Schweinshaxe (German Pork Knuckle)

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It is the beginning of Fall and Oktoberfest, the world’s largest Volksfest (beer festival and travelling funfair) is in full swing in Munich, Germany in the state of Bavaria, which began on September 21, this year. The annual event is a 16-day folk festival that hosts more than 6 million people from around the world. Locally, it is often simply called the Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810 to commemorate the marriage of King Ludwig I (1786–1868) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

King Ludwig I and  and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”) in honour of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn”. Horse races, in the tradition of the 15th-century Scharlachrennen (Scarlet Race at Karlstor), were held on 18 October to honor the royal newlyweds.

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Horse race at the Oktoberfest in Munich, 1823 by Adam Pferderennen

Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the original Munich event.

As an American, growing up in Germany, it was one of the events my family looked forward to every year.

And with that being said, there is a ton of food and beer served during the festival. Most notably,

And I am sure you are asking yourself exactly what is Schweinshaxe? Pronounced as SH-vines-HAKS-eh, it is basically a tender and juicy pork knuckle wrapped in a salty and roasted-crisp skin. Being the quintessential Oktoberfest dish, it makes for the perfect pairing with a big stein of your favorite beer and side dishes like boiled potatoes, spaetzle, sauerkraut or braised red cabbage.

Still finding yourself wondering what a pork knuckle is? Well, Schweinshaxe starts with a cut of pork you’re probably not too familiar with: the knuckle. Yes, pigs have knuckles too. It is the joint between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot of a pig, where the foot was attached to the hog’s leg. It is the portion of the leg that is neither part of the ham proper nor the ankle or foot (trotter), but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone (See the Dark Pink Colour on the Figure Below).

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Figure 1. Location of the pork knuckles in dark pink.

But I am still guessing that you are still wondering what a pork knuckle really is. Am I right?

Well, you may be more familiar with the ham hock, which is the very same bone-in hunk of pork leg known as the pork knuckle found in the culinary offerings of traditional African American soul food. Ham hocks are essential ingredients for the distinct flavor in soul food.

collard-greens-recipe-57401My Grandmother would use ham hocks to season her cooked vegetables. In the antebellum South, enslaved Africans would often use this discard part of the pig to season various types of greens. Turnips, collards, kale and mustard greens were slow cooked with one or two ham hocks tossed in for a little extra flavor and a little protein to be added to the slave diet. The pork contains just the right amount of salty accent to provide a pleasing taste with most greens, without the addition of any extra salt or other seasonings. Traditionally in Southern households, some modern home cooks choose to serve the meat with the greens, while others will remove the hocks before placing the dish on the dinner table.

donald link gulf coast tripAlso in our household, beans and peas were often seasoned with ham hocks. For example, my Grandmother would take pinto beans, navy beans, crowder peas or black-eyed peas and place them in a large Dutch oven with the meat and allowed to them slow cook over the course of several hours. As the beans and peas soften and cook through, the flavor from the ham seeps into the texture of the peas, leaving a pleasing taste. Today most Southern cooks would utilize a crockpot to slow cook bean and peas with the traditional flavor of ham hocks.

In the Mid-Atlantic States, in rural regions settled by the Pennsylvania Dutch, hocks are a commonly used ingredient for making a kind of meat loaf called scrapple. Eisbein is the name of the joint in north German, and at the same time the name of a dish of roasted ham hock, called Schweinshaxe in Bavaria, Stelze in Austria and Wädli in Switzerland. Golonka is a very popular Polish barbecued dish using this cut. Ham hocks are also popular when boiled with escarole, more commonly called endives, in Italian-American cuisine. Fläsklägg med rotmos is a Swedish dish consisting of cured ham hocks and a mash of rutabaga and potatoes, served with sweet mustard. In Canada, and particularly Montreal, ham hocks are referred to as “pigs’ knuckles” and are served in bistros and taverns with baked beans. In northern Italy ham hocks are referred to as stinco, and is often served roast whole with sauerkraut.

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Fläsklägg med rotmos

Where To Find Pork Knuckle

Ham hocks are most often taken from the front section of the leg of the pig, in the general area of the ankle. In these modern times, ham hocks are usually obtained from a butcher shop or the meat department of a supermarket. The butcher will slice a portion of the meat and it is generally a semi-thick cut that is packaged in groups of two or three hocks.They are usually labeled as “pork hocks”. They may be purchased raw or fresh, as well as smoked and cured. Cured varieties have a relatively long shelf life, which makes them ideal for storage and use over a longer period of time.

It’s a stubby piece of meat, covered in a layer of skin and fat. Because the meat is not usually considered ideal for serving as alone, they are generally less expensive than purchasing bacon or ham steaks to use in flavoring various types of vegetables. Chefs recommend only using the meat once, as it does not retain much flavor after it has been cooked.

