Kishke is in the family of suet puddings. It’s something of a cross between dumplings and sausage. It is eaten as an appetizer or meat accompaniment. Homemade kishke is very soul satisfying, and well worth any trouble you may have in tracking down the ingredients.
The two main ingredients you need are raw chicken fat and beef casings. Raw chicken fat is the key to good kishke. Under no circumstances should you substitute schmaltz-flavored fat or any other shortening, because you’ll end up with heavy, greasy kishke—a real disappointment. Raw chicken fat is available at kosher poultry markets, or you can save the neck fat from chickens you buy, freezing it until you have enough for kishke. Beef casings (intestines) are available from a butcher who makes his own sausage. If your butcher is sympathetic, you may be able to buy a few feet of casings. However, the standard way they are sold is by the “set.” Specify a set of “beef rounds.” You’ll be buying about 100 feet of casings, way more than you need for this recipe, but don’t let that discourage you. The casings will keep in your refrigerator.
2 onions, finely chopped
1/2 a carrot, peeled and shredded
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
1/2 cup raw chicken fat (schmaltz), chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 1/2 yards beef casings
Butcher’s white string
Prepare the vegetables. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Cut the chicken fat into the flour. Add the vegetables and stir thoroughly. The mixture will have a pasty consistency. (A food processor makes quick work of chopping and combining the ingredients).
Prepare the beef casings. They will come heavily salted, so wash them thoroughly, inside and out. (To wash the inside of the gut, thread one end over the end of your kitchen faucet, as if you were making a hose connection, and turn on the water. Let it run for a minute or two.) Cut the casings into six 8” pieces and tie one end of each with string.
Partially fill each piece with kishke mixture. The easiest way to do this is to stretch the gut over the thumb and first two fingers of one hand and then spoon or push the filling into the casing with the other hand. Distribute the filling evenly along the length of the casing. Don’t fill more than half full, to allow room for expansion of the filling during cooking. Judging the exact amount of filling is admittedly a bit tricky. Too much and the casing will burst during cooking; too little and the kishke will look anemic. Experience is your best guide.
When you have filled the casings, tie the other end with string. Then briefly plunge the casings into boiling water. This will shrink them and make them balloon out. Now they are ready to cook.
Cooking the kishke. Traditional recipe books call for boiling the kishke for 2 hours, then browning in fat or, alternatively, roasting them uncovered in an oven along with meat or poultry. The boiling water method works if the kishke aren’t over filled. However, if they burst in the water, they make a soggy mess. Roasting uncovered also works, but it gives the kishke a hard crust. In my experience, the most satisfactory way of cooking kishke is to put them on top of a pot roast in a Dutch oven (like the one pictured in Yiddish and Holupchas; see the recipe for pot roast on the next page). They will turn a delicious golden brown, and if, by chance, any of them splits open, nothing is lost.
For a recipe for pot roast, turn to page 3.