Introduction: Jewish Penicillin (Grandma's Matzo Ball Soup)

About: The world's finest Jewish American Princess of Long Island, currently living outside of Boston.

My paternal grandparents were born in Poland, and emigrated to the United States from Israel after the war. I can fondly recall every Sunday morning, getting into the car with my family and driving into Queens, NY to go and spend the day with my grandma, parents, brother, and sometimes an aunt, uncle, and cousins, as we all crowded around the table and enjoyed a delicious homecooked meal. No matter how many people were coming, the time of year, and whether or not she felt up to it, my grandma always prepared a feast for us. Chicken cutlets, kasha varniskes, latkes, brisket, Israeli pickles, kugel, chopped liver, and of course, Jewish Penicillin, best known as Grandma's Matzo Ball Soup.

There's a reason that many people refer to matzo ball soup as Jewish Penicillin -- because it is the cure for just about everything. Have a cold or the sniffles? Matzo ball soup. Have a stomachache? Matzo ball soup. Having a tough time and need some warm, comforting food? Matzo ball soup. It's just that good. With both my boyfriend and myself feeling a bit under the weather, I knew there was only one option for dinner tonight.

Get ready to make a delicious pot of matzo ball soup, just like my Grandma loved to serve us every Sunday, like clockwork, for over twenty years. It's not only a huge comfort food for me, but also one of my all-time favorite meals.

Step 1: Ingredients

You can choose to add some noodles to your soup or not; it's up to personal preference. If you decide to also add noodles, I highly recommend using egg noodles. I have made noodles by scratch before, but my kitchen doesn't really permit it at this time.

For the soup:

  • Chicken -- you can use a whole chicken, split breasts, legs, thighs... it really depends on what you want. Today, I used split breasts because they were on sale.
  • 2 onions
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Fresh dill
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Bouillon, to taste

For the matzo balls:

  • Matzo meal (be sure to note if your matzo meal is preseasoned or not -- if it is, do not add any more salt or other flavorings! if it isn't, be sure to add a bit of flavor to it)
  • Eggs, slightly beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Schmaltz
  • Salt, to taste

Step 2: Prepping the Veggies

Dice one onion and score the other. To score the onion, make about 8 slices, halfway through the onion on one side. Flip the onion over and do the same, being sure not to connect the cuts, leaving the onion fully intact.

Smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife. You can choose to mince, dice, or chop the garlic at this point, or you can leave it whole. I leave it whole.

Peel, wash, and slice the carrots. Cut them into thick coins, about an inch or two thick.

Wash, trim, and cut the celery. Cut it into thick chunks, about an inch or two long.

Wash the parsley and dill, and tie them up into bunches using string.

Step 3: ...Now You Got a Soup Going, Baby!

Place the pieces of chicken, the diced onion, and the whole onion into a stockpot. Fill the stockpot with cold water until all of the chicken is completely covered, making sure to add a little bit more to compensate for the vegetables you will be adding.

Bring the chicken and onions to a boil. Add the fresh herbs and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and return to a boil. Let the soup continue to simmer for an hour or so. Taste often, and add any salt or pepper as needed. Feel free to add bouillon to taste, at this point.

As the soup cooks, take a small cup or jar to collect schmaltz in -- you'll need this for the matzo balls. What's schmaltz? It's the chicken fat that collects at the top of the pot during cooking. Skim it off the top and reserve it on the side. It's okay if you get some broth in there, too.

Step 4: Matzo Ballin'

Lower the heat of the soup so that it is no longer at a rolling boil, but simmering.

Prepare the matzo balls by following the steps listed. I doubled the ingredients because I love matzo balls and wanted a lot for leftovers, but if this is your first time eating them, you might want to make less incase you don't love them as much as I do.

For 8 matzo balls:

  • ½ cup matzo meal
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons schmaltz
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the matzo meal and vegetable oil, and stir until combined. Add the schmaltz and mix until well incorporated. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 20-60 minutes.

After the time is up, you're ready to start rollin'! Make sure your hands are damp, but not wet. If at any time you feel the matzo meal is sticking to your hands a bit too much, just wet your hands with cold water.

Roll the matzo into balls and place them onto a plate. Roll them about the size of a golf ball. When you're finished rolling all of them, place directly into the soup. Once the last ball goes in, cover the pot immediately and set a timer for 20 minutes. DO NOT LIFT THE TOP UNTIL THE 20 MINUTES IS UP!

If you chose to also cook noodles for your soup, follow the instructions on the bag and cook while the matzo balls cook. The thin egg noodles I chose to use only took 4 minutes of cook time, so I made them during the final minutes of the timer.

Step 5: Take a Spoonful and Let All of Life's Troubles Go Away!

Make yourself a nice hearty bowl of soup, grab a spoon, sit down, let the steam waft over your face, and take a bite. Feel all of the trials and tribulations of life go away as you find comfort in Grandma's matzo ball soup.


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