31 January 2007

What to do when matzo ball soup lacks balls

Matzo ball soup mixI'm vegetarian, so my "Jewish penicillin" isn't chicken soup. It's Manischewitz matzo ball soup, straight out of the box. Ahhhh, warm comfort for sick kids. Problem is, the matzo balls are gone long before the soup.

In my best thrifty-housewife turn, I hit upon a solution last week: throw a few handfuls of dry macaroni, fideo or other pasta into the boiling soup. Presto! Vegetarian noodle soup! My kids barely noticed the matzo balls' absence, and we were able to squeeze another meal out of the broth. A handful or two of frozen vegies would take the meal even farther.

I'm hesitant to recommend the same tactic with chicken soup as I'm not sure how safe it is to "reboil" poultry stock. Carnivores care to comment?

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We make our own stock from whole chickens, put it in the refrigerator overnight, pull off the fat, freeze the stock in ziplocks, and then use it in soups later. So I'm fairly certain that reboiling chicken stock a day or two after being put in the refrigerator won't have any problems. If you're really worried, just keep it at a rolling boil for 10 minutes, that will kill anything that might have grown while in the refrigerator.

Chicken stock the next day - go ahead and reboil. If it's been sitting on the counter for a week and a half - toss!

Reboil away ... but be sure to come to a full boil to kill off anything unfriendly .. and I would think that goes for the vegetarian option as well ... just re-heating to warm is not good enough.

For an official source, one of the first things Google came up with was a handy page from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with a bunch of food safety/leftover/prep tips.

My husband does this all the time when we have leftovers from homemade chicken noodle soup. By the time the soup has boiled long enough to cook the noodles any germs should have been killed.

It's almost as easy (really, it's pretty darn easy and all ingredients, eggs, salt, etc are pretty much staples) to make the matzoh balls from just matzoh meal (follow back of the box) and use canned/boxed veg broth - I think it's worth the little bit of extra effort, tastes better, and you can make the ball/broth ratio however you like. And for a little added nutrition, and because everyone likes them around here, we usually saute a few cut up carrots and add to soup (frozen works well too). Yum. There might have to be some matzoh ball soup making in the near future.

Heating up all the way to a boil is a fine idea. However, the most important thing to worry about is the length of time the broth has spent between the temperatures of 40 degrees and 140 degrees fahrenheit. Even though anything that might have been growing will die once you heat up above 140 F or so, the bacterial toxins produced when they *were* alive won't break down and can still make you, or more likely your young children, quite ill. Heating and cooling *quickly* is the key.

Can't be any worse than my mother-in-law's matzo balls, which are heavier and denser than Britney Spears.

As a man of Hebraic heritage, let me lay a little love down, so get your cookbooks out, Hebrews and Shebrews, 'cause the secret to fluffy matzo balls is:

Half the water, and, in its place, use club soda.

Can I get a What-What!?!

Stu: I have a business proposition for you. New blog: Matzo Ball Hacks: Tips n' Tricks for Hebrews and Shebrews. We'll split the profits. It'll be huge.

PHE: Whew! I haven't laughed like that in quite a bit, thanks!

Yeah, I like the Matzo Ball Hacks idea, or maybe even broaden it to: KosherHacks!

As it is Tu Bishvat, maybe we should think about recipes that include the seven species: Wheat, Barley, Grapes, Figs, Pomegranates, Olives, and Dates.

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