Cookery for a Jewish Kitchen

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Aunt Sarah's Cookery Book-page-001

Passover begins the night of March 25. In preparation, we’re sharing some recipes from an early English-language Jewish cookbook in our collection. The library and rare book room house a large number of cookery-related items, as nutrition and health are inextricably linked.

After the cost of books plummeted in the 1800s, Jewish cookbooks came on the scene, first in Germany around 1815. In 1846, the first English-language cookbook was released in London.¹

The cookbook in our collection, Aunt Sarah’s Cookery Book for a Jewish Kitchen, was published in Liverpool in 1872.

 “I have been induced to publish this little Book, the result of long experience, for the purpose of teaching young and inexperienced Jewish Housewifes the art of cooking their daily food in a proper manner, without infringing those dietary laws, the observance of which has been of so much importance to the health and well-being of our people. The directions are plain and simple, the most minute particulars are given with the greatest exactness, which, if attended to as written down, cannot fail of success. I have taken every pains, so that it may be easily understood by the most inexperienced; and if my humble endeavors to assist my Sisters in Faith in acquiring a knowledge of one of the most important of their Domestic duties be appreciated, and the higher object be also recognized, my labour will not have been in vain.AUNT SARAH”

“I have been induced to publish this little Book, the result of long experience, for the purpose of teaching young and inexperienced Jewish Housewifes the art of cooking their daily food in a proper manner, without infringing those dietary laws, the observance of which has been of so much importance to the health and well-being of our people. The directions are plain and simple, the most minute particulars are given with the greatest exactness, which, if attended to as written down, cannot fail of success. I have taken every pains, so that it may be easily understood by the most inexperienced; and if my humble endeavors to assist my Sisters in Faith in acquiring a knowledge of one of the most important of their Domestic duties be appreciated, and the higher object be also recognized, my labour will not have been in vain.
AUNT SARAH”

At the time of the book’s publication, matzo didn’t look like it does today—a piece of matzo was most often “round, irregular, or oval-shaped.”² The mechanization of matzo began with the invention of a kneading device in 1838, and progressed after the first matzo factory, Manischewitz, opened in Cincinnati in 1888. Eventually, the factory produced entirely machine-made, and square, pieces of unleavened bread.²

Aunt Sarah did not write the recipes in this book with most (non-shmurah) modern matzo in mind, and her ingredients are not always as common today as they were in the 1870s. If you try one of the recipes, let us know how it translates to the modern kitchen. And take a picture—unfortunately, this little book only includes text.

Here are some recipes to add to your holiday repertoire this year.³

Matzo Cake.

Put a matzo on a plate, strew over it almonds finely chopped; then sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake on a tin five or six minutes.

Potato Cake, or Pudding.

One pound of gratered potatoes (boiled in their skins the day before), one pound of sifted loaf sugar, three ounces of pounded almonds, the rind (gratered) and juice of one lemon, and the yolks of twelve eggs (beaten). Mix all together. Then take the whites of the eggs, beat them to a froth, and add it to the rest. Bake in a moderate oven, in small dishes, greased with salad oil.

A delicious Pudding for Passover.

Take whole matzos [a handwritten note specifies two or three], put each into a soup-plate, with sufficient cold water to make them very soft; drain off the water, leaving the matzos whole; grease a basin with dripping a quarter of an inch thick, cover it well with brown sugar, and line it with the soaked matzo the same as the paste for a steffin [another of Aunt Sarah’s recipes, basically a pie crust dough made with water, flour, and suet]. Mix well together a quarter of a pound of chopped raisins, the same of currants, ditto of chopped suet,* one ounce of preserved citron, ditto of orange and lemon (chopped), the juice of one lemon, the rind of half (gratered), half a teaspoonful of ground cinnamon, a quarter of a small nutmeg (gratered), half a teaspoonful of salt, and a wine glass of rum. Then put the mixture into the lined basin, about an inch thick; cover with the soaked matzo, strew over brown sugar; then the mixture and the matzo alternately, until the basin is full, the matzo forming the top layer. Make holes with a knife not quite to the bottom of the basin, and pour over it by degrees eight eggs (well beaten). When all is soaked into the pudding, put a little dripping over the top; then cover it with brown sugar. Bake in a moderate oven from an hour and a half to two hours, until quite brown. Turn it on to a flat dish, bottom up, and serve very hot. I must be made two hours before putting in the oven.

And Aunt Sarah’s take on the evergreen classic:

Matzo Ball Soup.

Stew slowly for six hours, in five pints of water, four pounds shin of beef, four pounds of mutton or veal, three leeks, a little celery, and a teaspoonful of salt. Strain and take off the fat.

For the Balls.—Take a teacupful of matzo meal, half a teaspoonful of salt, the same of ground ginger, one small Spanish onion chopped fine, and browned in a frying pan with a little dripping, and two teacupsful of matzo soaked in cold water and squeezed dry. Mix all together, with a half a teacupful of the broth and one or two eggs, sufficient to make it the consistence of forcemeat. Make it into balls, and boil them in the soup twenty minutes before serving.

*A common English ingredient, often found in early Jewish cookbooks, but not kosher.¹

References:

1. Marks, G. (2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. John Wiley & Sons.

2. Sarna, J. D. (2005). How Matzah Became Square: Manischewitz and the Development of Machine-made Matzah in the United States. Sixth Annual Lecture of the Victor J. Selmanowitz Chair of Jewish History, Touro College, Graduate School of Jewish Studies, New York, NY. Retrieved February 22, 2013 from http://www.brandeis.edu/hornstein/sarna/americanjewishcultureandscholarship/Archive/HowMatzahBecameSquare.pdf

3. Aunt Sarah. (1872). Aunt Sarah’s cookery book for a Jewish kitchen: Containing plain and easy directions. How to cook fish, meat, poultry, and vegetables; to make pastry, puddings, sweets, preserves, and pickles, &c., with additional recipes for Passover. Liverpool: Yates and Hess.

4 thoughts on “Cookery for a Jewish Kitchen

  1. fascinating, I have printed this for my wife. Re making matzo balls. The question is what is forcemeat? As for the consistency of matzo balls, it is constant topic of conversation in our home. I like them hard(firm) my wife likes them soft(fluffy)

  2. Obviously, true suet would be unobtainable at any kosher butcher’s then as now, but I’m guessing that they used the word as an English equivalent for “schmaltz”, the lardlike rendered fat of chickens or geese. British Jews even today will eschew many common Hebrew or Yiddish terms in favor of their English versions; thus my guess that even though the cookbooks said suet, the readers understood that it meant poultry fat rather than the forbidden (and unobtainable) “heilev”.

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