Hanukkah Food

A favorite Hanukkah food is latkes,or potato pancakes. Originally, the pancakes were made of cheese. Eventually, the custom grew to incorporate eating pancakes of all kinds.

During the Middle Ages, Jews explained this custom by connecting it with the story of Judith, which they linked with the story of Hanukkah.

Judith, according to legend, was a daughter of the Hasmoneans. She fed cheese to the leader of the enemies of the Jews. He was made thirsty by the cheese and began to drink much wine. When he grew quite drunk she cut off his head. For this reason, it was said, Jews eat cheese delicacies on Hanukkah.

 

Potato Latkes

We eat latkes (potato pancakes) because they are cooked in oil and thus remind us of the miracle of the single cruse [pitcher of oil]. Rabbi Solomon Freehof, a great contemporary Jewish scholar, has hypothesized that the eating of latkes may have grown out of an old custom of eating milchig (dairy) foods on Hanukkah. Milchig foods evolved into milchig pancakes and then into latkes, possibly because the main potato crop became available about the time of Hanukkah. No-one knows for certain how the association began, but for anyone who feasts on latkes at Hanukkah time, a historical rationale is unnecessary.

12 large potatoes, grated
3 medium onions, grated
4 eggs, beaten lightly
5 tbs. flour
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Oil for deep frying

The secret to great latkes is to remove as much liquid from the potatoes and onions as possible. Put the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze the liquid out of the mixture. Do the same for the grated onions. Combine all the ingredients and mix together well by hand. In a heavy skillet, put a 3/4" deep layer of oil. Heat until sizzling. Form individual pancakes by hand and carefully slide into the pan using a slotted spatula. Fill the pan, but leave room between the pancakes. When the latkes are nicely browned on one side, turn carefully and cook until browned on the other side and crisp on the edges. Remove with a spatula and place on paper towels. Let the excess grease drain onto the paper towel. Serve immediately for the best taste. You can keep the latkes hot in a warm oven. Serve with sour cream or applesauce, or sprinkle with granulated sugar.

 

Hanukkah Dough Balls

1 cup apple juice
4 oz. margarine (1 stick)
oil for frying
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Boil apple juice and add margarine stirring until melted. Keeping the pan on the burner, add flour until mixture forms a ball and doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan. Remove from burner and beat in eggs one at a time. Heat the oil in a deep fryer, wok, or large frying pan. Once oil is hot, the dough can be dropped by teaspoons into hot oil. Fry until golden brown making sure that the dough balls puff and are cooked evenly. Remove from oil with strainer and drain on paper towels. Serve hot with assorted dips: cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, heated raspberry preserves, hot chocolate sauce, hot honey and chopped nuts, heated marmalade with shredded coconut.

 

Marshmallow Dreidels

1 marshmallow
Icing
1 Hershey’s kiss
1 3" licorice stick or toothpick

Assemble dreidel by pushing the licorice stick or toothpick through the marshmallow. Attach the chocolate kiss to the marshmallow with some Icing. Use the remainder of the icing to write the letters nun, gimel, hei, and shin on each side of the marshmallow. It may not spin well, but it sure does taste good!

 

Sufganiyot

1 package dry yeast
4 tbs. sugar
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 eggs, separated
2 tbs. butter, softened
apricot or strawberry preserves
vegetable oil
sugar

Mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk. Let sit to make sure it bubbles. Sift the flour and mix it with the remaining sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg yolks, and the yeast mixture.
Knead the dough until it forms a ball. Add the butter or margarine. Knead some more, until the butter is well absorbed. Cover with a towel and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut the dough into 24 rounds with a juice glass, or any object about 2 inches in diameter. Take 1/2 teaspoon of preserves and place in center of 12 rounds. Top with the other 12. Press down at edges, sealing with egg whites. Crimping with the thumb and second finger is best. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat 2 inches of oil to about 375 degrees. Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil, about 5 at a time. Turn to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Roll the doughnuts in sugar.

From All about Jewish Holidays and Customs by Morris Epstein. Reprinted with permission.


You may want to mix up your Hanukkah cooking with recipes incorporating the flavors of other traditions.

Indian Sweet Potato Curry Pancakes

1 large sweet potato, peeled and coarsely grated
1/2 cup white flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
dash cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
3 large eggs*, beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil (for frying)

For serving:
Apple sauce
2 large mangoes, cubed
Sour cream
Cinnamon

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, salt and black pepper.

2. Add the eggs* and milk to the dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Add the potatoes and mix (the batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add a little more milk.)

3. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drop two heaping tablespoons of the potato batter into the hot pan and flatten down with the back of a spatula. Continue in this manner so that you are frying 3 to 4 pancakes at a time. Continue to cook over medium-high heat for several minutes until all of the pancakes are golden on each side. Place fried pancake onto a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve hot sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon and cubed mango chunks or a dollop of apple sauce and/or sour cream.

Note: If you want to stretch the batter a bit and make more pancakes with less potatoes, add another egg or two

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 ( Makes 20 three-inch pancakes)

This recipe is used with the generous permission of Jennifer Abadi. Jennifer teaches cooking classes in New York City. Her website is A Fistful of Lentils.

 

Other Traditions: Gelt, Menorah, Dreidels