All in all, give yourself 24 to 48 hours to prepare this dish. It is something that cannot be rushed. Make sure to look for the meatiest pork knuckles that you can at your local supermarket or butcher shop. Trust me, a whole roasted pork knuckle will be so incredibly satisfying, especially after a long day of stein hoisting and dancing!

Schweinshaxe (German Pork Knuckle)

Serves 4

Ingredients:
Four 24-ounce pork hocks (knuckles)
3 medium white onions, thickly sliced
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tablespoons coarse salt
One 12-ounce bottle of beer
1 1/4 cup beef broth
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cornstarch (optional)

For serving:
Sauerkraut
Braised red cabbage
Spätzle (Click the link for the recipe)

Directions:

The Day Before: Open the pork packaging and let the skin dry uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. This helps the skin to get nice and crisp.

The following day:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Place the onions, celery and bay leaves in the bottom of a 8×8-inch baking dish.

Rub the skin of each pork hock with half of a garlic clove. After rubbing, add the garlic to the onions and celery in the baking dish. Rub about 1/2 tablespoon of salt into the skin of each pork hock. Nestle the hocks, meaty side down, in the vegetables.

Pour the beer around the hocks. Add the beef broth.

Roast the hocks for 3 hours and baste them every 15 minutes with the beer and broth liquid in the pan. Check the hocks ever hour to be sure they haven’t fallen over and there is still enough moisture in the bottom of the pan. Add more beef broth or hot water if the pan appears to be scorching. Roast the hocks until the skin is crisp and the meet is fall-apart, fork tender. Remove the bay leaves and discard.

To serve, add the pan vegetables to a plate and top with a hock. Drizzle with the sauce. Serve boiled potatoes, späetzle, braised red cabbage or sauerkraut on the side. Each hock is traditionally served individually, with a fork and sharp knife, but most people find it easier to enjoy the crisp skin by just digging in with their hands.

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Sources:

Sarah Ozimek (2015). “Schweinshaxe (German Pork Knuckle)”. Accessed May 17, 2019. https://www.curiouscuisiniere.com/german-roasted-pork-knuckle/

Wisegeek.com (2019). “What are Ham Hocks?” Accessed September 23, 2019. https://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-ham-hocks.htm

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New York City Style Pizza

IMG_4637-682x10241.jpgIf you truly love pizza, then you already know that there are only three places in the world to enjoy it in it’s purest form: Southen Italy, Chicago and New York City. I am partial to New York City Pizza whether it is from  John’s in the Village or Lombardi’s on Spring Street or Patsy’s in East Harlem.

New York-style pizza is pizza made with a characteristically large hand-tossed thin crust, often sold in wide slices to go. The crust is thick and crisp only along its edge, yet soft, thin, and pliable enough beneath its toppings to be folded in half to eat. Traditional toppings are simply tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

With the influx of Neapolitan immigrants in the 1890s, pizza arrived in American and was sold on the streets New York City. Unlike those from the old country of Italy, these super-size specimens  were baked in coal-fired (not wood-fired) ovens and evolved into the domainant style of pizza that is eaten in  the New York Metropolitan Area states of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and  is variously popular throughout the United States. Regional variations exist throughout the Northeast and elsewhere in the U.S. In New Haven, Connecticut the best pizza houses are   Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, also known as “Pepe’s” and Sally’s Apizza.

 

In unraveing the culinary history or New York-style pizza, it really began with a man named Filippo Milone, an immigrant pizzaiolo (pizza maker) from Naples, who probably arrived in American in 1892. In about or around 1897, he opened a grocery store on 47 Union Street,  in Red Hook (Brooklyn).  By 1898, Filippo Milone was now going by  the Anglicized name, Phil Malone. Malone established another business at 53½ Spring Street,  in Manhattan. He applied for  permit for a coal-fired bake oven in the summer of 1898 and six years later, he was licensed to sell pizza by New York State establishing the first of many pizzerias.

In 1905 Gennaro Lombardi received a business license to operate a pizzeria restaurant, at 53½  Spring Street location in New York City’s Little Italy. It is unclear as to whether Lombardi’s was actually a franchise belonging to Phil Malone or if Malone sold the business he established to Lomadari.  At this location Lombardi also began selling tomato pies wrapped in butcher paper and tied with a string at lunchtime to workers from the area’s factories. Soon Lombardi had a clientele that included the legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso.

 

 

Anthony (Totonno) Pero came to America in 1903 and  began working  at Lombardi’s in tonnato.jpgLittle Italy. As an employee of Lomabardi’s, Pero also began making  tomato pies that closely resemble the NYC style pizza we know today. Pero sold  the pies for five cents each. Many people, however, could not afford a whole pie and instead would offer what they could in return for a corresponding sized slice. In 1924, Totonno left Lombardi’s  and followed the path of  the expanding New York City Subway lines to open his own pizzeria on Coney Island, called Totonno’s Pizzeria Napolitana. The pizzerias was not only famous for it’s pies, but was well known for it  unusual business hours, it only closed whenever the dough ran  out!

