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Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered chicken or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German, Polish] and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Schmaltz and Schmalz are also common last names amongst Ashkenazi Jewish people of German and Austrian descent[1] as it is meant to imply that the bearer has enough wealth to regularly purchase schmaltz.

Schmaltz rendered from a chicken or goose is popular in Jewish cuisine; it was used by Northwestern and Eastern European Jews who were forbidden by kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) to fry their meats in butter or lard, the common forms of cooking fat in Europe (Leviticus 7:23), and who could not obtain the kinds of cooking oils, such as olive oil and sesame oil, that they had used in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean (as in Spain and Italy); the overfeeding of geese that Jews used to produce more fat per bird produced postclassical Europe's first foie gras as a side effect.[2]

Besides Schweineschmalz (pig-schmalz, i.e. lard) the manufacture of schmalz can involve cutting the fatty tissues of a bird (chicken or goose) into small pieces, melting the fat, and collecting the drippings. Schmaltz may be prepared by a dry process where the pieces are cooked under low heat and stirred, gradually yielding their fat. A wet process also exists whereby the fat is melted by direct steam injection. The rendered schmaltz is then filtered and clarified.

Homemade Jewish-style schmaltz is made by cutting unsmoked chicken or goose fat into small pieces and melting in a pan over low-to-moderate heat, generally with onions. After the majority of the fat has been extracted, the melted fat is strained through a cheesecloth into a storage container. The remaining dark brown, crispy bits of skin and onion are known in Yiddish as gribenes.


Since the rendering process removes water and proteins from the fat, schmaltz does not spoil easily. It can even be used to preserve cooked meats if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry location. This is similar to the French confit.

Schmaltz often has a strong aroma, and therefore is often used for hearty recipes such as stews or roasts. It is also used as a bread spread, where it is sometimes also salted, and generally this is done on whole-grain breads which have a strong flavor of their own.

At Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse (a famous Jewish restaurant/landmark in New York City's Lower East Side), schmaltz is used in many dishes. It is served on the table, as ketchup would be in other restaurants. Schmaltz is even poured over salad in place of olive oil.

Vegetarian schmaltz

A vegetarian (and consequently pareve) version of schmaltz was first marketed commercially in South Africa by Debra's under the slogan "Even the chicken can't tell the difference".[3] Other vegetarian brands include Nyafat. The taste and texture is similar to real chicken schmaltz but the saturated fat content is much lower - Debra's Schmaltz, for example, bears the South African Heart Foundation's sign of endorsement.

Etymology and other meanings of the word

שמאַלץ shmalts is the Yiddish word for chicken fat,[4] closely related to Modern German Schmalz 'cooking fat', both from Middle High German smalz.[5] It was brought to American English by Yiddish-speaking Jews who used this word mostly to refer to kosher poultry fat.

The expression "falling into the schmaltz pot" refers to the concept of having something good happen to you, often by sheer luck (e.g., being born into a good family). Someone who happens to have good luck, is given the reputation of being a schmalz.

In American English, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) has also an informal meaning of excessively sentimental or florid music or art or maudlin sentimentality. Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid 1930s.[6][7]

In the Montreal Jewish community, it is a slang term for money.

With a slightly different spelling, Shmaltz Brewing Company makes a pun out of 'schmaltz' to get its name. "Shmaltz" not only contains the word 'malt,' an essential beer ingredient, but also refers to the Jewish heritage and humor of the company.


  1. Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 0-19-508137-4. 
  2. Ginor, Michael A. (1999). Foie Gras: A Passion. John Wiley & Sons. p. 9. ISBN 0-471-29318-0. 
  4. "The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11th ed.". Retrieved 2007-01-09. 
  5. "American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., 2000". Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  6. H. Brook Webb, “The Slang of Jazz,” American Speech 12, No. 3 (October 1937): 179-184
  7. J.A. Steig, “Profiles: Alligators’ Idol,” The New Yorker, April 17, 1937, 27-31.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Schmaltz. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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