The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

by Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Liz Alpern


$31.50 $35.00 Save 10% Current price is $31.5, Original price is $35. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, August 23


The founders of the world-famous Gefilteria revitalize beloved old-world foods with ingenious new approaches in their debut cookbook.

Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz are on a mission to reclaim and revolutionize Ashkenazi cuisine. Combining the inventive spirit of a new generation and respect for their culinary tradition, they present more than a hundred recipes pulled deep from the kitchens of Eastern Europe and the diaspora community of North America. Their recipes highlight the best of Ashkenazi home and storefront cuisine, tapping into the enduring Jewish values of resourcefulness and seasonality.

Drawing inspiration from aromatic Jewish bakeries (Classic Challah with a Marble Rye Twist, Seeded Honey Rye Pull-Apart Rolls), neighborhood delis (Home-Cured Corned Beef and Pastrami, Rustic Matzo Balls, and Old World Stuffed Gefilte Fish), old-fashioned pickle shops (Crisp Garlic Dilly Beans, Ashkenazi Kimchi), and, of course, their own childhood kitchens, Yoskowitz and Alpern rediscover old-world food traditions, helping you bring simple and comforting recipes into your home.

Dishes like Spiced Blueberry Soup, Kasha Varnishkes with Brussels Sprouts, and Sweet Lokshen Kugel with Plums celebrate flavors passed down from generation to generation in recipes reimagined for the contemporary kitchen. Other recipes take a playful approach to the Old World, like Fried Sour Pickles with Garlic Aioli and Sour Dill Martinis.

The Gefilte Manifesto is more than a cookbook. It’s a call to action, a reclamation of time-honored techniques and ingredients, from the mind-blowingly easy Classic Sour Dill Pickles to the Crispy Honey-Glazed Chicken with Tsimmes. Make a stand. Cook the Manifesto. The results are radically delicious.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250071385
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 224,746
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 9.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Liz Alpern, cofounder of The Gefilteria, , got her start in the Jewish food world working with acclaimed cookbook author Joan Nathan. She curates and cooks for pop-up events and gives lectures and hands-on classes around the globe about Jewish food and culture. She holds an MBA from the Zicklin School of Business at CUNY Baruch College. She has been featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for food and wine, as well as in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Saveur, and The Wall Street Journal.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz, cofounder of The Gefilteria, trained as a pickler at Adamah Farm, where he fell in love with the art of lacto-fermentation, and has worked in the food world as an entrepreneur and a consultant for food businesses, as well as a writer. He grew up visiting New York’s finest Jewish food institutions and has written on food and culture for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and Gastronomica. He frequently speaks to audiences around the world and teaches workshops about Jewish food and culture.

Read an Excerpt

The Gefilte Manifesto

New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods

By Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Liz Alpern, Lauren Volo

Flatiron Books

Copyright © 2016 Gefilte Manifesto LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-07143-9




I once asked my grandma Ruth what food she missed most from the Old Country. I expected her to miss exotic foods like fresh gooseberries or forest mushrooms, or even timeless classics like apple strudel. Instead, Grandma Ruth surprised me: "Butter on toast," she said.

It turns out that Grandma Ruth's family owned a dairy cow, which resided right next to her childhood brick home in Szumsk, a village in what was once eastern Poland (now Ukraine). Her family also raised chickens and geese. Drinking warm milk from the pail is one of her fondest memories from her life before the Second World War. In the spring and summer, her parents would skim the cream and churn it into fresh butter. "Butter was so fresh and flavorful in Poland," she always said, and then, with disdain, "The American stuff has no taste."

My grandmother's Polish kitchen was a do-it-yourselfer's dream. There weren't any supermarkets or corner stores in Szumsk, so her mother, my great-grandmother Frieda, made everything from scratch. Truth is, everyone did. Frieda transformed apples, pears, and plums from trees outside her kitchen window into sauces and compotes. She lined cellar shelves with jars of preserves made from currants, plums, and strawberries, cooking down the fruit slowly in copper kettles over a small fire. She toasted and crushed stale bread into bread crumbs. For meat dishes, she rendered fat into schmaltz for cooking. For dairy meals, she used that famous butter.

