Tag Archives: Jewish

Kosher Pickles

I had heard of kosher pickles many, many times in my life, but always assumed that they were just pickles that were, well, kosher, as in approved for consumption in Jewish dietary law. Turns out that is not the case, and kosher pickles are actually a particular style of pickle, one that is naturally fermented like those described in this post on lacto-pickles. If you are familiar with sauerkraut you are familiar with lactic acid fermentation. Anyways kosher pickles are the real-deal accompaniment to deli sandwiches like smoked meat or pastrami.

If you grew up on Bick’s, kosher pickles will seem strange. They have no sugar, in fact no sweetness at all besides whatever natural sweetness might be … Continue reading.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo ball soup and Reuben sandwich at June's Delicatessen in Edmonton.
Photo: Justin Benson

I did not grow up eating matzo ball soup; it was completely unknown to me and my family. In fact it was so foreign that the first several times I heard mention of it I assumed it was “mozza ball soup”, which I guess would be some kind of Italian-American soup containing mozzarella cheese. This is emphatically not the case.

Matzo balls are a kind of dumpling. Matzo ball soup is usually a chicken soup with matzo balls in it.

It turns out this classic Jewish preparation is much more familiar to me than I ever would have suspected. While the most common term in North America is matzo ball, the true Yiddish word for the dumpling … Continue reading.

Schmaltz

A jar of homemade chicken schmaltz.

Schmaltz is the Yiddish word for rendered fat, or grease. It is taken from the German Schmalz.[1] I wrote about how to render pork fat here, and the two preparations Grammelschmalz[2] and Schmalzfleisch. While schmaltz can technically refer to rendered fat from any animal, obviously in the context of Jewish cooking we aren’t talking about pork fat. While goose fat was common in Europe, the Jewish emigrants arriving in North America found chicken fat much more readily available, and this remains the default schmaltz in Jewish communities in the new world.

There is quite a different ratio of fat to lean in a chicken than a hog. It is easy to cut away large slabs … Continue reading.

Pastrami

For a few years I’ve been making pastrami simply by making this corned beef, then after the cure is finished, coating the meat with crushed coriander and black pepper, then hot-smoking to temperature. This is a method that has served me well, but I’ve been reading quite a bit about the Jewish delis of New York, most notably David Sax’s book Save the Deli. In his description of how the pastrami is made at Katz’s, there were two surprises to me.

First, he says that they don’t actually use brisket, but “navel”. This is definitely not part of standard Canadian meat-cutting nomenclature, but it’s described as being adjacent to the brisket, which made me wonder if it … Continue reading.

On Smoked Meat, Montreal, and the Gout

I have a certain old friend.  Technically we went to high school together, but I first got to know him in Lister Hall, then at the Kappa Alpha house on university row.  He studied philosophy, and after graduation he followed a girl to Montreal.  There he fell victim to many of the city’s seductions: strong beer, girls, and cocaine, yes, but above all these, smoked meat.

For a while he lived only a few blocks from Schwartz’s, that Mecca of Montreal smoked meat.  For a while he ate there every day: a sandwich, a pickle, and a cherry coke.

Montreal smoked meat is that city’s answer to New York’s pastrami: beef, cured with a concoction of spices similar to those … Continue reading.