Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered pig, chicken, or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German and Polish cuisine. The brown fatty residue left in the pan after frying bacon is schmalz (although the melted fat that is usually referred to as schmalz has a whitish color).

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, 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. [cite book | last = Ginor | first = Michael A. | title = Foie Gras: A Passion | publisher=John Wiley & Sons | year = 1999 | id = ISBN 0-471-29318-0 | pages = p. 9]

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.

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". [] . 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

_yi. שמאַלץ "shmalts" is the Yiddish word for chicken fat, [cite web
title="The Merriam-Webster Dictionary", 11th ed.
] closely related to Modern German "schmalz" 'cooking fat', both from Middle High German "smalz". [cite web
title="American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language", 4th ed., 2000
] 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).

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 about 1950, ["Dictionary of American Slang", H. Wentworth and S.B. Flexner, 2nd suppl. ed., Thomas Y. Crowell Co., N.Y., 1975.] ; by 1935, it already meant 'straight' jazz. [Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989.] In the Montreal Jewish community, it is a slang term for money.

In the United States, "schmaltz" was also a technical term among sign-makers for roadside signs in which the design was made of large (1", 2" or larger) sequins that trembled and caught the light. Such signage was more common before lighted, neon, and retroreflective signs became common. Schmaltz signage almost completely dropped out of use by the late 1970s, but is still occasionally seen, especially to create a nostalgic feel.


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  • schmaltz — ☆ schmaltz [shmälts, shmôlts ] n. [? via Yiddish < Ger schmaltz, lit., rendered fat, akin to schmelzen, to melt: see SMELT2] Slang 1. highly sentimental and banal music, literature, etc. 2. banal or excessive sentimentalism: Also sp. schmalz… …   English World dictionary

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  • schmaltz — [ ʃmɔlts ] noun uncount INFORMAL music, art, or movies that are emotional in a way that seems silly …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • schmaltz — (n.) banal or excessive sentimentalism, 1935, from Yiddish shmalts, lit. melted fat, from M.H.G. smalz, from O.H.G., related to smelzan to melt. Modern Ger. Schmalz fat, grease has the same figurative meaning. First mentioned in English as a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • schmaltz — ► NOUN informal ▪ excessive sentimentality. DERIVATIVES schmaltzy adjective. ORIGIN Yiddish, from German Schmalz dripping, lard …   English terms dictionary

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  • schmaltz — or schmalz or shmaltz [[t]ʃmɑlts, ʃmɔlts[/t]] n. inf Informal. exaggerated sentimentalism, as in music or writing • Etymology: 1930–35; < Yiddish shmalts or G Schmaltz fat, grease, c. smelt I schmaltz′y, adj. schmaltz•i•er, schmaltz•i•est …   From formal English to slang

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