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Help! Jewish girl doesn't know how to make schmaltz

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Oy vey,
My mother was not the best cook (sadly, everything came from a box) and as such I've had no one to pass down important Jewish cooking wisdom. So, tell me...how does one make/get schmaltz, how long does it keep and does it need to be refrigerated??


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  1. Is an Episcopalian's version okay? Just collect enough raw chicken fat and skin, say 2 lbs and cut the skin into strips. Put it into a pan with a cup of water and cook over med. heat until the water has evaporated. It will take about 45 minutes. Strain. The liquid fat is the schmaltz and it will keep refrigerated for a month or two. The crispy bits of skin are good eating too. Some people like to add chopped onion the the skin, fat and water. Also Empire sells it frozen in most major grocery stores.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Or make chicken stock, refrigerate, then remove the fat.

      1. re: Alan408

        that would work but you would not get those lucious crispy skin bits to nibble on

        1. re: Candy

          The crispy bits are called gribbenes, and are just as much a delicacy in Jewish homes as chicharrones are in Latino homes, especially if the chicken fat has been rendered with onions for flavor.

      2. re: Candy

        The crispy bits are called gribbenes (gribb-en-ess) and oy, Gottenyu, are they ever geshmak [tasty]!

        1. re: Candy

          Just a question: how does the water help? 45 minutes sounds like a really long time to render.
          I'd recommend trying the Yiddishe version without water...and try the gribenes!

        2. I believe you can buy it in a jar and it's called something like Nyfat.

          It that's it, it should start making an appearance on those Passover islands.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mar52

            Nyafat, feh! Nyafat is a vegetable based imitation shmaltz. Shmaltz is chicken fat, often flavored with onions. Empire Kosher poultry sells it frozen, and it's very good. Our local grocery (Ralph's in So Cal) used to carry jars of Old Fashion (or Fashioned, I don't remember) brand shmaltz, which was already flavored with onions. It was very good also, but I haven't seen it on the shelves in a couple of years.

          2. Here's Laurie Colwin's directions. This is what I do. She has never let me down.

            Take the fat from one large chicken, dice it up and put in a cold skillet.
            Gently warm skillet on low heat. Dice one small yellow onion.
            When fat begins to "let down" (e.g., melt a bit), turn fire up slightly & add onions.
            Cook on medium heat until onions are brown (not burnt) and fat has been rendered and cracklings are crisp.
            Remove onions (grieben) w/ slotted spoon and use in her roasted brussels sprouts recipe. The rest is schmaltz, which should be refrigerated.

            2 Replies
            1. re: willow

              Having read only this one reply, I'll agree with it, except to say you should strain the liquid schmaltz through the finest strainer, or filter paper before refrigerating. Also, I thought the crunchy potato-chip like solid parts of the fat that remained at the end were the gribenes. Also, you are not always going to want to use onions. Depending on the recipe, you might not want any oniony flavor involved.

              1. re: Niki Rothman

                You are right, I believe. The bits of crunchy fat are the gribenes. An onion in Yiddish is "tzibbaleh" (sp?).
                My Grandma and Mom always let us kids eat the gribenes after they were done rendering the fat and cooking the chicken livers. We usually got scolded for grabbing the onions, which were generally designated for the chopped liver.

            2. my grandmother used this recipe:
              "cut chicken fat and onions in small dice and cook it over a low heat until the smell makes you crazy!"

              1. j
                JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                Poke around on this board for the recipe for Zuni Cafe's roast chicken. Make it. Make extra bread salad, it's really good. When you're done roasting the chickens, pour off the juices that have collected in the pans. The fat that rises up is some darn good schmaltz. The mom of a Jewish friend was the lucky recipient of the liquid gold, and the first thing she said upon tasting it was "Is he Jewish?" with wedding plans already rolling through her head.

                Link: http://thecosmicjester.blogspot.com

                6 Replies
                1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                  Funny you should mention Zuni. After drooling all over my keyboard reading a gazillion posts on Zuni Roast Chicken I happened upon a copy of the cookbook at my local library yesterday. I've been pouring over it since then and I know I'll have to go out and buy a copy after my loaner needs to go back. I cannot wait to try the roasted chicken (and other recipes) and since I'm here talking about this - let me ask a question...what do I do if I'm having company and want to feed several people?? Those birds are tiny!

                  And, back to the schmaltz - what do I do with the fat after I swipe it from my Zuni Chicken?

                  1. re: EMZ

                    Re: Zuni for company. Use two 3.5 lb chickens and triple or quadruple the bread salad. Cut the chickens into quarters when they're done. That should be plenty to serve eight. Caveat, though. If you've been following the Zuni threads you know that unless you've got a killer ventilation system, you're going to smoke up all rooms bordering the kitchen. I only invite over for Zuni chicken those I know very well.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      My new townhome has the worst ventilation in the entire universe. I boil water and the alarm goes off;) It's even more annoying since they aren't battery operated smoke detectors...they're hard wired.
                      Does this mean I can't even make one Zuni chicken without having to put a shower cap over all of my detectors? Will smoke be coming out of my oven? And, do I get a roasting pan big enough for both chickens or roast them separately? Thanks for the tips:)

                      1. re: EMZ

                        I live in a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment and my smoke alarm goes off even if I have the two sets of louvred doors between the kitchen and the smoke alarm closed. I wrap the alarm in plastic wrap--but that's just because I don't even own a shower cap. And yes, it goes off when I make just one chicken.

