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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Matzo Ball Soup

A holiday meal at my grandmother's just isn't complete without a bowl of her matzo ball soup.  Before the soup is served my grandmother comes out of the kitchen to ask the all-important question "one or two?" though we all know it's coming and already have our fingers in the air (newcomers to these meals are taught this tradition in advance so they are ready to place their matzo ball order).

Since we were not going to my grandmother's seder this year, I felt it unfair to ask her to bring us leftover soup, so I decided to take on this recipe myself.  I had never made chicken soup from scratch before (unless you count pouring a packet of seasoning into a pot of water and boiling it) so I was excited (and only slightly intimidated) by this undertaking.

When I swung by my grandma's the other day to pick something up I asked her to talk me through this recipe, and I'm glad she did!  She had some great tips for making this that really made it foolproof.  She provided me with "soup socks" so that I could put all the ingredients into it for easy clean-up (I put the chicken, veggies, herbs and cloves in the bag, but put the salt pepper and garlic salt right into the water), and provided me with the schmaltz that she had prepared herself earlier in the week.

Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, which you can either buy at a kosher butcher, or you can make yourself by melting the fat in a saucepan.  My grandmother adds chopped onions to this and lets it saute, which gives the schmaltz a yummy flavor.  She keeps the onion with some of the schmaltz, but gave me a container w/o the onions.

Because the cooking process takes a long time and the matzo ball mixture has to set twice, I made the matazo ball mix, then as it set for the first hour as I prepped the soup and started that boiling.  Since it boils for 2-3 hours, I then moved the mixture into the fridge until it was ready 3 hours later.

After the first 2 hours I noticed that a lot of the water had boiled out of the pot (I had it mostly covered but left it a little open so it didn't boil over).  I added another qt or 2 of water and let it continue to boil for the last hour.

When the soup was ready, I lifted the soup sock with the chicken and veggies out of the water and used the steamer tray that came with my pot to help drain the extra soup out of the chicken, etc and back into the pot.  Since the chicken was then fully cooked, my husband cut it up and used it for a salad the next day with the cooked veggies.

I then cooked the matzo balls directly in the soup to give it a little more of that flavor.  When it was all done cooking, I let it cool and packaged up the soup and matzo balls separately to store in the fridge.  The next night I put 4 matzo balls and some soup into a small pot, boiled it for a bit and then served it up for a nice delicious meal!

I'm excited to have learned how to make chicken soup from scratch.  Now next time my husband or I are sick I'll just make my own instead of going out to the store to buy some.  I'm sure there's more medicinal quality to homemade chicken soup anyway....

Chicken Soup

Clean chicken and place in 4qts water.  Add 3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, a small bouquet of parsley and dill, 1 small turnip (cleaned and quartered), 1 parsnip, 3 whole cloves, salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste.

Bring to a boil and let cook at a rolling boil for 2 – 3 hours until chicken is tender.  Remove all ingredients, strain and serve.

If the water boils out during cooking, additional boiling water may be added during cooking.  Seasonings may be adjusted at any time.

Matzo Balls

4 eggs well beaten
½ cup cold water
1/3 cup melted schmaltz, warm – not hot
1 tsp salt
1tsp sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup matzo meal

Mix eggs, water, salt, sugar and nutmeg.  Add schmaltz and beat well with fork or whisk.  Add matzo meal and mix thoroughly.  It will be a loose mixture.  Let stand at room temperature for one hour.  If it is still very loose, add up to ¼ cup of additional matzo meal.

Put mix in refrigerator for several hours to set.

In a large pot add salted water to boil.  Wet hands and form batter into a ball the size of a clementine.   Drop into boiling water and boil for 40 min.  Remove from liquid and drain in colander.  Serve with hot chicken soup.

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