You don’t have to be Jewish to love Matzo Ball soup. When you order it in a deli, what you are really getting is one or two matzo balls in a bowl of chicken soup! So, what is a matzo ball? It’s a dumpling – also called a “kneidle” in Yiddish or a “knoedel” in German.
One of my grandmother’s made them light and fluffy while the other grandmother’s were like golf balls…solid and hard. My mother (following her mother’s lead) made the light ones and so do I. Sometimes they would hide a ‘gribene’ – a piece of chicken skin rendered of its fat, the rendered fat is called ‘schmaltz” – the Jewish version of lard – delicious but guaranteed to clog your arteries! Kids and adults loved to eat the gribenes and onions….just think crisp pork rinds for an idea of why we love them!
My grandmother would often make extra ones during Passover. For an alternative starch side dish, she’d slice them and fry them (like polenta slices which they will slightly resemble) and serve with left over brisket or roast chicken instead of potatoes. (Eastern European Jews do not eat rice or beans during Passover; Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal and North Africa do.)
What always made Passover special to me was that we ate foods we didn’t eat during the rest of the year – and we didn’t (couldn’t) eat certain things we ate the rest of the year. Today we can find almost anything Kosher for Passover so it really isn’t as much fun as it used to be!
Try these Matzo balls…they’re really easy to make and heavenly to eat!
PS: They’re the light and fluffy version!
Matzo Balls (aka Kneidle)
- 1 c Matzo Meal
- 1/2 c water
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 c melted shortening or oil (I use schmaltz; the flavor is better!)
- 1 tsp salt
- dash white pepper
Beat eggs until well mixed. Add water, melted shortening, salt and pepper to eggs. Stir in matzo meal until well moistened. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Wet your hands and form into balls about 2 – 2-1/2″ in diameter and drop into soup or 1 1/2 quarts boiling water to which 1 Tbsp salt has been added. Cover and cook 20 minutes. Do Not open the lid of the pot. This will make about 8 -10 matzo balls. You can make them bigger or smaller if you wish.
This is how my mother and my Aunt Pauline taught me….
Note: Don’t compact the balls; handle as little as possible. Compacting and a lot of handling makes them hard.
Mother usually scraped off the fat from the chilled chicken soup and used it both in the batter and if there was enough, a little of the soup, diluted with water and with some of the chicken fat (schmaltz) for flavor when she cooked the kneidles. She dropped one in first, to be sure it didn’t fall apart; if it did, she added a little more matzo meal and let it sit; if it doesn’t then continue with them. If you make them the day before, leave them in the ‘soup’ you used to cook them. You can make the batter the day before and leave it covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them (saves space in the ‘fridge!).
Aunt Pauline has a really clever trick you might enjoy! She sprays ice cube trays with non-stick cooking spray, then fills each section with batter and freezes it. When she’s ready to cook them, she defrosts them just enough to get them out of the freezer tray and drops them into the soup to cook. They’re smaller – and everyone wants to know how she made SQUARE MATZO BALLS!