Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mit Schmalz

Once again, from the lattice of coincidence:  My daughter and I are in the kitchen planning a rainy day baking project and listening to the radio.  We settle on an oatmeal cookie recipe, on an old 3"x 5" card in my grandmother's handwriting, but attributed to one of her neighbors in Sacramento. The recipe, conspicuously, includes butter as half the fat in the recipe with the other half assigned to lard, yep rendered pig fat, an ingredient that almost shocks with its out-of-stylishness.  As we discussed whether to double the butter or even to use a substitute vegetable shortening for the lard, with a long detour into the pros and cons of rendered pig fat*, Emma began to giggle at the music coming from the radio.  It's an old recording with plenty of wobble and rhythmic surface noise and the solo violinist is using a lot of shockingly out-of-style portamento.  

The more I listened to the soloist, the more I became convinced that his portamento had been exactly right for the music.  I didn't, however, have the same confidence when baking, and the chosen substitute for lard made good cookies but not great ones, and certainly not authentic ones. 


* My daughter Emma, who spent her first years in Hungary, was exposed to a lot more lard than most American or German kids these days.  In addition to its ubiquitous use in cooking (most Hungarian recipes begin with frying onions in lard), a typical childrens' meal in Hungary is a slice of bread, smeared with lard and dressed with red onions and a dash of paprika.   As such, it was basically unavoidable.


Elaine Fine said...

Schmaltz, which is what you hear in so much "vintage" music, is the name for rendered chicken fat or goose fat, which, unlike lard (rendered pig fat that doesn't even require refrigeration), is kosher.

Now oatmeal cookies made with Schmaltz would be odd indeed. I suppose that in order to try it you would have to render your own chicken or goose fat.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Lard is back in style in parts of the US, as it has become obvious that butter and lard are better for you than margarine and Crisco.

David Wolfson said...

This does not answer the question, however, of whether portamento will clog your arteries.