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The Ultimate Latke

Video: How to fry up a batch of perfect potato pancakes this Hanukkah—and don’t forget the applesauce

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Everybody loves potato latkes. No matter how many different kinds of pancakes I make for Hanukkah each year—zucchini, carrot, sweet-potato and curry, cauliflower, spinach, or zucchini—the simple potato ones, sizzled in oil until they’re crispy, disappear first.

Before the potato was brought to Europe from the New World, Jews ate fried sweets at Hanukkah: the doughnuts we now know as sufganiyot, or levivot (simple flour or matzoh-meal pancakes). Both fried in oil, they remind us of Hanukkah’s miracle, when one day’s worth of oil lasted for eight days in the Temple in Jerusalem. But after the potato became popular in Europe in the 18th century, the potato latke—coming from the Ukrainian latka for pancake—became a humble and homey holiday tradition.


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I just LOVE Joan Nathan! now I am ready for Chanukah! never thought of freezing and reheating, I will definitely do this, as my kids have decided to have their friends over for the first night!

haleyyael says:

“don’t be anxious”


latkes should not be ‘stringy’.

Until now I’d never heard of eating latkes with sour cream or apple sauce. I’m guessing that’s an American thing? I live in Australia and have lived in Israel. Never saw it anywhere.

disqus_qZ6DCvpsy9 says:

I’d like to know where Ms. Nathan got the information that “Before the potato was brought to Europe from the New World, Jews ate fried sweets at Hanukkah…”

Where, in the poverty of Eastern Europe and the dead of its winter, would Jews have obtained “sweets” to fry? Too, despite transparent legend, why would Jews make a connection between frying (with shmalts, not oil) and the “pure oil olive, beaten for the Lamp” that the Talmudic tale describes as being in that magic jar?

Hershl Hartman
author, “The Hanuka Festival, A Guide for the Rest of Us,” and “The Hidden History of Hanuka for Kids (and Grownups, Too)”

    Avery Robinson says:

    While there was a very high number of Jews who lived in poverty in Eastern Europe, this did not define the entire community. In fact, there were many wealthy and well-to-do Jews who lived very comfortably, had servants, and did not feel the stereotypical hardships of Europe.

    That being said, what we imagine as a sweet today is not necessarily the same as found in Eastern Europe 300 years ago. Sweets were much more relative than they are now, especially in our industrialized and highly processed food system where sugar and salt is added without a second thought. Jews, like all residents of the Pale, still lived by the seasons, so when berries, apricots, and plums were available, they would pick them (and/or buy them from market) to preserve.

    From here, it was not difficult to fry little clumps of dough and fill them with these sweet preserves. The sufganiya was a common treat because the sweet fruit filling permeated the fried (and often, unsweetened) dough.

      disqus_qZ6DCvpsy9 says:

      There is confusion here between sufganiyot among Mediterranean Jews and the latkes of Eastern Europe. Even for the more well-to-do Jews
      — who could hardly set the culinary standard for the vast majority (!) — there was very little variety of food in the dead of the Russian and Polish winter. Not many common fruits there could be preserved. The introduction of the New World’s potato provided the most common staple food. (Best evidence: the Yiddish folksong about daily potatoes, relieved only on the Sabbath by a pudding of…potatoes.)

      Too, if sweets were the “big thing,” how to explain the preference among Jews in Lite (Lithuania) for sour cream on their latkes?

      Hershl Hartman

I really liked that video – great teacher, cute music – well produced…anyway, I’ll be making latkes for the first time and was happy to hear I could make them ahead and then warm them in the oven. That’s good to know.



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The Ultimate Latke

Video: How to fry up a batch of perfect potato pancakes this Hanukkah—and don’t forget the applesauce

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