Family traditions always revolve around food, at least for my family. You eat the right food for the right holiday, with little variation. Passover means my grandmother’s matzo balls, brisket and macaroons. (If my sister is lucky, someone will bring the fruit slice jelly candies.) Grandma is 94 now and has turned over matzo ball duties to my parents. Days of labor go into making both the balls and the chicken broth, but Mom and Dad always make enough so that we get to bring home leftovers. This recipe is part of my history and my family’s history and I hope that this post will hold up better than my faded notes from years ago. This is my soul food.
Years ago, before we had jobs and responsibilities, my sister and I spent a day with Grandma learning the entire matzo ball making process. We rendered chicken fat to make schmaltz, learned about the right egg to matzo meal ratio, and tested batches to make sure that they were perfectly seasoned. Hours into the process she casually mentioned “or you can just buy schmaltz at the Co-Op.” (Note: Empire Kosher is the only brand I have been able to locate.) Little did Grandma know that schmaltz would become the cool new fat, or that her granddaughters would giggle about this omission even a decade later. If you are feeling very ambitious, you can find a great schmaltz tutorial over at “What Jew Wanna Eat.”
Matzo balls can be a controversial subject. There are floaters or sinkers, and Grandma’s recipe is in the lighter, fluffier end of the spectrum. You need 3 in a bowl, as opposed to the softball sized matzoh balls you might get at a diner. Always 3, otherwise the ball to soup ratio will be off. Although that’s not an official rule, just my preference.
My parents follow Grandma’s process and make their chicken broth from scratch every year. While theirs is unbelievably tasty, I’m way too grossed out by the random bits of chicken needed to make this intense broth. Boxed is not as good, but it works. Keep in mind that these are well seasoned matzo balls, so you may want to use a reduced salt broth. Either that, or reduce the salt in the matzo ball dough by 1/2 a teaspoon. Matzo balls change size a couple of times throughout the cooking process. They expand while cooking the first time and shrink up again when they cool. Add them to hot chicken broth before serving and they will puff up again. We cook them initially in water instead of broth because of how much they absorb. Cooking times may vary depending on how big they are rolled. This year we used a cookie dough/ice cream scoop to make them – about 2 tablespoons per ball – and they cooked for about 12 minutes. The best way to tell if they are done is by cutting it in half and making sure that the texture is even throughout. Darker raw-looking parts are really just bits where the dough wasn’t thoroughly mixed.
|Grandma’s Matzo Balls|| |
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 1 cup boiling water, plus more to fill pot
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 1-1/4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons chicken fat (schmaltz)
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- Pour boiling water over matzo meal, stir until water is absorbed.
- Add fat, then egg and seasonings.
- Mix well.
- When cool, place in refrigerator and let stand for about 2 hours or longer – overnight is best.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. (Just like if you were cooking pasta)
- Roll dough into balls about the size of a walnut.
- Drop balls into boiling water and boil gently uncovered for about 11 – 12 minutes. They will rise to the top. Cook a little bit longer if they haven't turned a lighter color.
- Once cooked, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and let cool on a cookie sheet.
- Once cool, they can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
- Serve with hot chicken broth. Preferably 3 to a bowl.