Saturday, December 17, 2011

Latkes and the story of Hanukah

Hanukah, or the Festival of Light, is a holiday that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in 165 BCE.  Interestingly enough, Hanukah is not mentioned in the Torah, the Jewish Bible.  Rather, it is the book of the Maccabees. The Maccabees were a band of Hebrew fighters who liberated the land of Israel from the occupying Syrian Greeks.  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a nasty sort if there ever was one, forbade the Hebrews from practicing their religion and forced them to worship the Greek gods.  If that wasn’t enough, he also defiled the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  That was the final straw.  The Maccabees, under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, led a small army, which waged a guerrilla war against the Syrians.  When they finally took control of the Temple, the Hebrews wanted to burn ritual oil to purify it.  However, they were only able to find enough oil for one day.  The miracle of Hanukah was that the oil lasted a total of eight days. We celebrate it today by lighting a menorah.  The menorah contains nine branches; eight to symbolize the eight days that the oil lasted and one as the Shamash.  The Shamash is the candle used to light the others. Hanukah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar.  We eat ritual foods, say prayers, sing songs, spin dreidels and give gifts. 

Eating fried foods on Hanukah reminds us of the miracle of the oil.  Latkes and sufganiyot (fried donuts) are traditional foods most often associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukah.  We are having a Hanukah party at my temple so we are going to make potato latkes. The recipe that we are going to use is...

Kathi and Harriet’s Luscious Latke Recipe
2 eggs
½ small onion, chopped
2 Tbl vegetable oil for the latkes
1 tsp salt
2 Tbl flour
¼ tsp baking powder
3 cups shredded raw potatoes

Vegetable oil for frying

Assemble the troops

 Old School
Graduate School

I am making fifteen pounds of potatoes, so I modified the recipe slightly to go for high production.  Soak the shredded potatoes for about 15 minutes in cold water. 
 This will remove some of the starch.  Heat enough oil in a large skillet to cover about 1/8 inch to medium-high heat.  When it starts to shimmer it is ready.  Remove the potatoes from the water and put them on a kitchen towel.  Roll up the towel and then squeeze the excess water from the potatoes. 

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. 

  Form the latkes into three-inch diameter mounds.  Drop in the hot oil, press gently with the back of a spoon, and fry until golden brown on both sides.  

Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel.

Serve with applesauce or sour cream or both! L’Chaim.   I'm actually serving this with Duck Sauce.  You know Jews and Chinese food, but that's another story.  

Wishing all of you a very Happy Hanukah and/or a Merry Christmas! 

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