The Amazing, Abridged Story of the Matzah Ball

Posted by Proud Jews on

Ah, the Matzah Ball!

No, not that party for single Jews on Christmas Eve.

We're talking about the little concoction that's become a cherished Passover tradition, served in a delicious chicken soup.

Read on for the very brief history of the matzah ball and a recipe you might enjoy if you're making matzah ball soup from scratch.

Germans Started It

By the twelfth century, Germans were making dumplings called "knodels" - basically, breadcrumbs mixed with egg, chicken fat, and spices, then boiled in water or soup broth. They looked like this:

Picture of German Knoedel

(Do these look familiar?)

As you know, matzah is very, very crumby. We assume a German Jew looked at all those matzah crumbs that fell off during seder and thought they'd make for a good knodel. 

And so the matzah ball was born.

Poles Spread It

Though the matzah ball began in Germany, its popularity exploded in Poland during the next few centuries. 

Eventually, matzah ball soup became a fixture of the Passover seder meal, at least for Ashkenazi Jews and other Jews with European origins.

Manischewitz Made it YUGE

According to NPR, though matzah balls were well-established in Jewish communities around the country, Manischewitz is credited with bringing them into the American mainstream.

Around 1930 the company started selling them under the label "Alsatian feathery balls."

We don't know what made them use such fluffy language but fortunately, they soon came to their senses and called them matzah balls - though, they spelled it "Matzo" balls. Silly.

Manischewitz Mazto Ball Mix

(C'mon, Manny! Fix the typo!)   

Proud Jews Made it Awesome

In March 2017, matzah balls reached the pinnacle of fame when a small, upstart T-shirt company unveiled the "Daddy's Lil' Matzah Ball" and "Mommy's Lil' Matzah Ball" kids shirts and onesies.

Never before had any company made such an important contribution to Jewish heritage.

Not only that, these shirts make a perfect Passover outfit for your favorite little mensch or shayna punim. Buy them from our Holiday collection!

Come for the Lesson, Stay for the Food

We hope you enjoyed that little history lesson.

Here's a matzah ball recipe we picked up from Andrew Zimmern (it's not the Manischewitz version).

Add it to your favorite broth and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups matzah meal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 large eggs, 3 with yolks separated
  • 1/4 cup melted chicken fat (schmaltz) or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for forming the matzoh balls

Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the matzah meal, salt, garlic, baking powder, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk the 2 whole eggs with the 3 yolks, schmaltz, and onion. In a separate bowl, beat the 3 egg whites with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form.

Stir the schmaltz mixture into the dry ingredients, then stir in one-third of the beaten egg whites until incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites until no streaks remain.

Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or overnight, until firm.

Prepare your favorite broth.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. In a small bowl, combine the vegetable oil with 1 tablespoon of water. Scoop 1-tablespoon-size mounds of the matzah batter onto the baking sheet.

Using the oil-and-water mixture to keep your hands moist, roll each scoop of batter into a ball, handling them as gently as possible.

Add the balls to your broth. Cook about 25 minutes or until the balls are plump. 

Fun Fact About Matzo Balls 

Here's a little bit of trivia for you.

Apparently culinary experts split matzah balls into two categories: "Floaters" or "Sinkers." 

Sounds pretty juvenile. We'll stay out of that one, but you can read more about it from this Epicurious article.

Happy Passover!