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What The Heck Is Schmaltz?
Schmaltz is simply rendered chicken fat. One of my favorite aspects of homesteading is learning how to make good use of everything. Isn’t it empowering to create something wonderful from “nothing”?
And let’s face it, when I process my own poultry, I feel pretty obligated to make the very best of that creature’s life. Any waste feels disrespectful.
I’ve used feathers to make “mother hen” boxes to keep chicks warm at night. And after making stock, I’ve mashed the bones to replace oyster shells for my chickens.
But until recently, I had never paid much attention to finding a use for chicken fat!
I first learned that rendered chicken fat was a “thing” when I came across a jar of schmaltz online. Turns out schmaltz is the German word for rendered chicken or goose fat. Usually, onions have been added once the skin bits start to brown. It’s been said that schmaltz is to Jewish cuisine as olive oil is to the Mediterranean diet. Mind. Blown. Not only is this fat held in high regard, but so are the crispy bits of skin that fry up into golden crunchy morsels called gribenes.
Is Schmaltz Healthy?
Of all of the traditional fats, chicken fat has the highest polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) content. PUFAs are not bad in and of themselves in a diet of well-balanced fatty acids. Unfortunately, most packaged foods and restaurant dishes contain oils that are not only high in PUFAs but those oils are highly processed and full of free radicals. If you’re not consuming foods made with high PUFA vegetable oils or other sources of high polyunsaturated fats on a regular basis, schmaltz is not only safe but nourishing(1). Goose schmaltz is a lower PUFA option.
Soy is shown to increase PUFAs in chicken (2). Making schmaltz from soy-free birds is a wise idea, although soy-free chicken fat is still high in PUFAs. As with any animal fats, I buy and raise organic whenever possible, because some pesticides and herbicides bioaccumulate in fat tissues. In any case, always keep fats below the smoke point to avoid free-radicals!
Easy To Make
After roasting a bird with some onions (or not), strain and refrigerate drippings, and scoop off the rendered fat from the top. Skins can be eaten on the spot or chopped up and fried up in the fat until browned and crispy. Onions could be added at this point as opposed to being added to the initial roasting of the poultry. You won’t get much at all from one bird, but this is an easy way to make schmaltz, and it can be frozen to save it up.
Collect and freeze the fat from several chickens before they are cooked until you have about a pound. Chop it up into small bits, toss in a pot with a little water added, and carefully simmer, adding chopped onions when chicken skins are just starting to brown. When they are browned and crispy, strain out liquid through a cotton cloth or coffee filter.
Ways To Use Schmaltz And Gribenes
- Cooking up liver in schmaltz and add gribenes
- Hash browns cooked in schmaltz with gribenes sprinkled on top
- Mashed potatoes with schmaltz and butter…and of course gribenes
- Spread schmaltz on bread like butter and top with gribenes
- Grilled cheese sandwich fried in schmaltz with gribenes added to the cheese
- Gribenes sprinkled on salad
- Gribenes sprinkled on macaroni and cheese (from scratch)
- Gribenes sprinkled on sautéed veggies such as green beans or kale
- Gribenes sprinkled in a taco or burrito
- Gribenes sprinkled on a bean or grain dish
As you can see there are numerous ways to enjoy yet another traditional food in your own kitchen, and quite likely without increasing your food bill! If you enjoyed this article please share the good news and comment below.
Sources and more reading
Caution when using chicken fat for cooking
Chicken meat nutritional value when feeding red palm oil, palm oil or rendered animal fat in combinations with linseed oil, rapeseed oil and two levels of selenium
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