Memories…of the matzo balls we ate, misty water-colored memories, of the way they were!
Matzo balls are the ultimate Jewish comfort food. I was raised on traditional kneidlach made with matzo meal, eggs, oil, salt and pepper. During the year, my mother would add a little baking powder to make them lighter, but never on Pesach because kosher for Passover baking powder wasn’t readily available. In later years, she added a little seltzer to provide extra lightness. ‘Sinkers’ were not acceptable in my mother’s opinion – and she would never use a packaged mix.
Matzo balls evoke special memories for most people. However, traditional matzo balls are off-limits for people who are on a gluten-free diet and cannot eat foods derived from wheat (e.g., matzo, matzo meal, cake meal). Additionally, many Jews refrain from eating gebrokts (matzo or matzo meal combined with water or other liquids) on the first seven days of Passover, so matzo balls aren’t on their menu until the eighth day.
This led to my quest to find the best gluten-free kneidlach, also known as ‘Un-Matzo Balls!’ I searched through my cookbooks and the Internet, and also contacted several cookbook authors and food bloggers via emails and Facebook. And while nothing tastes quite as good as the real thing, I discovered some excellent options from three ‘Knaidel-Maidels’ who generously shared their favorite gluten-free knaidlach recipes with me. Each recipe has its pros and cons, depending on your dietary restrictions.
Miriam Pearl’s recipe is vegetarian and nut-free. However it includes xanthan gum, which is available for year-round use but is not easily available with a suitable Passover hechsher (certification). There is a brand available from Brazil so hopefully there will be enough demand to rectify this situation in the future. Meanwhile, Miriam’s knaidlach are great the other 51 weeks of the year!
Tori Avey’s recipe is also vegetarian and includes ground almonds (almond flour) instead of matzo meal. However, almonds are off-limits to those with tree nut allergies.
Cookbook author Tamar Ansh’s recipe uses mashed potato and includes ground chicken or turkey, so it’s not suitable for vegetarians.
For those who prefer the convenience of a mix, there are several brands of gluten-free matzo ball mix available. I’ve been told that some brands produce kneidlach that are gummy, not yummy. However, Lieber’s Knaidel Mix has received great reviews from people who have tried it – follow the package directions for best results.
Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares are non-gebrokts and gluten-free – they taste somewhat like potato chips. This year, Manischewitz has added Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares and Crackers to their product line. Use them to make your own gluten-free matzo meal. One matzo yields about 1/2 cup matzo meal.
Gluten-Free Matzo Meal: Grind gluten-free matzos as fine as possible in your food processor. Use in your favorite matzo ball recipe. You might have to add a bit more meal to the batter. Also, if you leave the kneidlach in the soup for too long, they might get a bit mushy, so add them closer to serving time.
Tips: Mix up the batter, then cover and refrigerate it as directed, usually 30 minutes or even overnight. Moisten your hands, roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls and place them on a large plate. Bring a large pot of water to a boil – you need enough room for the matzo balls to expand during cooking. Add matzo balls to the boiling water and cook as directed in the recipe.
Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of nine cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, culinary consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and recipe editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website at www.gourmania.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.