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Schmaltz

Schmaltz

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Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered chicken
Chicken (food)
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture.- History :...

, goose
Goose
The word goose is the English name for a group of waterfowl, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller....

, or pork
Pork
Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig , which is eaten in many countries. It is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC....

 fat
Fat
Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides, triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids. Fats may be either solid or liquid at room temperature, depending on their structure...

 used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine
Jewish cuisine
Jewish Cuisine is a collection of the different cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions...

. Also is very common in Ukrainian cuisine (ukr. "смалець").

Schmaltz rendered from a chicken or goose (but not pork) is popular in Jewish cuisine
Jewish cuisine
Jewish Cuisine is a collection of the different cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions...

; it was used by Northwestern and Eastern European Jews who were forbidden by kashrut
Kashrut
Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

 (Jewish dietary laws) to fry their meats in butter
Butter
Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking applications, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying...

 or lard
Lard
Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished because of health concerns posed by its saturated-fat content and its often negative...

, the common forms of cooking fat in Europe (Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

 7:23), and who could not obtain the kinds of cooking oils, such as olive oil
Olive oil
Olive oil is an oil obtained from the olive , a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It is commonly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and soaps and as a fuel for traditional oil lamps...

 and sesame oil
Sesame oil
Sesame oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. Besides being used as a cooking oil in South India, it is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and to a lesser extent Southeast Asian cuisine.The oil from the nutrient rich seed is popular in alternative...

, that they had used in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and around the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 (as in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

). (The overfeeding of geese to produce more fat per bird produced postclassical Europe's first foie gras
Foie gras
Foie gras ; French for "fat liver") is a food product made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. This fattening is typically achieved through gavage corn, according to French law, though outside of France it is occasionally produced using natural feeding...

 as a side effect.)

The manufacture of schmaltz involves cutting the fatty tissues of a bird (chicken or goose) or pig 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
Gribenes
Gribenes or grieven are crisp chicken or goose skin cracklings with fried onions, a kosher food somewhat similar to pork rinds. Gribenes are a byproduct of schmaltz preparation....

.

Similarly, pork fat can be enhanced with small pieces of pork skin to create Griebenschmaltz. Other recipes contain small pieces of apple or onion.

Uses


Since the rendering process removes water and proteins from the fat, schmaltz does not spoil easily. It can even be used to preserve cooked meats if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. This is similar to the French confit.

Schmaltz often has a strong aroma, and therefore is often used for hearty recipes such as stews or roasts. It is also used as a bread spread, where it is sometimes also salted, and generally this is done on whole-grain breads which have a strong flavor of their own.

In Germany "Schmalzbrot" can be found on many menus, especially in grounded restaurants or brewery pubs. Schmalzbrot is often served as Griebenschmalz on rye bread accompanied with pickled gherkin.

Vegetarian schmaltz


A vegetarian (and consequently pareve) version of schmaltz was first marketed commercially in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

 by Debra's under the slogan "Even the chicken can't tell the difference". Other vegetarian brands include Nyafat. The product claims that the taste and texture is similar to real chicken schmaltz but the saturated fat content is much lower - Debra's Schmaltz, for example, bears the South African Heart Foundation's sign of endorsement.

Etymology


Schmaltz comes from the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 'smalz' ‘grease’, ‘tallow’, ‘fat’, which is cognate with the English word "melt".

shmalts is the Yiddish
Yiddish language
Yiddish is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages...

 word for chicken fat
Chicken fat
Chicken fat is fat obtained from chicken rendering and processing. Of animal-sourced substances, chicken fat is noted for being high in linoleic acid, a beneficial omega-6 fatty acid. Linoleic acid levels are between 17.9% and 22.8%. It is often used in pet foods, and has also been used in the...

, The term entered English usage through Yiddish-speaking Jews who used this word mostly to refer to kosher poultry fat.

Derived meanings


The expression "falling into the schmaltz pot" refers to the concept of having something good happen to you, often by sheer luck (e.g., being born into a good family). Someone who happens to have good luck is given the reputation of being a schmalz.

In American English, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) has also an informal meaning of excessively sentimental or florid music or art or maudlin sentimentality. Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid 1930s. In German "schmalzig" is also used in the same sense.

Schmaltz and Schmalz are common last names amongst Ashkenazi Jewish people of German and Austrian descent. Schmaltz was used as a metonymic occupational name for a chandler.

External links