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June 30, 2011

Matzoh ball soup: training for a personal challenge

It looks easy, but it's not. Matzoh ball soup, a.k.a. Jewish penicillin, really does cure whatever ails you. When I was eight or nine or ten, my grandmother dictated to me her matzoh ball recipe, which I diligently wrote in pencil (so Grandma could correct my spelling) on yellow lined paper.

Somehow, the recipe that yielded light, fluffy matzoh balls in my grandmother's kitchen has never worked magic in my hands. I've got the soup part down, but my own history with matzoh ball making is not happy; my family used to call my matzoh balls "depth charges," meaning they sink to the bottom of the bowl, and will explode in your digestive system if you attempt to retrieve them. I promise to give matzoh balls another go, and I've begun my training by watching two pros at work.

Have you had matzoh ball success? Any advice to share?


Posted by: Lara @ GoodCookDoris | June 30, 2011 at 12:48 PM

My grandmother uses a splash of seltzer in her matzo ball batter & also cautions to not over-mix/handle them. The more you roll/pack the denser they end up. Good luck!!

Posted by: Panya | June 30, 2011 at 11:11 PM

It's funny how different people have different tastes -- every single thing I've read is 'How can I lighten them?' -- but my family loves heavy, dense matzo balls!

Posted by: SCL | July 1, 2011 at 10:09 AM

and so the debate continues . . . I agree with Lara. I prefer firm matzah balls. They float when first cooked in the pot, though. Never had a problem following the recipe on the Streits' matzah meal box and then adding more meal because otherwise they fall apart.

Posted by: Elle Hyson | July 1, 2011 at 01:17 PM

The recipe from the box of Manischewitz Matzo Meal has served me well for 50 years. The matzo balls are always light as my family likes them and I ALWAYS use schmalz to make them, no other fat. Not always easy to get chicken fat in this part of NC but during the summer months I try with some of the farmers at the markets and stock up as much as I can (which isn't too much really). Good luck with your efforts.

Posted by: Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) | July 1, 2011 at 09:20 PM

Lara, I've heard that about seltzer. My grandmother didn't use it, but I'm willing to try anything to lighten my matzoh balls.

Panya, it might just be easier if your family adopts me!

SCL, thanks for the advice.

Elle, I do have access to kosher butchers, so if you swear by the schmalz, I might be able to find some.

Posted by: julie Schorr | July 14, 2011 at 03:38 AM

Two important techniques:
Handle the batter as little as possible. (i assume the batter has rested in the refrigerator for several hours.)
DO NOT lift soup pot lid while matzo balls are cooking! Trust them to do their thing very well without outside observers or interference. Really!
And I use canola/grapeseed oil (this has morphed from corn to grapeseed over the years.
Hope this helps.

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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