Both geese and chickens were expensive; you wouldn’t waste any part of them.
Some people make Schmaltz from fat they have skimmed off their chicken soups, saving it up until there is enough to make a batch, or from bits of fat cut off chicken or goose. The fat is saved up in the freezer until there is enough to make a batch.
It is sometimes seasoned with onion, most commercial Schmaltz is. Some people also like to add chopped apple.
Some Kosher butchers sell Schmaltz already made; you can also buy it frozen in some supermarkets.
Schmaltz is solid when refrigerated, but runny at room temperature.
Can be used as a spread on bread, a cooking ingredient or a frying medium, or in pie crusts.
Schmaltz can be made from any fatty skin.
Microwave: Put into a glass measuring cup or bowl, filled no more than one-third. Cover the vessel and zap for 5 minutes. Pour off fat that has melted, leaving in the fat that hasn’t. Then add chopped onion, and zap until onion is browned (some people like to add some chopped apple as well). Strain all the rendered fat and store in fridge.
Stove top: Put fat in a pot. Per 1 pound (450g) of chicken or goose fat, add 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of water, and 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and sliced. Place over medium heat and bring the water to a boil. When the water has all gone, reduce heat to low. Just as the fat starts to look like it is going to brown, if you wish you can drain off the clear fat, and reserve it to be used as a spread. Continue allowing the rest of the fat (or all of it, if you didn’t drain any off) until the onions are browned, then remove from heat, strain to remove onion, and store in sealed container in fridge.
1 pound / 450g vegetable fat (such as shortening or vegetable suet)
3 cups / 24oz / 750 ml mild-tasting oil
2 large carrots, grated
4 to 5 medium onions OR 3 large onions, chopped
Put all ingredients together in a pot, bring to high heat, then reduce to a simmer until the onions get soft and golden. Strain, then store in refrigerator in a sealed container.
Schmaltz was popular with Northern European Jews for religious dietary reasons. Religious rules disallow their using butter (dairy) in any meat dish. An allowable fat would have been olive oil, but that was only possible for those in the Mediterranean. Schmaltz provided a religiously-acceptable cooking fat to use with meat dishes.
Literature & Lore
At Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse (established 1929. 157 Chrystie Street, Lower East Side, New York City), small pitchers of runny schmaltz are placed on every table to be used as a condiment.
“Schmalz” in German just means fat. In Yiddish, it does also just mean fat, but it is used to refer to chicken or goose fat so often that it is presumed to be that, and North American English has taken this meaning by association. Note that the Yiddish spelling has a “t” in it.
Schmaltz also is used popularly to mean something that is cheezy or overly sentimental.