbits that didn’t make sense to write down, but I’d remember them – like yes you can heat the matzoh balls right in the soup but if you do your soup will be cloudy and honestly, you may as well be wearing dirty socks with sandals if that is the kind of soup you want to serve.
Before we get to the Matzoh Balls, we have to talk schmaltz.
Schmaltz, I have found, elicits two reactions from people. A wistful sigh or a violent shudder.
What is it? It’s rendered chicken fat, flavored with onion. Did you just shudder? It might sound bad but it’s certainly no fouler (just fowl-er – hee hee!) than crisco and unlike crisco, it tastes wonderful. Schmaltz looks a lot like butter and can be used similarly when cooking. It stores in the fridge in a capped jar.
I’ll admit that the process of making schmaltz makes me shudder a little too. I’m not fond of handling raw fowl. But the flavor? Oh. There is no substitute for it. So if you are going to make proper matzoh ball soup, with proper matzoh balls, I urge you to take the time to make some schmaltz first. It’s actually very easy to do. Once you’ve made it, you’ll want to incorporate it into other recipes as it is that flavorful.
Here is the recipe I wrote out:
In order to make the schmaltz for these matzoh balls I used chicken thighs – a package of 9. We don’t keep kosher so I didn’t worry about that, I just wanted plenty of skin and fat which these thighs delivered. You can use any parts of the chicken that have skin and fat.If you are making chicken soup, you can use the skin and fat from the same chicken.
Separating the skin and fat is the part I don’t like. But I did it! I made my husband chop the onions though!
I followed my grandmother’s directions and in about 30 minutes, I had a frying pan full of crispy bits and hot rendered fat. Some notes from my experience include:
- Don’t do this on high – stick to medium/high so you don’t scorch anything
- Don’t wait till your bits are dark brown, quit at golden – I almost burnt mine, but got it off the heat in the nick of time
- Remove the crispy bits from the pan with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. They are ridiculously delicious and bad for you. Kind of like bacon.
- Let the oil cool a bit then pour through a fine wire mesh into glass jars. The schmaltz will solidify in the fridge. You can also freeze it.
Some photos of the process:
Yes, this bowl of fat is kinda icky but bear with me…
Here’s the fat and 1 onion in the pan with a little water
Remove the solids and strain oil through fine mesh, into a glass jar
On with the balls in Part 2!