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I would love to hear what secret ingredients people use in their cholent to give it that special taste.

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  1. Though many will tell you that it's too fatty, there's no "cholent meat" like flanken.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Beerhound
      corned beef king

      Amen,flanken is the best. We use 3 to 1 ratio barley to beans , the barley is much better then beans, especially those big white ones, they remind me of Brazil nuts, just a waste of space.

      1. re: corned beef king

        Absolutely agree about the flanken - it's the bones in them, I think, that give the chulent a rich flavor.

        Another thing I've started to do recently, I put my rinsed barley into one of those mesh bags that are used for the soup greens - NOT the tight weave that some people use to avoid shratzim, but the stretchy loose-weave ones. All the kosher butchers seem to carry them; I can get you the exact name if you want. I also use put my onion into one of these bags when I make chicken soup because I don't want loose pieces of onion in the soup. When the soup is done I just squeeze out all the broth & onion flavor & throw the bag with onion away.

        But I digress; back to the barley. I put the barley in these bags (leave loose when you tie it up so there's plenty of room for expansion) since barley is such a favorite with my crowd, and I take out the bag of barley and put it in its own bowl for people to take as a "side."

        1. re: helou


          Could you please give me the name of the bags? Love the idea for the barley!

          1. re: laura10952

            I'm pretty sure it's just cheesecloth sold in a bag shape. It's sometimes sold as "soup bags" or something like that.

            1. re: masteraleph

              The ones that I have are called Sack n Boil and are made by Liebers. I use them for many things; I put rice in them and add to my crockpot Chulent

            2. re: laura10952

              Yes, what masteraleph and Empire State are describing. I seem to be out of them, but I'm going to the butcher in the morning so I'll get more & have the exact brand name.
              Yes, they are just cheesecloth, but they're already put together like a bag so you just have to knot the top so they're very convenient. With other cheesecloth squares you have to fool around and Make a knapsack.

        2. re: Beerhound

          i must humbly disagree with my holy cholent brothers and sisters...but when it comes to incredible cholent meat very little will beat the 1~2 punch of 2nd ct brisket & a nice fatty slab of naval (aka plate) pastrami...both meats can cook forever with ever going dry and awful, and the brisket pulls apart into incredible pasta like strings insuring a piece of meat with every warming bite...GEVALT!!!

          Oh Yes, and my claim fame lies behind a can of Dr. Pepper per crockpot to tie together and balance out my spice mixture including chili powder, garlic, onion, cumin, paprika, colemans dry mustard (London Beit Din), teaspoon elite coffee grinds (adds a nice depth) and dried chipotle powder.

          1. re: gotcholent

            instead of water or DR. Pepper, I use two bottles of the cheapest beer available

            1. re: gotcholent


              While I got youon the wine, I must agree with you on the navel. Except for the obvious fat, navel is also about the least expensive meat around, and that certainly factors heavily into our use of it. Not that we make much cholent at home, but when I'm sponsoring Shabbos morning kiddush ar Or Simcha (my shul in No. Hollywood), I always bring raw navel from my restaurant (the least expensive meat I use) for the cholent maker to use, and it always turns out well. And last Shabbos, at home, my wife used 2nd cut brisket (the second least expensive meat I use at the restaurant) for cholent, and it turned out well. Obviously cutting the meat removes the strands, which means a whole 2nd cut brisket is best left for large pots in institutional kitchens.

              1. re: gotcholent

                Methinks that recipe is actually called chile, but WTH.... That sounds delicious!

                1. re: embee

                  i call it a Texas Cholent actually....in the lone star state only meat is allowed in a chili (chile is a vegetable). Bean, potatoes and yes even Kishke would be disqualify my cholent from any chili competition...but yes...it's mind-blowingly good.

                  and i've never had a beer cholent that came out without a bitter hoppy aftertaste.
                  what kind of beer have any of you used successfully?

                2. re: gotcholent

                  wish you'd add your recipe to the cholent-recipe library we are building here: http://www.cholent.eu - would be great :
                  )Everyone elso, who has great cholent recipes to share are welcome too!

                1. re: abe

                  How much do you put in?

                  1. re: Abby

                    I buy a boc that has two packets in it. I put in approx half a package.

                2. Besides the 1 cup chulent beans (that were soaked overnight and then boiled for 10 minutes and rinsed), 1 cup pearl barley (rinsed), potatoes (red potatoes are great), salt, pepper,paprika, garlic powder, squirt or two of ketchup, Tabl of onion soup mix (not all the time) and garlic beef kilbasee sliced into rings..I think it's the SAUTED ONIONS that do the trick. Don't forget the water to cover + extra.

