schmaltz also schmalz (shmälts) n.
a. Excessively sentimental art or music.
b. Maudlin sentimentality.
2. Liquid fat, especially chicken fat.
[Yiddish shmalts, animal fat, sentimentality, from Middle High German smalz, animal fat, from Old High German; see mel-1 in Indo-European roots.]
My mother was German and growing up we always had a goose for Christmas, which was what she’d had as a child. I remember one of my English aunts saying, “The trouble with goose is there’s so much fat and I never know what to do with it all.”
A few years back I spent Christmas with some friends, a polish couple, a Dutch couple, myself and now-husband and an American/English couple in Big bear, California. We also had goose and after it was cooked, the fat was ceremoniously drained from the roasting pan into a mug for later use. But the next day the goose fat was nowhere to be seen. You’d have thought a murder had taken place the way the Polish couple and i responded to the realisation of the loss. Who we asked, would be so ignorant as to throw away a whole mug of goose fat? We decided to blame the Dutch couple as they had left by then and no one else was owning up to the treachery (when in doubt blame those that can’t defend themselves). At one point, to call a truce on the matter, I suggested that maybe someone had thrown it away, not realizing what it was. To which the American boyfriend of my English friend admitted that that’s what had happened. “I just thought it was fat,” he said “and poured it down the sink.”
Times have changed since then and now every food loving person worth their salt knows that goose fat is something to be revered and, amongst other things, makes the best roast potatoes.
What my English aunt didn’t know all those years ago and what my mother possibly never told her, was that it was precisely because of the fat that she preferred a goose to a turkey. One of the joys, post Christmas, for her was to make Schmaltz. It is a Mid-European dish that is made by rendering the goose fat and then cooking it slowly with an onion and an apple. It is then spread onto bread, sprinkled with salt and sometimes topped with a slice of cheese.
The skin of the bird is also used, chopped into little bits and added to the fat the bits of skin become crisp and are known as gribeens. These are then strained and eaten on their own as a snack, or added to a salad as an alternative to bacon.
Here’s how to make Schmaltz.
Heat the fat slowly in a heavy saucepan.
Strain the fat through a sieve or a muslin cloth
Pour half the liquid into a jar and seal the cap for later use. Pour the other half into a clean saucepan.
Chop an apple and an onion and add to the strained fat in the saucepan and cook slowly for about an hour or until the apple has completely disintegrated. Pour into a jar and allow to cool.
Spread onto bread and sprinkle with salt. Add a slice of cheese for added decadence
Schmaltz has made a bit of a come back in recent years as people realise that not all fat is the enemy (sugar is now the new fat). But at 115 calories a tablespoon, you might want to go easy on the amount you spread on your bread.
Michael Ruhlman, the well known food writer, winner of the James Beard award, sometime TV presenter and general food God, has even written a book just on Schmalz that you can download here.
Please leave a comment about your own experiences of schmaltz, whether sentimental, maudlin or of an edible nature.