I’m guest-host pinch hitting for poor Mary, who was conscious only long enough to send me Elle’s post. You can read about our guest in her own words, and stick around to learn the REAL way of making latkes. I say real because my way consists of opening a box and pouring out a mix. My Nana would NOT be proud. Comment to win a dubious prize. 🙂
A Great Miracle Happened There
If you ask most people, they may know Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration. Many may even recognize the menorah and the dreidel — two symbols associated with the Festival of Light. But most probably don’t know the connection these symbols have to each other, or why Jewish families eat foods fried in oil during this special time of year.
The sides of the spinning top, called a “dreidel”, contain four letters of the Hebrew alphabet: נ (Nun
), ג (Gimel
), ה (Hei
), ש (Shin
), which together form the acronym for “נ
am – “a great miracle happened there”). The miracle dates back to 167 BCE, when Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus be erected in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. Judah Maccabee and his brothers led a revolt against Antiochus, and after two years, were successful in liberating The Temple. After The Temple was cleansed and rededicated, olive oil was needed, as the candles of the menorah in The Temple were required to remain lit each night. There was only enough oil to last one night, but by a great miracle, the menorah remained lit for eight — just enough time to produce the oil needed to keep the lights burning.
It is this miracle we celebrate on Hanukkah. This is the reason we light a special menorah, called a Hanukkiah. The Hanukkah menorah bears eight candles, one for each night the oil burned at The Temple.
Come light the menorah
And here is where oil becomes the key ingredient in all great Hanukkah celebrations! It is customary to eat foods fried in oil as a way of celebrating the miracle that happened in The Temple. Potato Latkes (potato pancakes fried in oil), are the most widely recognized Hanukkah treat. But you may not know that jelly donuts, or sufganiyot (which are pastries fried in oil), are also enjoyed in many Jewish homes during Hanukkah.
Personally, I indulge in both! As I share this story with you, and the customs from my own kitchen, I am reminded of a Jewish teaching: The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the “lighting of the house within”, but rather for the “illumination of the house without.”
And now that you have an understanding of the Hanukkah traditions, I will share with you my family’s favorite recipe for Potato Latkes.
8 medium potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
1 cup flour (or rice flour may be substituted)
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/8/ cup melted butter
fresh grated nutmeg
salt & pepper
applesauce (optional topping, served on side)
sour cream (optional topping, served on side)
Grate potatoes and onions in a large hole grater.
Splash with lemon juice and squeeze out the water.
Mix flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add to potatoes.
Add melted butter.
Heat peanut oil in skillet and fry until golden on one side. Flip and repeat.
Serve with sides of applesauce and sour cream which make be used as toppings.
Thanks, Elle… I definitely need to try this one. So remember that mix from a box I mentioned earlier? Yeah. I’m giving away a couple of them to a lucky (or unlucky?) commenter. Tell me about your first exposure to Jewish foods. Or let me know about any latke variations you’ve had.
Traditional Hanukkah Potato Latkes
Recipe Type: Traditional
Cuisine: Side Dish
- 8 medium potatoes, peeled
- 1 medium onion
- lemon juice
- 1 cup flour (or rice flour may be substituted)
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/8/ cup melted butter
- fresh grated nutmeg
- salt & pepper
- applesauce (optional topping, served on side)
- sour cream (optional topping, served on side)
- Grate potatoes and onions in a large hole grater.
- Splash with lemon juice and squeeze out the water.
- Mix flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and nutmeg. Add to potatoes.
- Add melted butter.
- Form small handfuls into patties.
- Heat peanut oil in skillet and fry until golden on one side. Flip and repeat.
- Serve with sides of applesauce and sour cream which may be used as toppings.