Traditional Hanukkah, or Chanukah, recipes are a symbol of freedom and survival. The festival commemorates the revival of the Temple in 165 B.C. by the Maccabees (a Jewish rebel army) after its desecration by the Syrians. Probably the most famous aspect of this holiday is the eight days of lights, but there are also many food and cooking traditions tied to the holiday.
Hanukkah begins this evening at sundown, so let's celebrate with a look to some of the traditional Hanukkah recipes:
Even after the Syrians desecrated the Temple, a miracle took place: a small amount of oil, sufficient for just about a day, was somehow able to keep the flame alight for eight days in the holy place. This miracle is celebrated, symbolically, with the use of oil in cuisine. Many traditional Hanukkah recipes will be prepared in oil, whether they are baked or fried. Typically it is olive oil. Two famous oil-rich foods are potato latkes and sufganiyot, a type of fried doughnut.
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The key ingredient is grated potato, which is formed into a patty held together by egg, onion and various seasonings. The patty is then fried in oil, and served with either sour cream or applesauce. The latke is open to many recipe variations. Different spices can give them a unique flavor, and they can even be made with cinnamon and sugar for a sweeter variation. Here's a recipe for crispy panko potato latkes.
Applesauce is a standard side dish on the Hanukkah table, and can be made in a slow cooker or simmered on the stove. It can be fairly plain (apples, sugar, perhaps a little lemon juice) or more elaborate, such as apple-cranberry sauce. Some even choose to fry their latkes with apple slices right in the mix.
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If you're stuck on the word itself, here's a little help: it's pronounced "SOOF-gone-ee-OAT." It's a light, fried dough that's then stuffed with jam or jelly and topped with a snowy coating of confectioners' sugar. These days, inventive bakers are having fun with new flavors, and it is not unusual to see sufganiyot filled with unusual fruit or jam fillings, or even nut or chocolate fillings. Here's a recipe for jelly-filled sufganiyot.
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When it comes to the main dish, the Hanukkah menu will often include brisket or chicken. Brisket is among the tougher cuts of beef, so a slow cooking method is best for breaking down the tendons in the meat and making it tender while also preserving its flavor. Braising the meat in a broth and vegetable mixture are fantastic ways of preparing brisket. Here's a brisket recipe.
It is also customary to eat dairy foods on Hanukkah. As the story goes, following the attack on the Temple, a town beauty named Judith charmed her way into the enemy camp bearing gifts of wine and cheese. Once the leader had indulged to the point of passing out, Judith beheaded him. Without a leader, the camp disbanded. Eating dairy products is a way of commemorating this brave woman's part on the Maccabee victory.
How dairy is eaten at the Hanukkah table can be as simple as serving cheese, or it can also be enjoyed as part of blintzes, cheesecakes and salads rich with cheese, such as this pepper, cheese and sugared pecan salad.
Photo via Craftsy member Janice
This egg-rich bread is like the golden crown on a Hanukkah feast. Traditionally, it is braided before it is baked, giving it an impressive finished appearance once it rises and bakes to a warm, golden hue. Challah is one of the recipes featured in Craftsy course Artisan Bread Making.
Photo via Smithsonian Magazine Blog
In the food world, gelt is a type of chocolate candy shaped like a coin and covered in metallic foil to bring the resemblance home. It is a traditional Hanukkah gift, and is often used by children when they play with the dreidel.
Gelt isn't the only sweet served at Hanukkah. Traditional Jewish cookie recipes, such as rugelach, will often make an appearance at the table. It's also not unusual to see sugar cookies in the shapes of Hanukkah imagery such as dreidels or menorahs.
You might also enjoy our fun Hanukkah cupcake tutorial. And be sure to come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to learn how to transform your Thanksgiving leftovers into savory Thanksgiving croissants with a special guest post from Craftsy instructor Colette Christian!