                  1. Try substituting a can of baked beans instead of chulent beans.

                    1. Flanken, potatoes, kidney and baby lima beans, pearl barley, ketchup, onions (Vidalias if you can find them), honey, and then the SECRET ingredients:

                      CREAM OF WHEAT (yes, it's pareve)
                      INSTANT OATS (thickens it up nicely)
                      and finally, the ONLY seasoning you need, LAWREY'S SEASONING SALT. It's got everything in it, with no MSG.

                      1. n
                        nearsighted lady

                        Aside from the usual - beans, barley, meat, onions, etc. - my "secret" cholent ingredients include ketchup, diced celery (not parsley - tried it once, and it became bitter), and a bottle of beer. When you first pour it in, the kitchen smells like a saloon, but as it cooks, the beer adds a nice depth of flavor.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: nearsighted lady

                          I'va also heard of single malt scotch being added, but it seems like a waste of good whisky.

                        2. Pastrami ends.

                          1. Years of dorm life and bachelorhood make me something of an expert in cholent secret ingredients. For a while, every time I made a cholent, I would add a different secret ingredient to my base seasonings. Here are some that have worked the best:

                            Toasted sesame oil: Is there anything that doesn't taste better when you add sesame oil? Add some soy sauce to the mix as well, substitute green onions for white ones, use brown rice instead of barley, serve the cholent topped with sesame seeds and call it an Asian cholent.

                            Chocolate syrup: The parve kind is a little artificial tasting, but it's the best you can do. I use chocolate syrup instead of honey, substitute a hot salsa instead of ketchup, and it gives the cholent an intruiging taste. You can even add some coffee to make a mole cholent.

                            Vanilla/Cherry Coke: Coca Cola is an incredible cholent ingredient on its own. It's a cooking liquid, a sweetener, and a meat tenderizer all in one. I almost never make a cholent without Coke. But if you're feeling adventurous, try using Vanilla or Cherry Coke instead. The taste difference will be subtle, but delicious.

                            I have plenty more, but half the fun of using secret ingredients is coming up with them yourself. There are almost no ingredients that will completely ruin a cholent if used in moderation (Note: Do NOT use any sour candies, e.g. sour sticks/bears/worms, in your cholent. It's the only time a secret ingredient ever rendered my cholent inedible.). So experiment on your own; If for nothing else, it'll give you a way to get rid of that half-eaten box of ginger snaps in the back of the pantry.

                            1. i would layer the bottom of pot w/ minced onions and minced fresh garlic. add a combination of ketchup, a squirt of mustard and either honey or parve maple syrup. don't forget salt, pepper, paprika, red & white potatoes, (and kishke). beans, barley and flanken meat...you're all set.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: entrails

                                "parve maple syrup"

                                Is there such a thing as dairy maple syrup?

                                1. re: DeisCane

                                  yes -- there are dairy maple syrups, which is why is specified parve.

                                  1. re: entrails

                                    I've never seen that. I'd assume it would be because it was prepared at a dairy farm that wasn't good about separation, b/c maple syrup is a whole food product, like honey.

                                    1. re: DeisCane


                                      Maple syrup is not exactly a "whole food" product. It takes approximately 10 Gallons of Maple tree sap to produce 1 Quart of bottled Maple Syrup. In many instances butter (small amounts) is added to the pan during the reduction process so the syrup does not foam. In some instances lard is used for the same purpose.

                                      I won't comment whether these trace amounts have any influence on Kosher Certification or dairy/parve status of the syrup.

                                      1. re: velorutionary

                                        A reduction of a whole food is still a whole food, unless something is added, to the best of my knowledge. Then of course, it's not. I've heard of bacon or bacon fat being added to add richness to the syrup, but in that case, that's something akin to an infusion, rather than a reduction. I had never heard the part about butter being added to reduce foaming. Nevertheless, I have never purchased a non-pareve maple syrup, and I don't intend to start anytime soon. The purer the better, imo.

                                        1. re: DeisCane

                                          You are correct about its classification as a whole food.

                                          However, I do know of vegans who won't consume maple syrup unless it is Kosher certified and pareve for the reasons aforementioned.

                                          Personally I have not seen any maple syrup with a "dairy" designation but that could be because a) the company uses a chemaical or vegetable based fat as an anti-foaming agent, or b) It is insignificant (in total volume) and thus irrelevant for kashrus or dairy status.

                                          What I have seen is maple flavored syrup which is dairy, but I would never classify that as maple syrup, though others may, unfortunately.