                        I make Zuni chicken in a cast iron skillet. When I've made two, I've done it in two skillets. But I don't see why a roasting pan that would hold two wouldn't work as long as there's enough space around each chicken to ensure the skin crisps as it should. Perhaps someone else on the board had tried it that way?

                    2. re: EMZ

                      Use the schmaltz for the fat in matzo balls, chopped liver. My mother-in-law used it in egg salad for Shabbat.

                      1. re: p.j.

                        Sorry for the confusion, p.j.
                        I have tons of things to make with the schmaltz, I just wanted to know what I do with the fat after I scoop it out from beneath my Zuni Chicken:)

                  2. f
                    fai jay (fai jackson)

                    I cut up the fat with the skin, put it in a pyrex cup and microwave it until the golden fat is rendered and the cracklings (gribenes) are also golden and crunchy. Schmaltz is essential in good chopped liver and I always put some into the potato kugel, just as my mother, a pretty good cook did. If they last, as they hardly ever did in my home, use the gribenes in the chopped liver or kugel. My mother used to leave them on the counter and we would all grab some, usually leaving only a couple on the plate. Mom would always ask "Who ate the grebenes?", and no one would own up. Schmaltz and gribenes and the smell of them always take me back to Fridays (Shabos) at our house, even though it is now in the far past. My mother stopped making schmaltz when my father had a heart attack in the early 70's.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fai jay (fai jackson)

                      Ay yai yai! I think the microwave would simply ruin this heavenly stuff. Thanks for all your posts, my first schmaltz turned out perfect. We get our chickens from a local farmer (I say local, but it's really almost a 2 hour drive from home). Now Mr. Goode (yep, that's his name) grows these chickens outdoors, so they eat whatever they can, and he can't really control their growth. Typically we get between 5 and 7 pounds (whole, processed). The other night, we ate what must have been the meanest, toughest bird - 8.8 pounds, and the meat was tough for Goode's chickens. They deliver twice a year, so we stock up in the freezer. I've been making stock for about 4 years now, so this is my next level of getting the most out of the most incredible, pastured, organic chickens. We have found out that non-stick surfaces indeed do emit toxic chemicals at temperatures below 500F, and microwave ovens denature the food they cook. As well, they heat unevenly. I have to admit, at first we were skeptical we would like it, but it is really easy to make stainless steel non-stick (just heat the pan before you put food on it, and a little bit of high-heat oil like schmaltz, safflower oil, butter, definitely not olive). Also, we have to plan ahead - we take beef/poultry out of the freezer with plenty of time to thaw, and putting it in cool water in the sink (to cover) thaws it out within a couple of hours, and if we leave it for several more hours, the water keeps it just fine (it gets so cold it hurts to put your hand in).

                      Anyhow, we now use our over-the-stove microwave as a shelf to save counter space, and we are happier for it. Another problem to consider - plastic in microwave ovens emits toxic substances that are absorbed by the food, that have been shown in some studies to be carcinogenic.

                    2. Funny that I'm searching this board for Schmalz because of the Zuni chicken recipe too. I never know what to do with fat....pour it down the drain? no. So I put it in the cup and then into the fridge, where it solidifies and I can more easily throw it out, which I'm now thinking I may not want to do. I see that it's essential in chopped liver, but what else can I do with it that will make an impact? Will this stuff kill me eventually? (is it as bad for you as it looks?)

                      1. Schmalz is actually better for you than butter. It's a more liquid sort of fat and thus not as artery clogging. Which doesn't mean it isn't fat, just that it's less gloppy.

                        As for things to do with it, rendering it is crucial for making a good chicken gravy. Ditto for turkey gravy. It's silly to reach for butter and olive oil if you want the flavor of the bird in the gravy.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Kevin Andrew Murphy

                          It's got to be better for you than bacon fat, which I use a lot. I guess I should start saving the fat from my chicken stock. How about turkey schmalz?

                        2. I made matzoh ball soup a couple weeks ago and, call me lazy, but I simply bought a container of rendered chicken fat from my local butcher shop. (The matzoh balls definitely tasted more like I remember them, fyi.)

                          1. In my Kosher household we spread schmaltz on baked potatoes, instead of butter, when we were eating a meat meal. It lingers in my sensory memory as one of the savory high points of my childhood.

                            1. make chicken stock-refrigerate--the stuff that comes to the top is schmaltz-take it and put in a container-voila-I personally do not care for it--you can use it to fry things-Yes keep it regrigerated

                              1. My mom used to keep a jar of chicken schmaltz in the fridge for my dad. He'd spread it on bread and sprinkle on the salt. Ewwww! Maybe that's why I became a vegetarian at 15!

                                1. Here is my fancy shmancy, plohtzworthy, new-fangled method for making schmaltz. Actually I just lied. The following is from a micro-wave cookbook!

                                  In a large pyrex bowl, place any amount of chicken fat and skin that you desire. Cover the bowl with paper toweling, and let the fat cook in the microwave on high, until the fat renders out, and only the pieces of skin are left. Then take a chopped onion and add to the pyrex bowl. Keep cooking on high (no paper towel required at this point), until the onion is deeply golden brown. Pour off the liquid fat---this is your schmaltz. As for the crispy pieces of skin, and the golden brown onion----yummmeee---enjoy as you like!