Zeesih Kaese Latkes — Ashkenazi Sweet Cheese Pancakes
Did you know that Zeesik Kaese (aka Ashkenazi Sweet Cheese) Latkes are, in fact, the OG latke. As in, the original latke wasn’t really a latke – it was a pancake. During the Middle Ages, fried foods and dairy became traditional Chanukah fare. For hundreds of years, foods fried in oil and made with dairy were the mainstay of Jewish homes during the Festival of Lights. For instance, latke pancakes made with ricotta were introduced to Northern Italy by Spanish Jews who were expelled from Sicily. It wasn’t until much later in Eastern Europe, during the 1800s, that latkes started to be made with potatoes, the cheapest and most widely available vegetable to Eastern European Jews.
These pancakes were on the menu for The Wandering Chew’s first-ever Chanukah event in 2014. As we aim to do at all our events, we wanted to introduce people to the lesser-known tradition of latke pancakes and eating dairy during Chanukah. Eating dairy commemorates the story of Judith saving the town of Bethulia from the General Holofernes who had laid siege to it. One night, admiring Judith’s beauty, Holofernes invited her to his tent. Judith took this opportunity to carry out her plan to kill the general. She fed him salty cheese, which caused him to become thirsty and drink copious amounts of wine. He then fell asleep in a drunken stupor, at which point Judith used his sword to cut off his head. As a nod Judith’s badass reputation, we called the event Killer Cheese and Girl Power! Check out these latkes in our feature in the Montreal Gazette.
Make these latke pancakes for Chanukah as a means to tell Judith’s story to your family and friends, or for a Sunday brunch in July. Either way, they’re seriously delicious.
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or matzo meal
- 2 tbs butter, melted, or sour cream
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl, beat together the cheese, eggs, flour or matzo meal, butter or sour cream, honey, vanilla and salt until smooth.
Heat a large, heavy, frying pan over medium heat. Lightly grease with oil or butter.
Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons into the pan and fry until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake and the bottoms are lightly browned about 3 minutes.
Turn and fry until golden, about 2 minutes. Pancakes may be kept warm by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200 degree F oven. Serve with sour cream, jam, cinnamon-sugar or fresh fruit.