Cholent is a stew that is traditionally eaten on Saturday afternoon upon returning from synagogue and was a staple of a kosher Jewish home. It originated from the poor little villages of eastern Europe. The main ingredients are beans, barley, potato and maybe a little bit of meat, depending on what could be afforded, being that kosher meat was a luxury. More often then not, the potatoes took the place of meat because potato is the national vegetable of eastern Europe! You put all the ingredients into a pot and place it in an oven overnight. During the late 19th century, it was placed in pots that were sealed with a flour and water paste and placed in a bakers oven overnight. Later, these earthenware pots were replaced with copper pots. Everyone would take their pots to a baker in their town and on the way from synagogue they would pick up their pots and take it home. Cholent was a poor mans stew!
Cholent has now become a trendy delicacy as most kosher cuisines have become. There are restaurants around the world, kosher and not, that serve cholent on a daily basis, it’s not just for Shabbos anymore! Thursday nights, among young Jewish men, is cholent night. Millions of guys get together all across the country get together for cholent, coleslaw and camaraderie! Cholent is not only eaten at home after synagogue anymore. After praying on Saturday morning there is usually something called a kiddish where cholent and a type of kugel, usually potato is served. There are cakes and some alcohol served as well. Cholent is a staple of Shabbos, if you don’t at least smell cholent on Shabbos, you don’t feel like it’s Shabbos!
Another staple that goes along with cholent in kishke. The literal definition of kishke is intestines or stuffed derma. These days it’s hard to find kosher kishke. You would the lining and filled with a flour and onion stuffing. It is placed in the cholent pot and slow cooked overnight along with the cholent. These days, at least here in the US, we don’t use the intestines to make kishke, it’s commercially made.
Somewhere along the line something called yapzeh came into the picture. It originated somewhere in Poland. It is the same idea as cholent except without the beans and barley. Some would look at this as a blessing because if you don’t soak the beans overnight, you’ll be up overnight! People soak the beans to get all the gas out of the beans, so you’re not full of gas! Back to yapzeh, it’s made if shredded potatoes, onion and beef. Its has an oatmeal kind of consistency and if made right, is quite tasty.
For all you vegetarians out there, there is such a thing as a vegetarian cholent. It’s actually quite popular for those that pray early on Saturday morning because they don’t want to eat meat that early in the morning, but they still want that cholent taste! Some even go as far as putting soy hot dogs as a substitute for the meat.
If you don’t like cholent, you’re probably not Jewish!