Schmaltz is at the core of the cooking of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews. It’s not so much about their love of goose and chicken fat, as it was the only way they could abide by the laws of eating kosher to ensure no pork and no meat and dairy were on the same plate. Migrating to lands famous for raising pigs and sausages, they needed to find a cooking fat other than pig lard and butter. The colder climates meant no vegetable oils. The answer was found in Germany in the 1800s, rendered (melted) goose fat and skin. Schmaltz and gribenes (fat and skin) was used for cooking and eventually evolved to the more plentiful and cheaper chicken version.
Schmaltz and Gribenes – Rendered Chicken Fat and Crispy Skins
- Large flat-bottomed nonstick pan
- 1½ lb Chicken skin and fat (no bits of meat)
- 1 small Onion, halved and cut into ½ slices
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tbsp Water
- Render Fat – Cut chicken skin into 1-inch pieces with a sharp knife or poultry shears. Place fat, skin, salt, and water in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Stir in onions and cook 25 minutes. Fat will be a deep yellow color and the onions and skin will be brown and crispy. Strain everything through a fine wire mesh strainer into a measuring cup. Reserve melted fat (Schmaltz) in a container with lid. For gribanes, pour solids in strainer onto paper towels to drain. Lightly salt and munch on these delicious crispy morsels.
- It’s a good idea to freeze unused schmaltz to use whenever you need.