Sunday, May 13, 2007

nothing goes to waste

this is definitely one of those things which is mostly an item of the past. today it mainly harkens family and old town memories for the older crowd. can't say it's completely disappeared though because as you'll see here, it's still being made by crazy people like me :D

no longer a common kitchen staple these days, probably due to health consciousness, schmaltz & griven — or rendered chicken fat and cracklings, is something for which there is no (kosher) equivalent. in the olden days of the shtetls, or ashkenazi jewish village towns in eastern europe, schmaltz and griven was typically made from goose or duck skin and fat. this was an excellent choice as both geese and ducks are naturally fatty compared to the regular chicken, giving a lot more final product. making fat from the skin was not only frugal but also sensible; why throw out something which would provide an essential cooking fat? the average peasant or villager had little money to waste. shmaltz and the cracklings are not only a jewish thing — it should be noted that goose fat, or graisse d'oie, is also used in classic french cuisine and considered as much a staple as butter.

used the same way as others would use bacon grease/fat, rendered chicken fat gives foods a distinctive taste no regular oil can approximate. i use it sparingly and only make it in fairly small quantities and only around the times of the holidays when i tend to make meat dishes.

it does take about 2 to 3 hours to make, including the chopping, cooking, straining and cooling, but it is worth the effort. it can be frozen for longer storage and shouldn't be kept for longer than about 3 to 4 months in the fridge.

to make the schmaltz, you need the skins from either chickens, ducks or, if you can get it, geese. using the skin of one single chicken/bird won't really give you much of anything. i save and freeze the skin and fat deposits from whole chickens when i cut them up, until i am ready to make it. you need at least enough chicken skin from 3 to 4 chickens. it also helps to open up the fan and/or windows as your are cooking it and it leaves that "oil smell" we all know about. oh well, small price to pay .... at least, it disappears eventually and you're left with something you won't regret making.

chicken schmaltz & griven
rendered chicken fat and cracklings


chicken skin and yellow fat [collected from chickens]
1 large onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, skins removed


defrost the skin, if it is frozen, only briefly. having it semi frozen makes it much easier to cut into pieces. cut all the skin into 1/2 " squares or small pieces.

place these pieces in a dutch oven type pot or very large cast iron pan or large non-stick skillet and add about 3/4 c of water. some people do not add water but i find it helps to remove impurities from the skin and also it allows the skins to cook a bit first and not brown too quickly. i also find using/switching to a nonstick pan to cook the chicken skin and onion together a better idea because the skin tends to stick to the pan and makes for easier clean up.

bring the chicken skin and water to a boil and let it boil away. turn on the fan to help remove the smell of the chicken cooking.

it will take some time for the water to evaporate but keep cooking until you have very little water left.

add the chopped onion and the cloves of garlic.

cook the onion and chicken skin over medium heat until it starts to brown, stirring every so often.

if the skin is not browned, i.e. with with spots, it's not fully cooked. keep going.

the schmaltz will be ready when the cracklings have turned dark brown to almost black. do not cook them too long or they will burn. you may need to turn the heat down a bit near the end.

let everything cool for a few moments and then strain it all in a fine meshed metal strainer or sieve. put the oil in a small jar and keep it in the fridge or freeze. store the griven or cracklings in a small container. they can be eaten like a snack item (!!) or used in mashed potatoes or chopped liver or fillings for knishes.


Princess Jibi said...

is this safe to eat? I mean I am always throwing away all the fat I can find on the chicken and most of the skin. and here you have a dish made of it... this is so strange

burekaboy — said...

LOL, of course it's safe! it has been made in kitchens for centuries.

i know, it looks gross but really it isn't. the grease is put in the fridge to harden and is used to cook with like any regular oil. the crispy skins are used for all sorts of things and are actually very, very tasty -- believe it or not :D

haha, you can see from all the comments so far that this is NOT gonna be a popular post! i admit, though, it does look 'YUCK'. thanks for commenting, PJ.

Pamela said...

Those crispy skins have been fought over by children and grandchildren for centuries in grandmothers' kitchens across the world.

Go easy on them, but by all means make them!

and, BB, it won't be popular only because people haven't tried it!

burekaboy — said...

hey pamela :D - you know it -- those who haven't tasted griven don't know what they're missing!

.....but it's sooo hard not to eat them all, esp. when faced with the challah/schmaltz/griven combo!! LOL

Princess Jibi said...

I meant to ask you do Jews like pray and kill there meat? Like we muslims eat halaal meat. And over here is so different from Guyana, I am always having to look at what I buy if its made from animal fat or so. I even bought cookies a day that was made of beef fat and its like just your normal plain biscuits cookies

I remember buying a frozen chicken a day that said halaal, but it also said it was killed by Jews. I cant remember the name but it was a green box.

