Celebrate Jewish culinary traditions in a new way this year with the Hanukkah Jackpot Boxes


NEW YORK CITY (SBG) – The food associated with vacations often lacks an exact formula to follow so precisely that one family’s table is almost identical to another, and years of recipe passed down from generation to generation. generation, as well as the potentially time-consuming evolution of a particular dish, ensures that there is a lot of variation in celebratory feasts. Hanukkah is no exception – while latkes may be a Jewish holiday staple, the ingredients and method of making potato pancakes may differ from household to household, and many argue that the version of their mother is, without a doubt, the best. the best. The ritual of making latkes in a cozy kitchen surrounded by hungry family members can therefore become just as vital to the holidays as the taste of the latkes themselves.

But in the year of a pandemic, adaptations of holiday traditions with such close ties to family reunions, food-related or otherwise, have become a necessity amid safety concerns and regulations. Those lucky enough to live close to their family can always rejoice to stuff their faces with homemade latkes, but for the majority of people unable to get together in person, big celebrations are limited to video calls, and so much. as you can. if you could, you couldn’t take a bite of latke through your screen.

Recognizing the potential for the holidays to feel a lot more lonely without the hustle and bustle of grandparents, aunts and uncles piling up in one house to eat all manner of fried foods, restaurants across the country have come together. stepped up to serve latkes and other Hanukkah comfort foods. to take away or to deliver to anyone nostalgic for their family’s home cooking. Yes, you can still have a happy Hanukkah without having to struggle to interpret your grandmother’s handwriting on a time-stained piece of paper with ingredients from years gone by or trying to cook an entire feast in a small one. apartment with limited counter space. If you have any doubts whether a restaurant can match your family’s cherished recipes, Gertie’s Hanukkah Jackpot Box is here to prove you wrong.

The owners of Gertie, an all-day lunch in Brooklyn that opened in February 2019, intended to launch a new menu last March, but instead saw their plans put on hold indefinitely when restaurants were forced to close their doors to guests. In the months that followed, the bright and airy space that once called for groups of friends to gather for a quiet meal was left empty of any guest. Gertie first became a take-out restaurant, then a soup kitchen, and finally, in warm July weather, a hotspot for alfresco dining. As the temperature begins to drop, the owners have had to think about how they could keep the restaurant afloat through an uncertain winter. One idea they are currently exploring to generate sales are the aforementioned Hanukkah jackpot boxes, a prepackaged offer that comes with latkes, of course, as well as anything else you might want at this time of year.

“It’s a lovely way to celebrate at home when you can’t go to your mom’s or grandma’s house to buy latkes and jelly donuts,” said Nate Adler, founder and partner of Gertie. The restaurant is aptly named after Gertrude, Adler’s maternal grandmother. If you can’t make it to your grandma’s house in December, you can at least visit Adler’s Tribute to hers for a taste of home cooking.

Inside the box you’ll find five latkes with both apple sauce and sour cream and onion, satisfying those on either side of the Hanukkah table debate. The box also includes three fried jelly donuts known as sufganiyot, two rugelach, two sugar cookies based on Adler’s grandmother’s recipe, a raspberry jam streusel bar, chocolate gelt and a dreidel.

“Nate gave me a copy of the recipe in [his grandmother’s handwriting], and I translated it, ”said Melissa Weller, the head pastry chef recently hired by Gertie, of the inspiration behind the sugar cookies. “It was the most fun for me.”

Weller, though not Jewish herself, was hailed as one of the best Jewish bakers in the country, and partnered with Adler in October to expand Gertie’s baking program for the fall and l winter was a natural choice; fortuitously, she was already living in the neighborhood. While the sugar cookie recipe comes from Adler’s grandmother, many other Jewish pastries offered to Gertie are the product of Weller’s extensive and extensive research into Jewish cuisine and the years she spent perfecting it. his interpretations of the classics. The pastries pay homage to centuries-old traditions while incorporating Weller’s personal touches; his babka, for example, uses the conventional flavors of marzipan and chocolate, but it looks more like a slice of Danish than its usual shape of bread or cake.