                                          1. re: velorutionary

                                            Bingo. Well put. I'm a poor-man's maple syrup snob so I can't stand when someone uses the term maple syrup for what is "pancake syrup." (usually corn syrup and coloring with butter) :)

                              2. My tips: As others have suggested, I sauté the onions till almost caramelized. I also sear the meat (which I first dredge with salt, pepper and paprika, brown the potatoes, and toast the barley first. I layer potatoes, onions, thin slivers of garlic, beans, meat, and barley till I get to the top of the pot; then I put in tomato paste and homemade demiglace. The latter is my secret weapon. Yummmmmmm...it's a lot of work to make a batch, but then I have enough for a few months, and nothing else can touch the flavor.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: chana61

                                  hi chana --

                                  may i ask what's in the demiglace?

                                  1. re: entrails

                                    It's basically a concentrated brown veal stock cooled and cut into cubes.

                                    For those who are unacquainted with brown veal stock: you start out with several pounds of veal bones (neck is good) and a pound or so of stew meat; roast them in the oven, add all sorts of vegetables and continue roasting for a bit; take it all out, defat and deglaze the pan with red wine, and throw everything into an enormous pot, cover with water, add a bouquet garni, BUT NO SALT!!! and cook for 8 hours or so, then strain.

                                    To make the demiglace, defat the stock completely and further reduce to about a quart of liquid. Then pour into a square pan and cool. Once cooled, it will solidify and you can cut it into lovely little cubes of pure flavor that do not have the salt problem of purchased bouillon, but which impart a tremendous depth of flavor to sauces and stews. I keep mine in the freezer; one batch of demiglace usually lasts me 4-6 months or so, but obviously this will depend on how often you use them. IMO it's definitely worth the work involved.

                                  2. re: chana61

                                    chana61, I was losing heart as I read through the various posts. Everybody is using processed foods, some of them rather grotesque, e.g., onion soup mix! B"H, a Jew who knows how to cook...you must be a BT :)

                                  3. I really like using about a teaspoon (or more!) of thai garlic sauce to give it a spicy kick. There's one I know of that has hashgacha (http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/garl...)

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mrdhammer

                                      that stuff is awesome but whats the deal with the hechsker i cant find any info on it, does th sirarcha need a hechsher anyway?

                                    2. I use shin kolichel for the meat. The usual potatoes, cholent mix (beans), barley, onion soup mix, ketchup and water to cover . The secret ingredient is a little molases on top

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: shanirum

                                        I'm surprised how many of you use things like ketchup and onion soup mix.

                                        1. re: DeisCane

                                          I once put ketchup in mine and really disliked it. I'm too surprised by its ubiquitous inclusion.

                                      2. I have two secret ingredients:
                                        1. BBQ sauce
                                        2. Liquid smoke

                                        I use very little meat (we try to avoid it for health reasons) and the liquid smoke/BBQ sauce combo goes a long way to "beef" up the flavor. Also, use a good homemade stock to enrich the flavor (I use chicken stock that I make on the fly from skin, bones & fat pulled off the chicken I am making for Friday night)

                                        Hope this helps! Lately I have been making more a of classic french beef stew with lots of wine, herbs, tomatoes and veggies - no barley or potatoes. Served it over organic wholewheat couscous, everyone loved it including the little ones. makes a nice change of pace.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: rebeccafriedman

                                          We've used liquid smoke when we couldn't find the smoked turkey leg from Rubashkin (which has become nearly impossible to find lately, for obvious reasons). It's a reasonable facsimile.

                                          As for the onion soup mix and ketchup points, I was referring not merely to their tastes but also to their status as basically cheating. For cholents and other stews, etc., I try to use primarily whole foods as ingredients.

                                          1. re: DeisCane

                                            I'll take the bait, why is this cheating? "Jewish" food is always a reflection of whatever culture we live in.

                                            People (including myself) enjoy the flavor the ketchup adds. No cheating as far as I am concerned.

                                            1. re: vallevin

                                              This is not about "Jewish" food, but about foodie culture in general. Using ingredients like soup mix just strikes me as lame.

                                          2. re: rebeccafriedman

                                            Thinking out loud, what effect would adding some beef soup mix as to "beef" up the flavor of the cholent if that is what you are seeking? The last brisket that I made (and I am making the same thing today as we speak) was to add a spoon of beef soup mix besides the packet of onion soup mix in the crock pot.

                                            1. re: MartyB

                                              a great brisket recipe btw is cook the brisket in a couple of glasses of ginger ale and teaspoon of instant coffee.. I know it sounds strange but it's delicious

                                              1. re: berel

                                                Strange is right! I wonder what the history is behind this recipie, I would never think of throwing those ingredients together. By the way, would it work with diet ginger ale as well? Trying to keep the carbs down.