I am kinda very religious when it comes to what I eat, because if I eat something impure and I know of it my prayers wont be accepted.

I know our religion permits us to eat from Jews. But I never really checked up on it.

Your like the only Jew I know, I dont know if we have any Jews in Guyana. I have to ask around.

Anyways as usual am just curious..

Princess Jibi said...

p.s. am still in big shock here that you can actually do this...

lol like when I think about this recipe, I think about heart attacks, and gettin fat overnight...

burekaboy — said...

PJ - hi :D your questions are always welcomed. so first of all, yes, we kill and cut up our own meat and say the necessary prayer/s before the animal meets its end. the butcher is called a shohet and has to be specially trained to do this. the animal is killed with a very sharp knife across the neck which cuts the main artery; the animal loses consciousness and dies immediately. then, as much blood as possible is drained from the animal because we are forbidden to consume blood. also, the animal's vital organs are checked (like the heart, lungs and liver) to see if there is any disease. if anything is wrong, then the animal cannot be used by us. if the organs are smooth and everything is okay, the animal can be used and is called "glatt kosher"; glatt means smooth. another thing is that, except for birds like chickens, ducks, geese etc., jews can only use the upper half of the animal. the lower half cannot be used because of all the nerves and fat deposits which are considered not kosher and these parts are sold to the non-jewish communities. all the meat has to go through a 72 hour process of salting and soaking to get out all the remaining blood and then it can be sold. in the olden days, the salting and soaking was done at home. because of all these procedures and the low percentage of people buying it (compared to the rest of the [non jewish] population), the meat is 3 times the prices of non kosher meat.

muslims often buy kosher meat where halal is not available because it is killed the same way and the prayers are very similar to muslim ones (i think). we, however, cannot eat halal meat because you use all the animal parts -- not kosher to us, you do not salt and soak (as far as i know) and i am sure there are many other reasons, too.

if you are concerned about what you eat, you really have to be careful because some things, like the cookies you mention, are made with animal fats and lots of times it is lard which is PIG fat :o ALWAYS check the list of ingredients.

i think you should check with the muslim community of toronto (or even online) because i know they publish a list of ALL the foods that muslims can eat and are acceptable. we have an organization called the VA'AD HA'IR which we can check with if we are not sure about something. also, all kosher products have to have a marking on them like a K or OU or MK. maybe you should ask some of the ladies from the masjid if you go, for advice about how to shop here :) i am sure it must be VERY different from back in guyana.


as for the recipe here -- yes, i imagine people would be worried about health problems and the like but, really, the schmaltz and griven is only eat in small amounts. people have been eating this stuff for hundreds of years, too.

everything in moderation, as they say. too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Princess Jibi said...

wow, this info is so amazin... lol and I thought I had it bad, i mean not that it is bad. Just that I cant imagine not eating some of the parts. Or having to do the salting process.
I have never heard of salting and soaking, except for Fish, which we call salt fish. But we also cant use the animal blood. Normally we wash the meat with salt. Or just soak it for a five minutes with the salt whilst washing it.

I know what you mean about the price. Sometimes I have to ask what am I paying for the Halaal here?

Like things that sell at Popeyes is 3/4 of the price at Mc Donalds. But then I dont know whats the process over here for Halaal meat.

I dont know about Jews. But our religion has so many branches. I sometimes go to the masjid with my husband. But everyone you talk to follows something different.
Like people that come from Pakistan side or Somalians have different books that the follow.

The Quran is our main book that everyone is suppose to follow. But then we have something called Hadiths its like what scholars who study the Quran and the history of our Prophet Mohammad write. And thats what causes most of the confusion in our religion. So most of the people at the Moss follow different stuff.

In our country most of the people that teach Islam comes from India. But there are alot of things that the teach thats not in the Quran, and is mostly traditions stuff like mixed with a bit of Hinduism..
Anyways enough about that...

P.s. Self control is so hard when your eating something that tastes really good..

burekaboy — said...

PJ - we also have different branches in judaism from ultra religious to very open and "modern" observance. each branch has its own way of thinking and acting. so i guess it is kind of the same thing as you mention with muslims.

no big surprise (too) that we also have commentaries by rabbis on our "book" called the Torah. there are many commentaries and therefore many different and differing opinions on all the different books that make up the Torah. we even have an "oral torah" or law in addition to the written one.

in the end, everyone should all just get along in all religions.


LOL ... i have very LITTLE self control when i am eating something i love!! i need to work on that :))

chanit said...

מאז שהייתי קטנה לא אכלתי גריבן, אני יכולה להרגיש את הריח, וכמה זה פריך בפה, יופי של דברים יש לך, כל הכבוד ותודה רבה