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. 

Memories of the Fair, Florida and Flanken Soup

Submitted by Jackie Dickman

Florida Boyd

Florida Boyd

These are my childhood memories of the State Fair in the early 60’s. That was when the fairgrounds were covered in saw dust, there were girlie and freak shows, live mice in the lucky numbers game, and fairgoers often were loud and rowdy after sundown. That did not keep me with my sisters and friends from having free rein at the fair—meeting at the rocket if we got separated. 

The B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth with homemade Jewish food was a major operation and a real Jewish community affair. This was their big fund-raiser for the year. It was a favorite among fairgoers who enjoyed sitting down to a good corned beef or pastrami sandwich or a Kosher hot dog. For the carnival workers who travelled with the fair, the B’nai B’rith Women’s booth was a place to get a good hot home cooked meal on a cold fair night. I remember the experience of watching these men who led hard lives. It was not what I was used to seeing.

Since my dad Max Dickman was a great cook, who happened to own a scrap metals business next to the fair, and my mother Selma Dickman was very active in B’nai B’rith Women, serving as President and chair of the BBW booth for several years, fair week was a very busy time in our family. But it was Florida who was the outstanding member of the fair booth preparation task force. Florida Boyd was my family’s long time house keeper, cook, extra mama, friend and family member. If you grew up Jewish in Columbia in our day, you knew Florida. She prepared amazing Jewish and Southern dishes. Florida “catered” many Passover and Break the Fast meals at the Tree of Life Temple and was the “go to” for brit milah celebrations. That is a story for another day. 

Florida was a mainstay at the fair.   One of the dishes especially enjoyed by the traveling carnival workers was Florida’s flanken (beef short ribs) and barley soup. It was thick and hot and delicious. I do not have her recipe. In fact, Florida would not have had a recipe. We do have the pots!

Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Soup pot used by the Dickman family at the fair in 1960s.

Although I do not have her recipe, I know this hearty soup was made with cellophane tubes of Manischewitz soup mix to start, with added carrots, celery, onions, maybe potatoes and powdered garlic, and of course short ribs.  So I have scoured the internet and combined several entries to come up with an approximation of Florida’s delicious flanken soup. And now I am motivated to prepare this soup for a cold winter night and think of the fair, my parents and Florida.  Dad and Florida also made pots of whole cow tongues for the fair, but I’ll try not to think about that.

FLANKEN and BARLEY SOUP (8 servings)

  • In a large pot, cover 8 pieces (about 3 lbs.) of flanken (beef short ribs with bone in) with water; bring to boil for 2 minutes; then change water to the full amount (4 quarts).

  • Bring water with flanken to a boil then simmer covered for 1 hour.

  • Add Manischewitz soup mixes (not the enclosed season packets)-one tube lima beans & barley and one tube split pea & barley.

  • Add chopped carrots, celery and onions, potatoes (at least 1 cup each).

  • Simmer covered another hour.

  • Mix in contents of seasoning packets, a few bay leaves, and garlic powder, salt or pepper if needed—simmer covered for 15 minutes.

  • As cooking, stir occasionally and thoroughly, and add water if needed. And may need more or less cooking time.

  • These are typical Florida instructions. If you want a more specific recipe, consult the internet or a traditional Jewish Cookbook.

PS. The end of the B’nai B’rith Women’s fair booth was due in part to an improved life style of carnival employees, and in large part due to stricter regulation of off-premises preparation of foods served at fairs and festivals. 

Savory Brisket

Submitted by Sandra Altman Poliakoff

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My mother, Annette Altman, always made her brisket this way, and my mother-in-law Rosa Poliakoff made hers with carrots, celery, and onions and beef broth. Brisket is a no-brainer. The longer it cooks (on a low oven), the more tender it gets, as long as there is liquid for the meat to absorb. Just the smell of brisket cooking in the oven evokes memories of family, holidays and warmth. It is one of the threads that binds one generation to the next.

  • 1 beef brisket, 3-4 lbs, fat trimmed

  • 1 1/2 cups Ketchup

  • 1 package of onion soup mix

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup of red wine

Mix ketchup, onion soup mix, brown sugar and red wine. 

Put brisket in a pyrex dish lined with foil. Pour sauce over meat, cover with foil.

Bake on 350 for 4 hours.

Meat is done when fork inserted in meat sinks in easily.

When the meat is done, put on cutting board and slice against the grain. Serve with sauce in the pan.

Sandra and her mother, Annette Altman.

Sandra and her mother, Annette Altman.

Yantaff (Holiday) Chicken and Rice

Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey

My grandmother, Ida Lomansky Kligman, used to cook a chicken for Shabbat dinner in a particular pot every Friday. I have given this chicken pot to my daughter, Jordane Harvey Lotts, since she is such a good cook. Grandma Ida’s chicken would be the same delicious roasted chicken with rice. The chicken would be “fall off the bone” tender or the Yiddish term fatempt. This holiday yantaff chicken and rice recipe is not my grandmother’s. It is combination of many delicious chicken recipes that I have put together. I wanted a crispy but tender sweet chicken. Using the dried fruit and lemon gives it a special flavor for any holiday. I usually make this recipe for Passover as well.

  • 2 cut-up chickens (do not use the backs, if the breasts are large cut in half)

  • 2 cups of instant brown rice or wild rice

  • 4 cups of chicken broth

  • 1 onion, chopped up

  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed

  • 1 jar of apricot preserves

  • ½ cup of dried apricots

  • ½ cup of dried pitted prunes

  • ½ cup of lemon slices

  • Fresh oregano

  • Olive oil

  • Kosher salt

  • Pepper

Salt and pepper the chicken. Brown the chicken in olive oil in a Dutch oven or large sauce pan and set aside. Brown the onions and garlic in the chicken juice and olive oil that is left in the pan. Oil the bottom of a large baking pan or Pyrex dish or aluminum pan and put the 2 cups of wild rice or brown rice in the pan. Place the chicken on top of the rice. Pour in the 4 cups of chicken broth. Put the onions and garlic and oregano on top of the chicken. Spread the apricot preserves on top of chicken. Sprinkle the apricots, prunes and lemon slices on top of chicken.

Bake the chicken covered for 1 ½ hours at 350 degrees.

Serve with the apricots and prunes and lemon slices on top of the chicken.

Grandma Ida's Lukshen Kugel

Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey

My grandmother, Ida Lomansky Kligman (1901-1984) cooked Jewish dishes like a woman from the “old country.” She was born in Poland and came to America with her younger sister, Bluma. She met my grandfather, Louis Kligman, and they married in 1925.

I remember going to synagogue on Friday nights at the Marion St. synagogue and then having Shabbat dinner with them in their home on Kilbourne Rd. and in their duplex on Bull St. Grandma made chicken in a pot, brisket and of course for the holidays she made this authentic kugel!

  • 8 oz. of wide flat noodles uncooked
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ½  cup of sugar
  • ¾ stick of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of apricot jam
  • Raisins (optional) 

Boil noodles and drain. Add ¾ cup of butter. Cream the sugar and cream cheese. Beat eggs and add to the mixture. Add the milk and apricot jam slowly. Mix all together. Put in a 9 x 12 buttered Pyrex pan. Add the topping.

Topping:

  • 2-3 cups of crushed Corn Flakes
  • 1/4/cup of sugar
  • cinnamon

Bake 45 minutes- 1 hour at 350.

Serves 6-8

Freezes well.