The rehabilitation of schmaltz

4 Jan

I mean, once butter and then lard had not only been declared non-lethal, but had become foodie cult items, you had to know it was coming.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 7.02.39 PMSchmaltz, rendered poultry fat, and gribenes, the crispy, crackling-like byproduct that comes from bits of chicken skin. Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times (click)

Schmaltz!  Rendered chicken fat.  The cooking medium used by observant Jews to make meat dishes where they can’t use butter due to the strict milchig/fleishig (dairy/meat) separation of kosher dietary laws.  See the Times article: Schmaltz Finds a New, Younger Audience.”  Yeah…  I dunno that I’d be putting any heavy investment cash into the product just yet.  I remember — (I’m dating myself…I referred to one of our professors’ sense of humor as “Borscht Belt” the other day and got a blank stare from the whole class…including the professor) — when kosher delis in New York still had a little dispenser, just like and next to the one with the mustard, of semi-coagulated chicken fat on the tables.  And I can’t say it made a pastrami sandwich taste any much better.  When used in cooking, I dunno…

scmaltz_0003But from the shtetl to haute cuisine — a little-known fact…  Though the forced fattening of geese and ducks has been recorded since Egyptian times (and it doesn’t hurt, they don’t have a gag reflex like we do; plus, it’s a duck), and the words for liver: “fegato” in Italian or “higado” in Spanish or “foie” in French, come from the Latin “ficus,” fig, on which they were fattened…it’s most likely that in mediaeval Europe foie gras was an accidental, delicious by-product of Jews force-fattening their geese for schmaltz.  So there you go…




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