I’ve just listened to the pilot episode of the new podcast by the Association of Jewish Studies. They discuss how the Jewish Appetizing shop came to be – a really interesting story. Who could bother to prepare their own herring and smoked fish in the overcrowded Lower East Side tenements? It made sense to buy it at the pushcart, or the upgraded version, the “Appetizer”, where you got herring (with, presumably, kichel?), sour pickles, smoked lox (salmon) and various candy shop items.

It’s worth a listen!

AJS Podcast

Also, as with many things Jewish history, the Hasidic part of the story is often neglected and history is told only from the viewpoint of the pre-holocaust Eastern European immigrants. But in Hasidic Williamsburg, a lot of the traditions of the first half of the twentieth century were taken over by the Hasidim, so that Flaum’s Apppetizer on Lee Avenue (where our food tour stops) was established in 1918 and is now, a hundred years later, still run by a fifth generation family member.

My, my. All this “field research” is not good for my figah.

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Now Flaum’s is not only an Appetizing, they updated their store to include a large salad bar (a twenty first century mishigas in delis everywhere, Hasidic included) and they have an ice cream option. In other words, they are the dairy equivalent of the Fleishig Deli.

They are even better known for their line of containered appetizing foods; pickles, spreads, various delicious dips for the shabbes challah.

I love how much of the nostalgia for “home” in Europe (which is another thread connecting earlier Jewish immigrants to post Holocaust immigrant Hasidim) is captured in the food. You can apparently try different herrings for Breslov (from Ukraine), Volozhin (Russia) and Kotzk (Poland). I wonder how much of the various regional herrings are grounded in history, or are they just assigned names to give a sense of a connection to the past? It’s time to pick up some eyer-kichel from Tiferes Heimishe Bakery and go do some field research…

I’ll be sure to put some notes (with pictures, of course) of that up here.

My, my. All this “field research” is not good for my figah.

This was or first ever food tour on Chanukah and we had a wonderful time! We learned how to play dreidle and we tasted various of the newest iterations of donuts. The dairy donuts are now all the rage, and we tried some that sell for $8.50 a piece! They’re filled with delicious cream-cheesy fillings and come in a mad collection of varieties. It’s a lot of fun for me to keep up with the food trends in Williamsburg. The creative energy that goes into the food – incredible!

Photos credit: Rossana Casale Garner.

 

 

The Jewish comedian Jackie Mason who grew up in NYC during the period of most cultural output from New York Jews (he was born in 1931 and was of the Borscht Belt generation), has recently been visiting Gottlieb’s restaurant in the Hasidic community for a bit of deli-style Jewish food.

This is where the deli food is moving to: the Hasidic and ultra-orthodox communities.

I know it hasn’t yet taken off, but you can find many of the specialties that people rave about when they think “Kosher pastrami” in the meat restaurants in Borough Park and Williamsburg. I’m guessing people will realize this sooner or later, and this will only further feed the Hasidic/Ultra-Orthodox kosher deli niche.

As others have noted, the delis disappeared because of changes in the culture. Many of the early immigrants assimilated and moved away, changed their diets, became more American. Now the mantel has been passed to the ultra-Orthodox Jews, who in resisting assimilation are holding on to their culinary imports from Eastern Europe.

We recently had divine chollent at Grill on Lee. I’ve had also excellent chollent from the Satmar Butcher. Deli rolls and kishka on the grill from VIP Grill. Dips and overnight kugel from Dips. Pastrami sandwiches and chicken soup and pickles and cucumber salad. So much kosher-deli food, if only you know where to look.

PS: I give food tours of this community. I’m going to start a regular schedule in Borough Park come fall 2018, so check out my website sometime and come decide for yourself.

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I always ask my groups what the above pastries are, and invariably a few people will call out rugelach. I ask if they know of another name for it, and not once has anyone ever said kipelach.

I asked Kaff’s Bakery what the difference between rugelach and kipelach is, and the cashier said that it’s the same; the terms are interchangeable. In our family we used to call the above kipelach, and the below rugelach. I’d eat both interchangeably though…

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Actually, the origin of both names are worth looking at. According to the Nibble,“Its name [rugelach] comes from the Yiddish “rugel,” or royal, and it goes by other names such as kipfel (in Hungary and the Czech Republic) and horns of plenty (in non-Jewish areas of the U.S., where people “rugelach” may not easily roll off the tongue).”

However, I never heard of the Yiddish word “rugel”. For regal, we used a Hebrew adaption of malchusdig or maybe the Yiddish keniglech or prechtig.

The encyclopedia of Jewish food has a long entry on the kipfel:

“Austrian bakers originally called the little pointed loaves of white bread zipfel (German meaning “corner/tip”), also spelled ciphel. Zipfel is still used, in conjunction with polster (cushion/padding); polsterzipfel refers to a jam-filled Austrian cookie, also known as Vienna kipfel and in Germany as hasenörchen (little rabbit ears). Meanwhile, the Viennese took to mispronouncing the pointed breads as kipfel, and the word soon becoming a synonym for the German hörnchen (crescent). 

“In Yiddish, the word kipfel came to specify crescent cookies, both leavened and unleavened, and not the croissant bread. One form of the cookies, nusskipferlin (nut crescents), still ranks among the favorite Ashkenazic cookies. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Jewish immigrants brought the kipfel to America…

In late twentieth century America, kipfel, particularly with an unleavened cream cheese dough, became better known as rugelach.”

It seems the original kipfele had a pronounced F that is no longer around in the Hasidic pronunciation, which is kipele.

In the 1933 Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife, there’s a kipfel recipe. It calls for a lot of cottage cheese in the dough, something I imagine no one who makes Hasidic kipelach does. The pastry is described as “Hungarian half moon cookies.” Here’s the recipe. The word “filling” is transliterated in Yiddish, already beginning the tradition of adopting English words to Yiddish.

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If anyone makes it, please email me the pictures of the kipfels and let me know how it tastes!

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As tonight is Shavuos, the Jewish holiday that is celebrated with a special meal of divine dairy pastries (among other festivities,) I’m doing a poll on the best dairy pastries in Williamsburg. Please vote!

Because of laws of kashrus, many of the pastries you will usually find on Williamsburg’s Lee Avenue will have no dairy ingredients. No cheese or butter or milk unless it is noted as dairy. The famous rugalech and kokosh cakes are usually made with margarine, not butter. Some people have told me that all kosher pastries have a distinct taste because of the absence of butter.

But on Shavuos the pastries are prepared with dairy ingredients — the more dairy the better. A special noon-time meal consists of cheese cakes, dairy bundt cakes, butter twists, milk rum balls, cheese yodels— heavenly stuff. I’ve gotten my fill in Williamsburg, but I’d love to hear about *your* favorites.

I once did a tasting tour of Lee Avenue’s bakeries. We stopped into each one and tried a number of things. In a way, this post is a virtual tasting tour. I want to hear what you’d try at each bakery and which bakery you’d recommend. Which local shop would you suggest for the best Shavuos* products?

*note, I think all of these carry dairy but I’m not absolutely certain.

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photo: http://justaspoonful.wordpress.com/