Part of his baking enthusiasm, Weller said, is in the process of figuring out where certain things come from. Given the extent to which Jews have moved through history, the origins of different baked goods and savory products are not traceable to one place but rather reflect the global nature of Jewish cuisine, allowing many discoveries by examining the history of a particular pastry. A simple explanation of why Chanukah involves so much fried food points to the one-day miracle of oil keeping Jerusalem’s Second Temple menorah lit for eight days, but closer examination reveals the roundabout path that every culinary custom has. borrowed to become a modern day staple.

Take latkes – fried potato pancakes certainly use a lot of oil, so the connection to the dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem is immediately evident. But latkes also have their roots in the story of Judith, a fearless heroine who fed an enemy general copious amounts of salty cheese to encourage him to drink more wine, then beheaded him in his drunken sleep. When she presented her head to the oncoming army, they withdrew, giving victory to the Jews.

Although these events have since taken place hundreds of years before the Maccabean Revolt that resulted in the dedication of the Temple, it has already been recorded that Judith was a close relative of the Jewish priest who led the rebellion, and the connection between Hanukkah and the history of Judith dates back at least to the Middle Ages. However, any mention of potatoes is notoriously absent in the tale. This is because the original latkes were not made from potatoes, a crop that didn’t even come to Europe until the 16th century, but from cheese; Specifically, the latkes were fried ricotta pancakes, believed to have been eaten to honor Judith’s innovative use of dairy to defeat the enemy.

Over time, the latke has evolved from a dairy food to its current iteration. When Eastern European Jews began frying their latkes in the most commonly available animal fat, rather than olive oil, the laws of kashrut dictated that meat and dairy products should not be eaten. could not be mixed, so the recipe changed from cheese to buckwheat. Potatoes entered the Eastern European Jewish diet in the mid-19th century and replaced buckwheat as a key ingredient, and German immigrants took the recipe for latkes with them to America. Now, most latke recipes call for potatoes, or maybe sweet potatoes, but there is still a lot of debate about the correct way to make latkes and strong opinions as to whether they should. be eaten with applesauce or sour cream.

Latkes might be the food that comes to mind when you think of Chanukah, but many consider sufganiyot to be an essential and delicious part of a vacation as well.

The Fried Jelly Donuts have been linked to a popular Israeli tale in which God tries to cheer Adam and Eve up with donuts after throwing them out of the Garden of Eden. An association has also been made between sufganiyot and the smaller Arabic donuts known as sfenj, although the latter do not involve any jelly filling. The sweet filling would then come from Europe, as the jelly donuts were traced to a German cookbook that described placing jam between two slices of bread and frying the concoction. When Jews migrated from Europe to Israel in the 20th century, their version of jelly donuts met Moroccan donuts, giving rise to today’s sufganiyot.

The fact that sufganiyot are fried in oil is not the only reason they have become associated with Chanukah. The main force that promoted sufganiyot as a holiday tradition was the Histadrut, an Israeli labor organization founded in 1920. Compared to latkes, sufganiyot are much more difficult to prepare at home, and the Histadrut seized the opportunity. to mark the sufganiyot as a Hanukkah dessert. better left to professionals, thus creating many job opportunities for Jewish workers at a time of year that was once marked by a lull in work.

With just one bite of these delicious donuts, you will surely understand why sufganiyot has been adopted during the holidays ever since. You can find sufganiyot with all kinds of filling options, but the blood orange variety at Gertie is perfectly in season.

In addition to the Hanukkah jackpot boxes, Gertie sells independent pastry jackpot boxes of any particular holiday and filled with Jewish goodies like apple bundt cake, chocolate marzipan babka, brioche buns called schnecken and lemon rugelach and poppy. The idea behind the boxes, available for pre-order through Square, is to provide customers with a guaranteed way to purchase the pastries they want.

“We sold. People showed up at noon and couldn’t find what they wanted,” Adler said. “If we can plan ahead, we can make a few more pastries of different types.”

Sufganiyot have been particularly popular, according to Weller. “We made a hundred donuts a day. I think that’s pretty crazy,” she said.

Gertie is currently open for take out and alfresco dining, if you’re up to the weather, Friday through Saturday, and while both jackpot boxes need to be pre-ordered, you can also stop by to order at the menu off the menu. The restaurant also sells a variety of natural wines and local beers. Whether you choose to trust Gertie for all your Hanukkah needs or stop by for lunch to buy a pastry as a midday snack, your nostalgia for Jewish home cooking is sure to be satisfied.


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