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Cracklings

This was an ingredient we were rarely without, and each week a fresh batch would be prepared with the trimmings of the Friday soup chicken. While a fowl provides the most fat for rendering, trimmings from any chicken can be used. Ducks and geese provide even more savory fat and cracklings. It is possible to save bits of fat and skin until you have a cupful and then render it all together. Store scraps in the freezer, well wrapped in foil, but do not keep more than a month, as fat never freezes completely. This homemade schmaltz is far superior to any I have ever purchased. When I have none, I prefer substituting butter. Those who are kosher will prefer margarine or that traditional substitute, Nyafat. My mother never kept a batch of chicken fat more than two weeks, and always under refrigeration. In addition to the uses of schmaltz in cooking, when very fresh it was considered a treat spread on rye bread, challah, or matzoh and sprinkled with coarse salt, The cracklings (griebenes) also went into certain dishes, unless my father saw them first, in which case they disappeared in a single swallow. Sometimes my mother would save them for him and serve them lightly salted as an appetizer. Duck and goose cracklings are especially good in omelets or scrambled eggs.

Cooking Methodfrying

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Recipe Coursesnack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner, lunch, snack

Taste and Texturecrisp, crunchy, salty, savory

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cut-up skin and diced fat trimmed from any chicken (but preferably a fowl) or a duck or goose
  • ¾ cup cold water

Instructions

  1. In trimming the fat and skin from the poultry, try not to include bits of meat. Place the cut-up skin and diced fat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the water, and simmer very, very slowly over low heat. When all the water has evaporated and pure yellow fat begins to collect, pour it off and reserve. The fat is completely rendered when the skin forms crisp, brown cracklings. Drain the cracklings on paper towels and use in recipes where called for or sprinkle with salt and eat before someone else does.

  2. Although it is not strictly necessary to pour off the fat as it accumulates, it is safer to do so; it will not then become brown by the time the cracklings are finished. The fat should be a bright butter yellow without any tint of brown in it. Store the fat tightly covered in the refrigerator. It will last about one week. Cracklings should be used as soon as possible after they are made, or they will become soggy.

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