In 2009, Totonno’s was awarded one of the highest awards in the culinary industry….the James Beard Award– in the category of America’s Classics.

 

1450209408.pngBy 1929 John Sasso opened John’s Pizzeria on Sullivan Street, in the Heart of Greenwich Village. After losing his lease on Sullivan Street,  Sasso dismantled his original coal fired brick oven and moved it to 278 Bleecker Street where he continued to run and grow his business and refine his pizza recipe to perfection.

Sasso ran his business until 1954 when he sold the pizzeria to the Vesce Brothers. Augustine (Chubby) Vesce bought the business from his brothers and he continued to own and operate John’s pizzeria until he passed away in 1984, passing his legacy on.

John’s is still family owned and operated and we are honored to have the opportunity to continue serving our world famous Pizza. The “Hallmarks” of John’s of Bleecker St. are the coal fired brick ovens that churn out hundreds of crispy pizza’s daily. It’s a different world from what it was in 1929, but John’s is still making the same traditional coal fired pizza in the oven that started it all back on Sullivan Street. 

According to the Village Voice, “Beyond the salty, greasy cheese and heavily charcoal-kissed crust, it’s the piquancy of John’s sauce that remains the most remarkable thing about the offerings at this standard-bearer in the NYC pizza pantheon… With its faded murals and deeply worn wooden booths, the place is a museum.”

John’s doesn’t sell slices, but they will sell you a whole pie, which you will want to eat anyways.

In 1933 newlyweds Pasquale “Patsy’”  and Carmella Lancieri opened Patsy’s Pizzeria in East Harlem at 2287-91 1st Avenue in 1933. Patsy’s  quickly established itself as a family style, old-fashioned neighborhood restaurant that catered to the growing population of Italian immigrants who longed for the cuisine of their homeland in a casual family style atmosphere. Also attracted were New Yorkers who wished to taste the new culinary expertise of the Italian immigrants. Almost immediately, the atmosphere, style and cuisine at Patsy’s Pizzeria began attracting many popular and famous personalities. Luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett became regulars. In addition, its prime uptown location made it a convenient stop for famous Yankees such as Phil Rizzutto, Joe Dimaggio and Yogi Berra. Patsy Lancieri had developed a huge following and East Harlem was now “the” place to go.

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In the early 1970’s, Patsy’s Pizzeria became the late-night haunt of Francis Ford Coppola who used it’s ambiance to shape his actor’s performances in his blockbuster film “The Godfather”. As a result, the restaurant has been used numerous times as a period location and backdrop for many movies, employing many East Harlem residents in the process.

Both Lombardi’s and Totonno’s used coal-fired ovens, as did John’s and   Patsy’s. All  four resturants are still open today. Di Fara Pizza, which opened in 1964 and has been run by Domenico DeMarco since then, serves what many believe to be the best pizza in New York City, a combination of New York and Neapolitan styles.

Characteristically, New York-style pizza is traditionally hand-tossed, consisting in its basic form of a light layer of tomato sauce sprinkled with dry, grated, full-fat mozzarella cheese; additional toppings like sausage and pepperoni  can be  placed over the cheese. Pies are typically around 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter, and commonly cut into 8 slices. These large wide slices are often eaten as fast food while folded in half (like one would fold a cardboard box) from the crust, as their size and flexibility can make them unwieldy to eat flat. Folding the slice also collects the abundant oil in the crease, and allows the slice to be eaten with one hand.

What few people know is that it is the water of New York that makes all difference in the taste of the iconic NYC pizza crust.

We take our water for granted.

Did you know that New York City is the nation’s largest municipal water supplier. I am not a Native New Yorker, but due to graduate school and employment, I have lived in upstate New York and New York City on and off for more than two decades. And like  many locals, I happily choose tap water at restaurants and extol the virtues of New York’s wettest best tasting water in the World. Yes Virigina,  you can taste the difference, trust me, I am a chemist after all.  I am sure that some people might wonder how and where the magic happens–even more so recently, in light of some other cities’ far less stellar experiences with the local water supply.and how 9.5 million people (and growing, apparently) can keep the good stuff flowing.

The source of this  fantastsically natural exilier  is derived from upstate.More than 90 percent of the New York City’s water supply comes from the Catskill/Delaware Watershed, which is about 125 miles north of NYC; the other 10 percent comes from the Croton watershed. The watershed sits on over a million acres, both publicly and privately owned, but highly regulated to make sure contaminants stay out of the water.

nyc-water-supply-system1.jpg

So what really makes New York City water actually taste so good? Well, thanks in part to the geology of the Catskill Mountains, which have very little limestone rock, the city’s water contains low levels of bitter-tasting calcium. As a result, New York has delicious bagels and pizza crust.ideal pizza crust is thinner in the middle, with a rim that balloons slightly to give it that all important crunch. This is a basic “Big Apple” pizza dough that delivers that signature thin-crust, foldable slice New York is famous for.

