A Tale of Two Kugels

Savory Kugel

Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey

My first blog entry for Kugels and Collards was a sweet kugel that my grandmother Ida Lomansky Kligman made. Now that we have our very own Collard Kugel recipe which is a savory kugel, I have a renewed interest in finding out more about savory kugels.

Rachel Barnett and Lyssa Harvey with the savory Collard Kugel

Rachel Barnett and Lyssa Harvey with the savory Collard Kugel

Savory Kugels may be based on potatoes, matzah, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions or cheese. In Lithuania there is a dish that is called “Kugelis”. It is a baked potato pudding, and it is a traditional Lithuanian dish. The main ingredients are potatoes, onions and eggs.

I have asked Christine Beresniova, Executive Director of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust for more information about Kugelis. Her husband, Rokas Beresnoiva hails from Lithuania where Kugelis originated. Birute, Christine’s mother-in-law has given us her personal recipe for Kugelis.

Christine has sent two recipes: One is the handwritten recipe (in Lithuanian) by her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova. It features kugelis both with chicken and one without meat.

Screen+Shot+2019-03-19+at+10.41.37+AM.jpg

Christine explains, “I didn’t translate it because there is virtually no difference in the base preparation for any kugelis recipe. The second recipe is from the cookbook given to me and my husband by a family friend when we got married. It was originally printed in 1955 by Lithuanians living in the US, and it hasn’t changed since then.

The base recipes for kugelis are all essentially same; they involve grated potatoes, eggs, flours of some kind, milk, and salt. For some ethnic Lithuanians, they mix in pork or bacon. For other Lithuanians and for Jewish Lithuanians, they cook it with chicken. This is how my husband grew up (with chicken drumsticks stuck in it). You find the chicken recipe more common in rural areas where both Jews and Lithuanians were in close proximity and were both impoverished and they couldn’t afford a lot. Jews used to make kugelis on Shabbat. That was usually the only time of week they ate meat.

Birute Beresniova cooking in her home in Lithuania

Birute Beresniova cooking in her home in Lithuania

Just like borscht, there are different recipes for kugelis for each family with different add-ins. There is a sour cream butter sauce that some people make with bacon or onions. Others just serve it with sour cream. Some eat it with jam (lingonberry is common).

My mother-in-law swears that Lithuanian potatoes cook better, something about their flavor and starch content. She likes the yellow gold or the red potatoes. She doesn’t use russets or baking potatoes. She also swears that a good kugel is in how you grate and prep the potatoes. She does everything by hand and soaks the potatoes. She used a food processor once at our insistence and she was sorely disappointed. It is a lot of work to grate 3 pounds of potatoes by hand, but it tastes better.

Christine Beresniova and her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova

Christine Beresniova and her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova

There is also some debate over who invented kugelis, Jews or Lithuanians. Naturally, it emerged as a dish shared by both groups at the same time because of their close proximity in rural areas where social distance between groups was much smaller. It doesn’t have a lot in common with the more well known noodle kugel, so don’t serve it at a party and tell people it’s kugel. We did that once for Rosh Hashanah and people were confused.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.42.18 AM.png

Sweet Kugel

Submitted by Rachel Barnett

IMG_2153.jpg

My earliest memories of a kugel are that of egg noodles combined with eggs, milk, butter, cinnamon, sugar and raisins baked into a sweet dish that was, it seemed, always on our dinner table. This kugel must have been my paternal grandmother’s recipe that she taught to Ethel Glover, the African-American woman who cooked for three generations of the family. It’s a recipe that wasn’t written down, but through trial and error (and many other recipes in various cookbooks) I have managed to duplicate. I must add that it’s not my favorite kugel but, it’s the one from my childhood that takes me back to our family dinner table of fried chicken, seasonal fresh vegetables, and kugel. This may not sound quite as healthy as we eat today, but it was homecooked and always fresh.

Kugel recipes today are very creative. Our Collard Kugel, courtesy of Joan Nathan, is savory. Adding pineapple and cheeses can make a kugel luscious and more custard-like. But, none take me back to my family dinner table like Ethel’s somewhat dry kugel with its crispy noodles that were baked to golden perfection. I can taste it and smell it even today.

IMG_2154.jpg
  • Egg noodles (one 12 oz package wide noodles)

  • 6 beaten eggs

  • 1 1/2 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 stick butter cut

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • Pinch salt

Cook noodles al dente. Mix eggs and milk together. Mix cinnamon and sugar together. Pour all ingredients over drained noodles and mix well. Add bit of extra butter sugar on top for browning. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 until brown on top.

UPDATE:  I made the kugel for this post (see photos above). This kugel is simple and really delicious and now will again be on my dinner table!