Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Noodle pudding

To make lokshen kugel, you must be a Jewish aunt or grandmother, preferable a bit eccentric, with a refrigerator full of dairy.

I qualify. Here I am, at the end of the winter holidays, with all sort of things you don't usually see in our house, including big containers of sour cream, cottage cheese, and a couple boxes of eggs.

I looked up my version of my family's noodle pudding recipe in the FileMaker database, and then decided to check out some versions on the Internet. I soon realized there are thousands of versions of noodle pudding, each one based on what that person's aunt had in her refrigerator.

Aunt Reva (or Helen, or Sadie) had cooked a noodle pudding based on what was available, someone had complimented her on it, and that version became set in stone for the remainder of her cooking career. When I was a child, our family gatherings included at least two versions of kugel; one included dried apricots and the other was the alternate selection. (My grandmother's version featured pineapple tidbits, and so does mine.) A cottage cheese version can be something like a cheesecake; one with lots of eggs, as fluffy as a souffle.

I stumbled across a great explanation of kugel-type recipes on the blog Sabbath Meals, which explains it in terms of the "shit" method of cooking used by Eastern European grandmothers. (That's probably not what you think, unless you are fluent in Yiddish.)

The bottom line is that kugel is a mixture of wide egg noodles, dairy (sour cream and drained cottage cheese as a rule, but cream cheese, yoghurt, and buttermilk can also come into play), dried or winter fruits (golden raisins, almost certainly, but apples, prunes, apricots, almonds, walnuts, pecans, and canned pineapple can turn up), lightly beaten eggs (usually in a ratio of 1 egg per 4 oz. of dried noodles), and flavorings (sugar, salt, lemon juice, and cinnamon are the most common, but honey, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and almond extract also appear). (The wikipedia entry for "kugel" notes that there is a Jerusalem kugel with carmelized sugar and black pepper — now that's worth trying.)

Boil the noodles, butter them, mix in the rest of the glop (this is where some people want to top it all with bread crumbs) and bake at 350 C for 45 minutes to an hour.

If you would like some kugel, email me and you can come try some Thursday or Friday. (Seattle area availability, only.)

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