How to Make Schmaltz
Published by Hachette
Schmaltz can be made with any amount of skin and fat. The butcher farmer you buy your chicken from will often save skin and fat for you on request. If you like to make chicken soup, save all the skin and fat before you put the bird in the pot. If you roast a chicken regularly, you can pull loose fat from it and trim unused skin, saving it in the freezer until you have enough to render for schmaltz. Or, as I suggest here, you can use the skin from packaged chicken thighs, which are widely available, reserving the skinless thighs for other uses.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free
- 1 lb chicken skin and fat from packaged chicken thighs.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup water
Chop the skin and fat well. This is easiest if it’s frozen or partially frozen. The finer you chop the skin, the more efficiently it will render. The skin-connective tissue composed mainly of protein-will eventually become gribenes (cracklings), marvelously flavorful browned bits of crispy skin interspersed with caramelized onion, that serve as a fabulous garnish on anything from tossed salad to chopped liver to matzo balls.
Put the skin and fat in a medium saucepan (nonstick, if you have one) with the water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Turn the burner to low and allow the fat to render. This will take anywhere from 90 minutes to several hours, depending on how much skin and fat you have and how hot your burner is. Give the skin a stir now and then so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn. Keep an eye on it. You don’t want to let the fat get too hot and turn brown, which will happen once the water has cooked out of the skin. One of the keys to supet-lative schmaltz is avoiding a roasted flavor and an overly browned appearance; you want a light, clear, clean schmaltz.
When the chicken skin is golden brown, add the onion. Continue to cook until the skin and onion are well browned. The gribenes should be crispy-chewy.
Pour the finished schmaltz fat through a fine-mesh strainer; if you want very clear fat, line the strainer with cheesecloth at a reusable All-Strain Cloth. Store the gribenes (the onion and cracklings) in a paper towel-lined bowl, covered. Allow the schmaltz to cool, then transfer it to a container, cover, and refrigerate.
Schmaltz will keep for about a week in the fridge, but the sweet, chickeny-oniony fragrance is volatile and will diminish if forgotten behind week’s leftovers. I recommend freezing any schmaltz you won’t be using in a day or two. It’s best kept in container, with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface, covered with a lid or a second layer of plastic wrap, then wrapped in foil if you intend to store for a long time; this careful wrapping prevents other freezer flavors from infiltrating your schmaltz, and the foil will prevent light from damaging the fat over time. Lois recommends freezing schmaltz in 1½-cup/320-milliliter mason jars with rubber seals.
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