Sweet Ricotta Latkes with Persimmon Jam
Did you know that ricotta 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 Hanukkah 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 Hanukkah 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 Hanukkah. 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 Hanukkah 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
- 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp kosher salt (we use the Diamond Crystal brand)
- Zest of one lemon
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 2 cups fuyu or sharoni persimmons, peeled and cut into chunks (about 4 persimmons)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 clementine
For the jam: In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, combine all jam ingredients.
Over medium heat, bring the persimmon mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer until the jam begins to thicken, about 20 – 25 minutes. Blend the jam using an immersion blender until smooth. Let the jam cool, pour into a clean jar or an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator. Jam will keep in the fridge for two weeks.
For the latkes: In a large bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, eggs, butter, honey, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt until combined. Add in the flour, and mix until you have a smooth batter. It should be the consistency of a thick cake batter.
Heat a large, non-stick, frying pan over medium heat. Add about 1 tbsp of oil to the pan and heat the oil until it’s shimmering.
Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons, or by the ¼ cup if you’d like bigger latkes, into the pan and fry until the the bottoms are lightly browned, about 3 – 4 minutes.
Flip and fry until golden, about 2 -3 minutes. Latkes can be kept warm by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 200 F degree oven. Serve with jam, honey, maple syrup or fresh fruit.
Latkes will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can rewarm them in a 325 F degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes.