What is Schmaltz? - it's a term for rendered chicken fat.
The Problem - Growing up I would hear that to make really good matzoh balls or roast potatoes you need schmaltz. Problem was that no one wanted to bother with rendering chicken fat. As I see it, my grandparents grew up with parents who rendered schmaltz but had to manage it before refrigeration... it was probably a terrible thing to look after.
The Solution - it is so simple with a freezer to simply cast as cubes (or florets) and use as a flavorful substitute for butter or oil.
--schmaltzy can also mean 'excessively sentimental...' as in he/she melts easily. A little rusty on Yiddish? Practice with these phrase magnets
Step 1: Make a Stock
Making stock happens about every week at our house through the winter. A big soup is just so easy. As the seasons change our schmaltz is running low and our scrap bones are filling the freezer.
Here I'm using leg/thigh combos. The dark meat is better and fattier for rendering schmaltz.
- Sear - I sear the meat on a medium high heat
- Boil - Then I move the meat and bones to a pasta strainer that fits in my pot. Pot Boil vs Kettle -We love the Kettle and find it easier to simply add water pre-boiled
- Cook - The time can vary depending on what else you're balancing but aim for 2 hours (1.5-3.5 works).
- Remove - Pull the bones. I simply lift the strainer. My grandparents would use soup socks to contain the bones. I did for my first soup years ago but think of it as more work.
Step 2: Render the Schmaltz
The process super simple. All we do is skim the fat from the side of the pan.
- Prepare the pan - under medium or high heat shift the pan slightly off center from the heat. This causes the fat to get pushed to the edge by the bubbles coming up from the heat.
- Scoop the schmaltz - Using a spoon or sm ladle scoop the fat that floats above the soup base.
- When to stop - Careful not to remove too much unless you're making a consomme! Don't worry about picking up additional broth. It can either be added back or separated later.
Step 3: Filtering
When I make my stock I like to start with basic seasoning. Salt, pepper, bay leaves, chili peppers. I'll hold off on adding ingredients that really dissipate into the stock such as certain veggies, beans and tomatoes.
It just depends how much flavor you want to capture in your schmaltz.
- Typically I filter twice through my small strainer back and forth between two Pyrex measuring cups (they're great).
For clearer schmaltz - If you prefer for appearance, cooking or are baking sweets
- avoid adding anything in addition to the straight chicken. Generally, the less that is added to broth - the clearer the schmaltz.
- You can skim from the rendered stock rather than pour. It simply takes a little extra time.
- Place in the refrigerator before going into the freezer. This allows any debris to settle at the bottom before firming up
See in the background my Swiss Army Shelves.
Step 4: Fill Your Mold
The first times I froze schmaltz I used an ice cube tray. It's so simple.
You could get fancy and use any number of molds. I couldn't find it but I'll bet there are some even shaped like chickens!
- Shape - the shape allows for the broth to settle into the bottom section as it freezes. It's easy to see the layers and use ones with more or less broth.
- Size - being smaller than ice cubes allows me to control the amount of fat I add to dishes without having to cut them.
- Material - the flexible rubber allows me to push them out easily. I find this more important with fat because I don't want to get surfaces greasy by spilling the cubes on a cutting board
Step 5: Final Product + Dishes
When you regularly cook with schmaltz the final product really is a beautiful sight! My seasoned schmaltz comes out of the fridge smelling like chicken soup - perfection!
A few dishes that are best with schmaltz:
- Matzoh Balls - instructable coming soon...
- Ramen - we always saute the aromatics with schmaltz
- Roasties - Roast potatoes. also, coming soon... (we parboil before roasting in schmaltz)
Duck fat has become a big hit but chicken fat has always been the working grease in our kitchen. It's not as fasionable and I could only find one product on amazon! Nice branding fatworks -the lamb tallow looks delicious!
Thanks for reading, Jeff
Here's a quick quote from (in my opinion) the best chef of all time.... "you know, cooking is a wonderful thing to do. and, you should be creative. you should be yourself when you're cooking. and, i'm going to tell you that i'll never follow a recipe more than a half a time or actually not at all. so don't expect me to follow my own recipes when I do this." ~Chef Paul (Louisiana Kitchen '84 + Family Cookbook '87)