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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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