The Book of Schmaltz: A Single-Subject Cookbook for iPads

A year ago, my neighbor, Lois Baron, said she had to leave a party early to make schmaltz, as the High Holy days of the Jewish year approached and she was the cook in the family. Long having wanted to explore this oft-maligned fat, I asked for Lois’s help in understanding its history and use. (Almost everyone refers to it as “heart attack food,” but it’s not. It’s good for you! In moderation. Lois is in her 70s and cooks like a banshee, her husband Russell is in his 80s and still practices law, and Lois’s mom cooked schmaltz well into her 90s, though she wouldn’t admit it.)

Schmaltz, rendered chicken fat flavored with onion, was such an odd topic, and so focused, it didn’t seem like a big-book idea, so Donna encouraged me to write a short cookbook that we could publish ourselves. Working with a local designer, digital consultant, recipe testers, and copy editor, this is just what we’ve done.

We’re proud and thrilled to introduce it here!

The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, by Michael and Donna Ruhlman (Ruhlman Enterprises Inc., 205 iPad pages, illustrated with finished-dish and process photography, $7.99).

The Book of Schmaltz is a single-subject cookbook devoted to a neglected wonder. It includes an essay on schmaltz and other cooking words of wisdom from me, Michael Ruhlman (best-selling food author, cook, and cooking evangelist), and more than 20 recipes. There are traditional recipes, such as the best chopped liver you’ve ever had (schmaltz is the key!), chicken soup with matzo balls, kreplach, knishes, and cholent (an ingenious and delicious method observant Jews can use on the Sabbath, and a great make-ahead meal for anyone). But it also includes contemporary recipes for today’s cooks: vichyssoise with gribenes and chives, chicken confit, and Parisienne gnocchi made with schmaltz. Every finished dish is photographed and, where we felt it was important, we’ve also included process photography—for instance, how to make schmaltz and how to make and shape knishes. This cookbook is currently available as an app for iPads and iPad minis, at the iTunes App store.

I realize it may be presumptuous for a goy to be writing about the fat of Ashkenazi Jews, but it’s just too wonderful a flavor and substance to be relegated to a relative handful of houses during Jewish holidays. It deserves to be lifted high for all to see and to use. According to Lois, schmaltz has long been “a secret handshake among Jews who love to cook”; I hope to respect schmaltz here as a fabulous cooking tool for all to appreciate.

As Lois says, there is nothing like schmaltz!

Here are a few screen shots from the app:

The book is dedicated to Lois Waxman Baron, and Donna and I would like to thank in addition digital consultant April Clark and graphic designer Phong Nguyen, of Cleveland; lead recipe tester Marlene Newell, currently in Calgary; Boston-based copyeditor Karen Wise; and my wonderful assistant Emilia Juocys.

All thoughts from you readers and fellow cooks are encouraged—on the app itself or on schmaltz generally!

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45 Wonderful responses to “Schmaltz! My New Cookbook for iPads”

  • John K.

    I’m sold! Would buy the book immediately — but I don’t have an ipad. How about an android version? Kudos on your self publishing!!!

    • Michael Ruhlman

      will eventually be available in all media!
      i haven’t seen it on the mini but I’m told it looks great!

  • Ken

    Honestly, when I saw the headline “My New Cookbook for iPads” I thought, “That’s it, Mr. Ruhlman finally went off the deep end and is now sautéing, grilling, and roasting small pieces of electronic equipment.”

    Was I ever relieved to find out I was wrong. :)

  • Lux

    Mazel tov to the team!
    Schmaltz is awesome stuff. Can’t make matzoh balls without it.

  • Matt

    In Germany, Schmaltz usually refers to the same concept, but made from pork. One of the tastiest things to put on some good bread with a bit of salt, in my opinion. It’s also sometimes referred to as Griebenschmaltz (Grieben would be the cracklings).
    It used to be a standard thing to be served with bread at restaurants (instead of butter) when I was growing up. Oh yum…

  • Mina Yamashita

    I’m so happy you’ve written this book. I’m a great fan of schmaltz. I buy my chicken skins at Keller’s, a local butcher who sells natural fowl and meat they grow themselves on their New Mexico ranch. I look forward to trying your recipe for chicken livers. I’ve been making it for years with gribenes and Keller’s chicken livers. can’t wait to try the other recipes!

  • hng23

    A frequent after-school snack in our house when I was growing up was (homemade) schmaltz smeared on thick slices of challah. My mother would bogart the gribenes as the cook’s reward…

  • Adam M

    Nice! My grandma cooked with schmaltz all the time. It was only until later that I realized it. Very good stuff, and almost unheard of nowadays. It always makes me think of kishka, which I loved as a child. (Kishka is extremely hard to find nowadays, unless you live in New York.) Plus, it’s called “schmaltz”! That’s such a fantastic word! Looking forward to reading it.

  • Victoria

    What a riot! How fun. I’ve never had or made real schmaltz, but whenever I roast a chicken, I toss green beans with Maldon Salt and the chicken fat at the bottom of the pan. They are delicious.

    Next up, duck fat and goose fat.

  • Frank

    I’m very excited about this project, and looking forward to when I can read it on my Android phone, or my iPod Touch.

  • Ken

    Got. It’s awesome. Great effort. Now how about taling it one step further and doing a book dedicated to Kosher “charcuterie” and “salumi.” That would be a treasure trove for us folks that don’t eat pig; and a great blessing to our culinary adventures.