My great-grandmother Frieda was an astounding woman — a badass balabusta, as I like to say. She raised four children and kept them all well fed in a harsh climate without any of the comforts — like refrigeration — that I take for granted today. Frieda created her own staples from the produce in her yard, milk from her cow, and fat from her geese and chickens. She later kept herself and her family nourished through five years of imprisonment in Siberia during the Second World War, pulling together potato peels and scraps of animal fat to concoct sustaining meals however she could.

The kitchen instincts and techniques that were deeply ingrained in Great-Grandma Frieda (and had been passed on to Grandma Ruth) were lost when my family arrived in the New World. While my grandmother spoke Yiddish and cooked blintzes and mushroom and barley soup for her family, my mother focused on learning English and eating American foods — quite a common story among Jewish immigrants, especially in the fifties. Fortunately for me, my survival doesn't exactly hang in the balance. Living in New York City, I have access to a refrigerator and a bodega two doors down. At two a.m., I can buy organic butter from upstate New York, or I can order pad thai for dinner when I'm feeling lazy. I'm not complaining. But it's been an uphill battle to develop instincts retroactively, to learn to cook with my gut and make real food. I'm still learning.

That's why Liz and I chose to begin with the basics. Making the essentials in this chapter helped us to learn how to cook with our kishkes — our guts. It's been important for us personally and professionally.

I can remember one specific time when I returned home for Passover and put those Ashkenazi methods to use. I rendered fat into schmaltz (which hadn't ever been seen in my parents' house) and crisped up Gribenes, which I handed directly to Grandma Ruth. As we munched on the fried chicken skins together, Grandma Ruth — who hadn't eaten gribenes in the forty years since Great-Grandma Frieda passed away — told me she was impressed. I like to think she saw something of her mother in me. Learning to create Old World pantry staples and the instinct to do so continually bring me closer to tasting a piece of my grandmother's past.

* * *


A decade ago, I knew nothing of schmaltz. I had no clue about canning or cheese making or pickling. Unlike Jeffrey, I didn't think of myself as one of those DIY food nerds. Why would I spend time making jam when the small-batch preserves at the farmers' market were so delicious? And who would attempt to age their own cheese when the process takes so damn long? I loved to cook, but I hated the fuss.

My perspective changed as I dug deeper into Ashkenazi cuisine. While working as an assistant to Joan Nathan, the doyenne of Jewish food in America, I tested recipes that required a lot of advance planning and high-quality ingredients. I'll never forget making gravlax with her for the first time. It took us only a few minutes to coat the thick side of salmon with salt and dill, but we had to wait for what felt like ages to actually eat it. I huffed every time I saw that luminous orange flesh in the fridge, teasing me and testing my patience. Then there was the day I spent running around Washington, D.C., frantically searching for fresh fava beans, shell peas, and artichokes to use in Joan's Passover spring vegetable ragout. If I'd paid more attention to what was available at the farmers' market the first time around, I would have been able to track them down exactly when they were in season. Sigh.

As I continued to cook with Joan, I learned that some dishes simply couldn't be improvised. She encouraged me to start from scratch and plan ahead, and showed me how to go a level deeper than my typical hodgepodge cooking techniques. We made Tunisian brik, starting with the dough, then making the meat filling, then carefully folding each individual pastry and frying it. We made vegetables stuffed with rice, hollowing out the vegetables and eventually slow-cooking them in a Dutch oven. With time, I actually learned to enjoy cooking this way: slowly, with preparedness and a focus on the basics.

Schmaltz, for example, became a given in my kitchen. I developed a respect for its rich flavor and its ubiquity in Ashkenazi cooking, as well as its borderline sacred status in Europe. In Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century, containers that stored rendered fats ("schmaltz" for Jews and "lard" for gentiles) were designed with a strap that could be padlocked. "People wanted to guard the valuable rendered fat," recounted András Koerner of his great-grandmother's kitchen in western Hungary, in his book, A Taste of the Past. Sour cream, too, for all its simplicity, had an elevated status. It was one of the primary ways to extend the life of cream from fresh milk, and it added a velvety texture and sour flavor to otherwise bland dishes like boiled potatoes. Sour cream even served to balance out the starch-heavy eastern European diet by providing crucial vitamins A and D. Clearly, the DIY food projects I had long resisted were not just flights of fancy for people with too much spare time. They were the essence of shtetl cookery.