                                                1. re: MartyB

                                                  it should work with diet ginger ale too, though I don't think you'll pick up that many carbs from using the regular ginger ale (unless you plan to drink the gravy)

                                                  btw the recipe also calls for a packet of onion soup mix too, sorry I forget about that

                                                  1. re: berel

                                                    I guess I can believe it then. My current recipie is
                                                    (1) Brisket
                                                    (2) Layer or 2 of sliced onions
                                                    (3) one packet Onion soup mix
                                                    (4) one teaspoon beef soup mix --> replaced with your instant coffee
                                                    (5) water --> replaced with your ginger ale

                                              2. re: MartyB

                                                The problem, as I see it, is that those soup mixes rarely taste like the flavor they are called. Does anyone really think the powdered beef soup mix tastes like beef, for example? All those soup mixes are, it seems to me, is sodium.

                                                1. re: queenscook

                                                  the Carmel Beef flavored mix is pretty good, I use it in a lot of soups and gravies

                                                  1. re: queenscook

                                                    In my case I had a large slab of brisket so the beef was there. The beef soup mix gives more flavor to the gravy. I came home today, cut up the brisket and put it back in the slow cooker. When I came back later to eat, it was almost gone! Slowly I got my wife, then daughter and then my son-in-law to admit that they took some from the pot. I got the "shraim (leftovers)" - it was hit!

                                                    1. re: MartyB

                                                      You're probably essentially adding MSG (along with tons of salt) when you add soup mix. It adds a sense of meaty richness to things, which is why it might enrich your gravy. You might be better off directly adding MSG (often sold as a seasoning by itself, on the same shelf as the spices), because it'd let you control the salt level better.

                                              3. story tangent

                                                my father is from lodz, my mother krakow.

                                                they used to give each other endless grief over chulent, because my mother thought the barley was the best part, while my father thought it was all about the potatoes.

                                                accusations of peasantry would fly about, rather good heartedly and tongue in cheek, of course

                                                1. It's really not a secret but the best cholent is made by first browning the meat (short ribs are best as they have a bone) in a small amount of Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) then add the onions, etc. It's the Schmaltz that adds the highest level of flavor to this remarkable festive dish.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Discerning Tastes

                                                    I'm surprised no one mentioned you need good marrow bones at the bottom of the pot to give the cholent the correct consistency, not to watery and not to thick

                                                    1. re: berel

                                                      Do you roast or saute the marrow bones before you put them in the pot?

                                                  2. Pomegranate molasses. Talk about a deep flavor!

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: CloggieGirl

                                                      Quinoa. I threw some in my cholent on a whim this shabbat and everyone was asking about the ground beef in my usually pareve cholent. I'd recommend it for one and all, especially if you like a really meaty cholent and find yourself a bit short some time.

                                                      1. re: CloggieGirl

                                                        I have friends who make cholent on Pesach using quinoa instead of the usual beans and barley since quinoa is not listed as kitnios. I've never been with any of these friends on Pesach and I've never tried it personally, but everyone I've spoken to raves about it.

                                                        I do know others who question the use of quinoa and will not eat it on Pesach (though I'm not sure if that is based on any halachic reasoning or just a "spirit of the rules" kind of thing). I guess it would be another "check with your rabbi" kind of topic...

                                                        1. re: orthochow

                                                          I use quinoa in my cholent because a friend is celiac - allergic to gluten (i.e., wheat). Quinoa, not being a grain, does not contain gluten and is therefore friendly to her. It comes out well, but a little soupy because quinoa does not absorb water to the same extent that barley does.

                                                          1. re: craigcep

                                                            Quinoa most certainly is a grain, but it does not contain gluten.

                                                            1. re: mcfish

                                                              i'm not sure. quinoa is not a grass plant, so it isn't a cereal, and i think thus isn;t a true grain. or maybe it just isn't a true cereal. im a bit fuzzy

                                                      1. I saute spanish onions in oil til golden brown, use only flanken, and what I consider the special touch...real chicken soup (defatted). If I'm in a rush I'll use condensed chicken soup from a can. I also onlu use Lawry's seasoned salt, real chopped garlic, and a mixture of beans and barley.....DELICIOUS !!

                                                            1. re: gotcholent

                                                              I have added falafel balls to my cholent, and it added a very interesting taste and look,

                                                              Never used beef cheeks but saw it in only ONE butcher here in Monsey.
                                                              I could never purchase it and ugh...sorry

                                                              I have a friend who makes fried brains for her kids......tells them it is chicken cutlets,,,,,ugh

                                                              1. re: laura10952

                                                                Brains? I wasn't aware brains were currently sold in kosher stores. I've certainly never seen them . . . not that I've been looking for them!

