NY Times says cholent tasted better in Poland
Well, more or less. It's an article about slow-cooking bean stew in a earth oven heated with wood that burns out over the course of many hours. Like an old fashioned oven in the shtetl. Here's what caught my eye:
"I wasn’t expecting all that much. But I was wrong. The long, slow cooking with its gradually declining heat had perfectly melded the earthy flavor of the beans with the fatty richness of the..."
Did the cooking method, the "long, slow cooking with its gradually declining heat" in the old country (any old country, not just Poland) produce a cholent that tasted better and different than the steady heat we use today?
anybody up for digging an earth oven?
Puerto Ricans have their China Boxes, Hawaiins go luow... we make cholents low and slow...why not go old school over the fire like in the good ol' days? In the Spring of '98 I found myself camping for 4 days including Shabbat in and and around Nachal Yehudiya in in the Israeli Golan with 5 great friends. In order to have warmth at night as well as a warm meal for Shabbat lunch we built a stone hut over our fire pit and made sure to have a heavy bed of fiery coals by candle lighting time. We filled a large pot with potato, dried beans, barley, onions and a treasure trove of of Romanian dried salami and garlic sticks, garlic spices and river water. The "earthiness" imparted by the hardwood coal slow cook lingers in my mind to this day. It was a great experience and reading that Times article totally brought me back. In fairness, the Yidden in most of the towns or shtetls in Poland would have most likely brought their cholents to the local baker in a cholent pot with their family's name on it to share space in the massive bakers oven whose hot stones would likewise retain and diminish in heat overnight.
I must say that while I very seldom get to make cholent at home, I do love the functions in most of the newer crockpots weher by you can set a hot time of 6-10 hours after which it automatically switches into low gear.