Everything Bagel Butter
Quick and Creamy Farmer's Cheese
Old Country Sour Cream
Cultured Cream Cheese (Schmear)
Apple-Pear Sauce
Back Cupboard Vinegar
Summer Harvest Jams
Spicy Whole-Grain Mustard
Schmaltz and Gribenes
Seasoned Croutons and Bread Crumbs



In my childhood home, butter materialized only on special occasions and came whipped and salted. Nutritionists vilified butter for decades, so health-conscious moms like mine replaced butter with margarine. Margarine also contained neither meat nor dairy, so using it made it easier to follow Jewish dietary laws. Only in adulthood did I realize how bizarre it was to have eaten chemically processed fats instead of natural butter. And now nutritionists have changed their tune, too.

Making butter is so simple; it requires only heavy cream (the fresher it is, the better the taste) and a simple hand mixer. The flavor is much lighter and much creamier than that of the butter you buy in the store, where even the highest-quality brands may have been sitting on the shelf for several months. The seeded version bursts with Ashkenazi flavor and adds flair to any breakfast or brunch spread. If you don't have time to make the butter from scratch, you can mix in the same ratio of seasonings with two sticks (1 cup) of store-bought butter.


Churning butter makes a fun and accessible project for kitchen beginners of all ages, and the finished product freezes well if you make too much. The process also leaves you with a fair amount of old-fashioned buttermilk, which will add a creamy tang to baked goods like biscuits, cakes, cookies, and pancakes. Note that this is not the same as cultured buttermilk and cannot be used in recipes that specifically call for cultured buttermilk.

3 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon onion powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt

FOR THE BUTTER: 1 quart heavy cream

1. TO MAKE THE EVERYTHING BAGEL SEASONING: In a small bowl, combine the minced onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. TO MAKE THE BUTTER: In a large bowl using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on high speed. Be sure to use a deep bowl or you'll make a mess. If using a stand mixer, drape a clean kitchen towel around the top of the bowl to keep splashes of milk from flying out. After 5 to 7 minutes (or a little less if using a stand mixer), the heavy cream will thicken to become whipped cream (the kind you'd eat with cake). Keep whipping. After 6 to 8 minutes more, you'll notice the cream will begin to separate into yellowish clumps and watery liquid. The clumps are butterfat, and the liquid is buttermilk.

3. When there's substantial buttermilk at the bottom of the bowl, and no more seems to be coming from the clumps, 10 to 15 minutes total, turn the mixer off. Pour the buttermilk into a jar and store in the refrigerator for baking or drinking.

4. Fill a small pitcher with ice and water. Using your hands, form the butter into one solid mass and place it in a bowl. Pour some of the ice water over the butter and use your hands to lift up the butter and squeeze out the excess liquid — this is called "washing" the butter. Washing removes any remaining buttermilk from the butterfat and helps keep it from going rancid. The purer the fat, the longer the butter will last. Let the liquid run into the bowl. Continue to pour ice water over the butter and squeeze until the liquid draining off into the bottom of the bowl becomes clear. Drain the liquid from the bowl every couple of times you "wash" the butter. Keep towels nearby to dry your hands between squeezes.

5. When you've extracted as much liquid as possible, your butter is good to go. If you're leaving it plain, shape it however you like — into a log, a stick, or a square — wrap it in wax paper or place it in an airtight container, and refrigerate. The butter will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and also freezes well. If making the seasoned butter, proceed to the next step before refrigerating.

6. In a large, clean bowl using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the seed mixture until thoroughly mixed. You can also use a fork to mix in the seeds. Shape the butter into a log (or whatever shape you'd like) and wrap it in wax paper or place it in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature for easy spreading. Everything Bagel Butter, if most of the water is successfully removed, will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.



A few years back, Jeffrey taught me the simple cheese-making process he had learned years ago from a friend who was a goat herder. Not for the first time, Jeffrey filled the role of the Jewish grandmother I never quite had. He was more familiar with DIY kitchen tips than I was, and he loved watching over my shoulder as I tried them myself. Together, we stood over a large pot of milk, and the cheese we strained that day was fresher and creamier than I knew farmer's cheese could be.