  • Christina

    Donna’s photography makes me hungry!! Well your book does too Ruhlman! I have been very curious about this Schmaltz ever since i started making my own broth. I will put this on my Christmas list, thank you!

    • ruhlman

      yes,my friend david stashower pronounced it that way and I couldn’t figure out how he was saying it and everyone else was pronouncing it as I pronounced it. thinking of adding lois’s voice pronouncing all the words properly.like there’s a particular “aayh” sound in schmaltz, almost like the opening of a prayer.

  • Christine

    My great grandmother used to keep goose grease that she rendered with apples and onions in a crock out on her back porch walk-up in Chicago in wintertime. They smeared it on black bread. I recall my dad loving it. Looking forward to this book coming out in other forms since I don’t have a smart phone or iPad, just my iMac.

      • Franklin

        My grandmother also used to make goose grease and fried apples — as far as I know, that’s the common English term used for it, not goose “fat.” Besides, someone who calls soup and onions and eggs “techniques” really shouldn’t be criticizing other people’s terminology.

      • Mantonat

        I’ve always hated it when people use “grease” to refer to cooking fats. It’s just so unappetizing.

  • Witloof

    When I was a meat eater I wouldn’t dream of making chopped liver or matzo balls without rendering some schmaltz as the first step in the recipe!

  • John McKay

    In the eighties, while working in a bookstore, I found an ethnographic cookbook of Transylvanian food. It took me a few years to notice that the recipes were very specific about what kind of fat to use in different foods. It occurred to me that the fat was not only a cooking oil, it was a seasoning (like bacon fat). The next time I roasted a chicken, I saved the fat and experimented with using it for cooking. I never turned back. I get my fat (which is not real schmaltz) from roasting chickens stuffed with garlic (when I don’t use the remains of the chicken for soup). In the most unkosher use imaginable, I discovered that chicken fat makes the best possible fried pork chops I have ever cooked.

    Moving to a completely non-chicken subject. My homesteading grandmother swore that lard rendered from bear fat made the best pie crust. Sadly, I never had one of those pies.

    • Ohiogirl

      Love your stories.

      If you want another unkosher treat, try popping popcorn in bacon fat. Divine!

  • Christine

    Actually it was fat, lard-like not grease. The family just referred to it as grease. :)

  • T

    There aren’t too many photographers that can make a spoonful of schmaltz look like dessert.

  • Ohiogirl

    Michael,

    I’m thrilled to see your passion for such a tasty, powerful stuff.

    But I’ve got to post a correction. You said “I realize it may be presumptuous for a goy to be writing about the fat of Ashkenazi Jews, but it’s just too wonderful a flavor and substance to be relegated to a relative handful of houses during Jewish holidays.”

    For many Jews, it is not a special holiday thing, it is an every day thing. You always have a jar of schmaltz in the fridge and when you run out, you simply make another. It’s a pantry basic. For instance, i could never NEVER get my matzo brie (fried matzo) to be as good as my fathers. Finally, eating a plate of my dads, and fretting because it was still so much better than mine, I ran through every step with him. And I matched at each one until — “And then just before its done, I finish it with some schmaltz.” AH HAH!

    Powerful stuff indeed.

      • Ohiogirl

        Aw thanks…

        And extra thanks to you for inspiration. Getting ready to meet other writing friends (animation, not food!) for our holiday dinner this weekend and not quite knowing what to add to the holiday basket to make it extra special? I’m making schmaltz and packing them a jar!

        They are great cooks and the husband is of german heritage, so I think he’ll know what to do. But if not – I’ll steer him to your book! : )

  • NYCook

    Ruhlman, been a while since l commented but l am still here. Recetly at a most unfortunate event, my grandmothers funeral, my family was celebrating my grandmothers culinary prowess and l had never seen duck fat so thoroughly dismissed. Not to be outdone l brought up my chicken skin chicharon which l serve simply with a pickled veg salad. Which my Uncle dismissively wrote off as his middle school lunch. Gribbins with pickles. “Gribbins?” l said, he looks at me like i’m stupid and says with dismay. Chix chicherons? Needles to say l became obsessed. Long story short, it’s nice to see something different catapulted to the mainstream,

  • Kris

    Very cool. I dont have an iPad, but this is tempting. I hope it is a formula for future cookbooks.

  • John Bailey

    I am very particular about cooking apps for my iPad and iPhone. However, when I see Michael Ruhlman’s name attached whether it is a book or an app I delve deeper. Schmaltz is another quality product, not only with his writing and recipe prowness, but it is further enhanced by Donna Ruhlman’s excellent photography. Michael Ruhlman has a wonderful ability to weave a story, while at the same time giving confidence to try the techinque or recipe. Having always been a visual learner in cooking, Donna’s extensive photography further reinforces my desire to try using the recipes in my own kitchen. This is one the same tier as Bittman’s How to Cook, the CIA’s The Professional Chef and the Epicurious apps, among a very few others. I heartily recommend buying the Schmaltz app and then with the great coaching of Michael in the app to actually use it as a guide in the kitchen.

  • Michael Young

    Eagerly awaiting your release of the Kindle version. Or the gift of an iPad. :-)

  • esthermiriam

    Where should we look for the print version — for those of us traditional in several modes?

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