                                                                Why does she serve them to her kids anyway? I can't imagine they're cheaper or more easily available.

                                                                1. re: queenscook

                                                                  I doubt that it is cheap. I think that she serves it because ot some silly old wise tale,

                                                                  1. re: laura10952

                                                                    They're called sweetbreads and are pretty easy to get. They are delicacy served in many fine kosher and non-kosher restaurants. They don't look or taste anything like Shnitzel so I'm not sure how she would pull off tricking her kids with them. Beef cheeks are completely different and may actually be compatible with cholent.

                                                                    1. re: cappucino

                                                                      Sweetbreads aren't brains, although perhaps laura10952's friend thinks they are. They're made from calf thymus and pancreas, which are both glands.

                                                                      1. re: GilaB

                                                                        years ago when my bahby served them to me, she told me they were brains. the reason i'm inclined to go with my bahby is that she liked to get all kinds of illegal parts of the animals from her butcher. for example, she served us "real" kishke which were the actual intestines not the kind of kishke that everyone else was eating. it was illegal to sell them, but my bahby had her ways. she was polish/austrian and she wanted to serve food as she did in the old country. today it is illegal to sell certain organ meats aNd that is why--i presume--you assume what sweetbreads is or isn't. you may be right today, but not about the sweetbreads of my memories.

                                                                        1. re: cappucino

                                                                          I'm sure she was great but sweetbreads are not now and have never been brains.

                                                                          1. re: DeisCane

                                                                            I have had brains and sweetbreads, and there is no way brains could pass for sweetbreads as they are even more mushy. When I have made brains, I have made them into a latke as it is very hard to do anything with them individually. I don't think you could bread them and fry.
                                                                            Would think it would be hard to pass either off as chicken cutlets, unless you have never had a chicken cutlet.

                                                                            1. re: njkosher

                                                                              Not to mention that brains are about $12/lb and chicken cutlets are about $5/lb.

                                                                              1. re: DeisCane

                                                                                Sweet breads v. brains is a legendary and historical confusion. Many of us were raised believing they were one and the same in the days there was no such thing as a "foodie". Thymus Schmymus - even the butcher would tell you they were brains. Who knew? Interesting takes on Chulent above. Most are quite a patchka, when it takes about 30 seconds to put water, barley, onion soup mix, garlic, potatoes and beef in a crockpot and fuggetaboutit. Add Kishke and it's Geshmack - no frills - all thrills.

                                                                                1. re: DeisCane

                                                                                  I assume you mean sweetbreads at $12/lb rather than brains. Cannot seem to get brains any more.

                                                                                  1. re: njkosher

                                                                                    I was referring to brains, since that's what the poster was claiming was standing in for cutlets.

                                                                                    Aaron's Gourmet (spare me the Steinberg argument) has both, and they're both about that price.

                                                                                2. re: njkosher

                                                                                  Breading and frying sweetbreads is a crime to me. had fried sweetbreads at Tevere and hated them. I wish I could ask my grandmother what we were eating because it definately wasn't the sweetbreads we are served now. Those are bigger and a bit firmer.

                                                                  2. re: gotcholent

                                                                    Beef cheeks really are the best cholent meat. They respond to the long, slow cook by becoming melt-in-your-mouth tender.

                                                                    1. re: AdinaA

                                                                      Yes, agreed, by far the most unctuous cut in my armory! Also phenomenal in yapsuk!

                                                                2. My cholent is more like a beef stew, and gets rave reviews.

                                                                  I use a package of beef stew chunk, a cup of well-rinsed canned chick peas, a cup of chopped veggies, a chopped onion, a 1/4 cup of quinoa, barley or couscous, a 1/4 cup of red wine, 1 Tbsp of deli mustard, salt and pepper, a pinch of rosemary, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and a can of drained diced tomatoes. It all goes into a 2 qt slow cooker on Friday afternoon, and is perfect by lunch on Saturday.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JRKyummy

                                                                    Sounds interesting. What kind of veggies?

                                                                    1. re: DeisCane

                                                                      Eggplant or zucchini work well if you want something that sort of dissolves into the stew. Otherwise, carrots or celery keep their shape well.

                                                                    2. re: JRKyummy

                                                                      Why used canned beans? Dry chick peas ought to be soft after cooking for a day.

                                                                      1. re: GilaB

                                                                        Dry would work as well - just reduce the amount and slightly increase the liquid.