When I wrote about how to make the best matzo balls I highlighted the value of using schmaltz (rendered poultry fat). Here's what I had to say in that piece:
The Jews of Northern and Eastern Europe had a fat conundrum: They were living in a land of butter and lard, but couldn't use those ingredients in much of their cooking. Rendered poultry fat, from chickens, ducks, and geese, became a staple of their kitchens. The fat, known as schmaltz, is, in its most basic form, just that: rendered poultry fat. Often, though, onions are also added to the rendering process for flavor, then strained out along with the gribenes (crispy poultry fat cracklin's) before use.
My preferred method for making schmaltz is to save up a bunch of chicken fat, storing it in the freezer until I have a healthy amount; the more tender globules found around the neck and at the entrance to the chicken's cavity are best, but skin works too. Then I chop it up, put it in a saucepan with a little water, and cook it, stirring frequently, until most of the fat has liquified with little crispy bits of fat and skin floating in it and the water long gone. I add sliced or chopped onion towards the end for flavor (adding it sooner just means you have to contend with it sticking and burning). Then I strain it out. (Those fried cracklin's and onion are good for snacking, so don't just throw them out.) I get about one cup of rendered fat from three-quarters of a pound of skin and fat, though yields will vary depending on the ratio of skin to fat.
A staple of Ashkenazi Jewish cooking, schmaltz made from rendered chicken fat takes some time, but pays off by adding tons of flavor to dishes like chopped liver and matzo balls. You can buy chicken fat from some butchers, or save up scraps in your freezer until you have enough.
3/4 pound chicken fat and skin, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine chicken fat and skin with just enough water to barely cover. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until fat has mostly rendered, water has cooked off, and chicken skin and fat pieces are small, browned, and starting to crisp, about 50 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Strain rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) through fine mesh strainer and use as directed. Reserve crisped chicken skin, fat, and onion (called gribenes in Yiddish), if desired (they can be eaten as a snack with salt, or stirred into chopped liver).
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 21g||27%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||32%|
|Total Carbohydrate 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|