Matzo Balls!

Happy New Year

Don’t ask me why, but it is traditional for the Jewish New Year to have a festive meal that has a very familiar menu, with items often seen at Passover.  Brisket for a main course, chopped liver for an appetizer, and matzo ball soup.  Apples and honey for a sweet new year, and round challah instead of braided ones, with some kind of an apple dessert.

One of my favorite food blogs, the Brown Eyed Baker, posted on September 4, a discussion on Matzo ball soup.  See  Unfortunately, Michelle Norris, who is not Jewish, does not know the first rule of this holiday soup, as she suggests using chicken stock!  No,no,that is verboten.  The smells created by making a “special” soup is as much a part of holiday tradition even though one could make the super stock in advance and freeze it.  Making the soup fresh the day before Rosh Hashanah, saving the rendered chicken fat, making the matzo balls in salted water:  all part of the gestalt of the holiday (repeated again a half year later at Passover, as matzo ball soup is one of the important parts of a Pesach menu).  Sure, you could make this soup anytime of the year, but it is almost always made for these two holidays.  The soup can be kosher with the use of kosher chicken.  If the idea of using rendered chicken fat is not appealing, vegetable oil can be substituted.

You have to make matzo ball soup with important little tweaks, and an ordinary stock will not suffice.  The following is a sure fire winner:

matzo ball soup

6 pounds chicken, either cut up in pieces, or a single large bird, or 2 small fryers

3 celery ribs

2 carrots

1 white or yellow onion, quartered

1 parsley root with greens

2 leeks

2 parsnips, cut in half

1 turnip, optional

10 sprigs of flat leaf parsley

10 sprigs dill

10 sprigs thyme, optional


1.  Place the chicken(s) in a large stock pot.  It doesn’t matter if the chicken is in pieces or whole.  Add the onion and cover with 3 quarts of water.  Cook on low simmer for one hour.  Do not boil!  Skim the surface foam (mostly fat) periodically.

2. Add the rest of the vegetables and simmer for an additional 1 1/2 hours.  Strain the solids from the soup, saving the meat from the chicken for other uses (such as chicken salad, etc.).

3. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Remove the fat that has come to the surface.  Save this fat, called Schmaltz, to be used in the matzo balls.  Reheat with some fresh carrots cut in small rounds, and the matzo balls. Chicken meat does not belong in holiday matzo ball soup!

Matzo Balls:

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1/3 cup Schmaltz

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups matzo meal

Fill a large, wide stockpot 3/4 full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a rapid boil. Meanwhile, crack eggs into a large bowl and beat thoroughly. Beat in schmaltz, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and baking powder. Slowly fold in matzo meal, mixing vigorously until completely blended.  Baking powder is kosher for Passover, even though it is a leavening agent, as it is not derived from “hametz.”

Wet your hands, and folding the mixture in your palms, shape perfect balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, about the size of a Ping-Pong ball (they will double in size when cooked). Use very little force in shaping the balls, as the mixture will hold together easily.  You don’t want to compress the ball and have it too dense (I’m not a fan of “sinker” style matzo balls).  Gently place the matzo balls in the boiling water, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes.  If in doubt about whether the balls are cooked completely, remove one and cut in half, the center should look the same color as the edges.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place 1 or 2 in each bowl of soup.  This matzo ball recipe makes 15 to 20 medium matzo balls.


About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I have learned by taking some master classes and doing a lot of reading and experimentation. I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. The fun is getting it right, with great taste and presentation. The smells and appearance add to the pleasure of eating well. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise. I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself, but I will always come back and revise the "untested" recipe after I've made it, with valid comments to keep old posts accurate and current. If I am not the originator of a recipe I will always correctly attribute the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. I will occasionally post reviews of local restaurants on the site. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews!
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