Farmer's cheese (and its less-crumbly cousin, pot cheese) tends to be fairly bland on its own. Higher-quality milk makes for richer flavor, but we also like to add salt and fresh herbs. For something really deluxe, place your farmer's cheese in olive oil and herbs and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days before serving with bread or crackers. We use homemade farmer's cheese for our Sweet Blintzes, Pierogi, and Cheesecake with Currant Glaze and Caraway Crust. This recipe calls for a cooking thermometer, which isn't necessary, but is helpful to know exactly when to remove your milk from the heat and to ensure the maximum yield. Note that the yield may vary slightly.

1 gallon whole milk
½ cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)
2 heaping teaspoons finely minced fresh herbs, such as chives,
parsley, and sage (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

1. In a heavy-bottomed medium pot or saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the milk reaches 180° to 190ºF. The time will vary depending on the size of your pot and your stovetop. Look for a bubbly white foam to form all over the surface of the milk, but do not let the milk boil. Remove from the heat.

2. Immediately pour in the vinegar and stir gently. The milk will instantly begin to curdle. Milk solids will form and separate from the yellowish whey. Let sit for 15 minutes.

3. While the cheese curdles, drape a large piece of cheesecloth over a colander or large, fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Gently pour or ladle the milk solids and the yellowish whey into the cheesecloth. Either discard the whey that collects in the bowl or set it aside for another use. Run the cheese curds under cold water for about 5 seconds. Let drain in the sink in the colander for a few minutes.

4. Tie the corners of the cheesecloth into a knot. Hang the bundle from the knot on a hook, ideally over the sink or a bowl, and let the cheese drip for about an hour to remove excess whey. You may have to improvise to find a way to hang your cheesecloth if you don't have a hook handy. Hooks on wire hangers work well.

5. After about an hour, open your cheesecloth bundle. If desired, transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the garlic, herbs, and salt, or just leave the cheese plain. Pack the cheese into an airtight container and refrigerate or use immediately in another recipe. Farmer's cheese will keep in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. It also freezes well — just defrost it in the fridge for 4 hours before using as filling for Sweet Blintzes.



In a world without refrigeration, soured cream was practical and delicious. The process wasn't much of a to-do, either: you just let unpasteurized cream sit and the result was an all-purpose condiment with a velvety texture and a strong sour flavor. Dolloped on soups, dumplings, potatoes, and blintzes or mixed with herring or fruit, sour cream could enhance a wide range of Ashkenazi foods — which made it a prized accompaniment. The classical Yiddish author I. L. Peretz captured sour cream's perceived value in his short story In the Mail Coach (1893): "And her face always looked strained and worried, as if her shipload of sour cream had just sunk."


Note that because homemade sour cream lacks chemical coagulates, it will be runnier than store-bought sour cream. Add a hearty dollop of sour cream to a bowl of fresh berries, juicy peaches, or, like my father does, sliced banana. My ideal ratio is 2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream to every cup of fruit. Be sure to appreciate how the sour tang enhances the fruit's sugars. Serve on Sweet or Savory Blintzes, Pierogi, and Root Vegetable Latkes. Add a dollop to Lilya's Summer Beet Borscht. Or serve atop a baked potato.

1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup store-bought cultured buttermilk

1. Pour the heavy cream and buttermilk into a clean pint- or quart-size glass jar with a lid.

2. Seal tightly and shake vigorously for about 1 minute. Let the jar sit on the countertop at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 24 to 48 hours. The longer it sits, the sourer it will become. You may notice liquid separation occurring. It's hard to judge from the looks of your sour cream when it's ready, so taste to see if it's at a sour level you're comfortable with within the 24- to 48-hour window. The warmer it is, the faster it will sour. If the mixture becomes yellow or chunky, which could occur if the temperature in the room is too hot, toss it out and try again.

3. Place the jar of sour cream in the fridge and enjoy for up to a week. Shake before each use to reincorporate any liquid that has separated.


Excerpted from The Gefilte Manifesto by Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Liz Alpern, Lauren Volo. Copyright © 2016 Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword: The Gefilte Manifesto


One: Pantry Staples

Two: Pickles

Three: Breads

Four: Soups and Dumplings

Five: Appetizing and Lighter Sides

Six: Deli Sides and Specialties

Seven: Mains

Eight: Desserts

Nine: Beverages


Sample Menus

Choose Your Own Leftover Adventure

Water Bath Canning 101



Select Bibliography


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
CaliDoc More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written and photographed, with an updated, young vibe to recreate our grandparents food