Schmaltz

Schmaltz or schmalz or shmalz is rendered chicken or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

The English term "schmaltz" is derived from Yiddish, and is cognate to the German term Schmalz, meaning "rendered animal fat", regardless of source—both tallow and lard are considered forms of Schmalz in German, as is clarified butter. However, English usage tends to follow Yiddish and thus limit the term "schmaltz" to fat derived from domestic fowl.

Schmaltz rendered from a chicken or goose was used by northwestern and eastern European Jews who were forbidden by kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) to fry their meats in butter or lard, the common forms of cooking fat in Europe, as butter, being derived from milk, cannot be used with meat, and lard is derived from pork, an unkosher meat. Furthermore, tallow derived from beef or mutton would have been uneconomical, particularly given that virtually all suet (the raw material for tallow) is chelev and forbidden from consumption. Northwestern and Eastern European Jews also could not obtain the kinds of vegetable-derived cooking oils, such as olive oil and sesame oil, that they had used in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean (as in Spain and Italy). Thus Ashkenazi Jews turned to poultry fat as their cooking fat of choice; the overfeeding of geese to produce more fat per bird produced Modern Europe's first foie gras as a side effect.

The manufacture of schmaltz involves cutting the fatty tissues of a bird (chicken or goose) into small pieces, melting the fat, and collecting the drippings. Schmaltz may be prepared by a dry process where the pieces are cooked under low heat and stirred, gradually yielding their fat. A wet process also exists whereby the fat is melted by direct steam injection. The rendered schmaltz is then filtered and clarified.

Homemade Jewish-style schmaltz is made by cutting chicken or goose fat into small pieces and melting in a pan over low-to-moderate heat, generally with onions. After the majority of the fat has been extracted, the melted fat is strained through a cheesecloth into a storage container. The remaining dark brown, crispy bits of skin and onion are known in Yiddish as gribenes. Another simple method is as a by-product of the making of chicken soup. After the chicken is simmered in the pot or crock-pot, the broth is chilled so the fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off, at once providing schmaltz to set aside for other uses and a less-fat soup, which is brought back to heat before serving.

Read more about Schmaltz:  Uses, Vegetarian Schmaltz, Etymology, Derived Meanings

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