The Soup Lady: The Amazing Talents of Jadzia Sklarz Stern

Submitted by Lilly Filler

 Jadzia and Ben Stern, late-1950s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Jadzia and Ben Stern, late-1950s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Creplach or Kneidelach that was the question! 

My mom, Jadzia Sklarz Stern, was the ultimate cook and homemaker. She was the 4th of 8 children of Hadassah and Zev Sklarz of Poland and learned by watching her mother care for the family of 10. How and why my mother learned to cook remains a mystery to us all today since she was separated from her parents at age 13 never to see them again. She was a Holocaust Survivor and lost the formative years with her parents. However, not only did she survive, she thrived. Although she never had any formal education, she was a home executive and excelled in cooking, sewing, flower arranging and caring for her family. Her culinary skills were known throughout the community. 

 Ben and Jadzia Szklarz Stern with their children, from left, Herbert Joel, Helena, Lilly, and William Harry, mid-1960s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Ben and Jadzia Szklarz Stern with their children, from left, Herbert Joel, Helena, Lilly, and William Harry, mid-1960s. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Her specialties were many, but no one could make a soup like my mom.  She was The Soup Lady. When one of her 4 children (Lilly, Helena, Bill or Herb) would bring home an unexpected guest, there was always plenty of soup to go around. Without recipes, she made split pea, barley, vegetable. etc. and of course chicken soup. Her “recipe” was tasting, smelling and touching the food. She was amazing!! Yadzia’s chicken soup was renowned and continues to be made by her daughters, Lilly (me) and Helena, and her daughter-in-law Linda Cherry Stern. It was our good fortune that mom provided Linda with a recipe for her glorious Creplach, the king of all soup inclusions.  

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Creplach is a meat dumpling. A laborious long process is needed to make these delectable delicacies. As children, we often crowded around mom to watch and to count the number of Creplach that were made.  We made mathematical calculations of how many we each could eat, and we made sure no one “overstepped” that number. When my youngest brother Herb was about 10 years old, he was intently watching the Creplach making and began pacing around the room. My mom noticed his obvious “concern” and questioned what was wrong. He sheepishly asked, “Do one of my sisters have the recipe for the kreplach, so that just in case you (mom) was not around, could they make them?” We laughed for years about that story, so it was fitting that Linda (married to my brother Bill) went to help Mom in the late 80’s, right before the High Holidays and before brother Herb was to be married. Jadzia had undergone foot surgery and needed some assistance.  Thus, began a cherished tradition of one of the girls working with mom to prepare the delicious dumplings. 

 Rosh Hashanah in Filler home, 1988. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Rosh Hashanah in Filler home, 1988. Image courtesy of Lilly Stern Filler.

Recipe of Creplach (makes about 70-75): As recited by Jadzia Stern during High Holy Days and typed by Linda Cherry Stern

  • 5lbs all purpose flour

  • 4lbs hamburger meat

  • 2lbs onion

Water has to be boiling so they don't stick to the bottom. You will need to change water after boiling around 20-30 creplach because they will start to stick.

Dough

  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 2 tbsp. water

  • 1 cup flour

Beat egg, add salt and water. Add flour gradually and knead to a smooth loaf until it does not stick to the hand. Cut in half and roll out into a round or square. Cut into 4 strips down and across.

Filling

Use chopped meat - any leftover cooked roast that has been chopped very finely. For about 1.5-2 pounds of meant, add: 1-2 eggs to hold hold together, 1.5 tsp. salt, .5 tsp. pepper.

Saute the onions in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) until clear before mixing with the meat

Fill squares and fold 3 cornered. Pinch together and close. Bring point up together to form like a cup. Boil large pot of water with a little salt added to water and drop creplach in and cook for 15 minutes or until they float to the top. This makes 30 and will fit into a large white enamel soup pot. To bake - 350 degrees, brush with chicken fat until light brown.

Recipe of Kneidalach (Matzo Balls)

Because of the enormous time spent making the Creplach, occasionally Kneidalach (matzo balls) were made.  The discussion among many (not the Stern family) was “what is the correct texture of Kneidalach”?  Were they to be soft or hard, fluffy or firm, small or large, from a box or “homemade”?  The debate continues today.  Jadzia’s matzo balls were homemade, firm and large, no debate there!! 

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  • 4 tbls. vegetable oil

  • 3-4 large eggs, slightly beaten (more eggs make a “harder matzo ball”)

  • 1 cup Matzo meal

  • 4 tbls. chicken soup (can add club soda if you prefer “lighter. fluffier balls)

  • 1-2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients before adding matzo meal.  Mix well and place covered in bowl in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Then boil 3-4 quarts of salted water and form the chilled matzo balls with a teaspoon and your hands about 1 inch, and drop in the boiling water. Then cover for 1 hour.  Once cooked (they will double in size when cooked) they can be frozen on a cookie sheet or placed in the warm soup.  If you warm the soup, wait to put the Kneidalach in or they will get “mushy” if warmed too long. Makes about 16 Kneidalach. 

Recipe of Chicken Soup

  • Baking hen (NOT a chicken or roaster)

  • Leeks (1 large)

  • Carrots (6-8 large)

  • Celery (4-6 stalks)

  • Fresh Parsley and or Dill

  • Osem Consomme, seasoning mix 3-4 tbls.

  • 1-2 tbls. of salt, pepper to taste

Clean hen and salt well.  Boil 2-3 quarts of water and then add the hen.  Bring to boil again and skim the fat and such off the top.  Cover and boil for about 1-2 hours depending on size of hen. Clean and chop the leeks, carrots, and celery.  

Before adding the vegetables, add 3-4 tablespoons of Osem seasoning mix and salt and pepper to taste. (may add more or less to taste) Slowly add all vegetables to soup, put on low and simmer for another 2 hours, covered.  After cooking, cool soup and then refrigerate.  Best if made at least 1 day prior to eating.  Skim fat off the top of the soup and remove the hen before rewarming.  If your family likes the chicken in the soup, take if off the bone or cut the cooked chicken into small serving sizes and leave it in the soup.    

I fondly remember sitting around the holiday table with 2-4 soldiers from Fort Jackson, 2-4 students from USC and the family.  After the soup was served, most were finished with the meal, despite the fact that mom had made gefilte fish, brisket, potato kugel, vegetables, and apple cake.  There was no debate, the soup was the best whether we had Creplach or Kneidalach, it was delicious.