For a New York Style pizza, the heavily-seasoned cooked tomato sauce is typically made of olive oil, canned tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and herbs like oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper, as opposed to the simple Neapolitan sauce, made from uncooked crushed tomatoes and salt. The cheese is always grated low-moisture mozzarella, not the fresh slices you’ll find on Neapolitan-style pizza.

Common condiments to put on top of a slice after it comes out of the oven include garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried oregano, and grated Parmesan cheese.

We used the traditional tomato sauce and cheese toppings in this recipe, but please, feel free to use your favorite sauce and toppings and enjoy!

Makes Two 11-inch Pizzas

Ingredients:

For the Dough:
1 cup warm water,  about 105º F to 115º F
1/4-ounce package instant active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 cups​ Caputo 00 flour , plus more  as needed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Sauce:
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic,finely minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 teaspoon sugar

Toppings:
1 pound full-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

For serving:
Garlic powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
Dried oregano
Finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Combine the water, yeast, sugar, and a 1/2 cup of the flour in a medium bowl. Stir well and let sit for 20 minutes. It will get bubbly.

Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a loose dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, while adding more flour a little at a time, to produce a soft, elastic and slightly sticky dough. Do not add too much flour, just enough to keep it from sticking to the work surface as you knead.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Drizzle a few drops of oil and coat the top of dough to prevent the surface from becoming dry.

Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into 2 balls and place in large zip lock plastic bags and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to use, remove from fridge, and let the dough come up to room temperature before using.

For the Sauce:
Feed tomatoes and their juices through a food mill or pulse in a food processor until pulverized into a chunky puree. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, until butter is melted. Add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons of oregano, 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes, onion, and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Add more salt if necessary. Remove and discard onion.

Let cool and store unused portion in a container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or pour into zip-top bags and freeze.

To make the pizzas:

Preheat the oven to 475 º F (245 º C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

You will need a 12-inch round pizza pan or a large baking sheet. Dark, heavy metal pans are the best to use because they absorb heat quickly and evenly and will produce a crisp, golden browned crust.

For each pizza, brush the pizza pan with a little olive oil. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, pat the dough into a 6-inch round. Stretch or roll the dough with a rolling pin into an 11-inch round. Lift the dough onto the prepared pan and press the dough to the edge of the pan.

Using a 6-ounce ladle, pour the sauce in the center of the prepared dough. Keeping the bottom of the ladle flat and without pushing down,  spread the sauce to the outside edge, using a spiral motion.leaving at least an 1/8 inch border while spreading the sauce consistently across the crust. There should be no large bare spots or heavy ridges of sauce.

Evenly distributed the cheeses on top of the sauce.

Bake pizzas one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted  bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. If you want, toward the end of the cooking time you can sprinkle on a little more cheese.

Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Using a pizza cutter, slice each pizza in to 8 equal slices and serve with the desired condiments.

To eat a slice , place your forefinger of left or right hand in the center of the crust. Using the your thumb and remaing to make a solid fold. Turn the tip of hte pizza towards your mouth and take bite!

Cook’s Notes:
Caputo 00 flour is ideal for pizza dough for two reasons: one, it’s finely ground, and two, it has a lower gluten content than most flours. The “00” refers to the texture of the flour: Italian flours are classified by numbers according to how finely they are ground, from the roughest ground “tipo”1, to 0, and the finest 00. Gluten, the natural protein that remains when starch is removed from wheat grains, creates the elasticity you feel when you bite into a crunchy loaf of bread. The lower the protein content of the flour, the lower the gluten, and the lower the gluten, the less elasticity there will be in your dough (cake flour has the lowest gluten level). Gluten levels are controlled by selecting different strands of wheat for processing: high-gluten bread flour is made from wheat that has 14-15% gluten. Meanwhile, the Caputo 00 is made from a selection of the finest grains the Caputo family can find to give your dough just enough, but not too much, stretch at 12.5% gluten.

Bread flour is a suitable substitue if 00 flour is nor readliy available.

To make whole wheat pizza dough, substitute 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the bread flour and proceed as directed.

To make the pizza dough ahead, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in a zip-lock storage bag and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Use the dough directly from the refrigerator. To freeze, wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap, then put it into a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the dough at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until pliable.

If you want to make your pizza more crispy, bake your pizza in the oven at its maximum temperature, usually ranging from 500 to 550 º F (260 to 290 ºC). Bake the pizza for 9 to 12 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

 

 

Sources:
Cohen, Michelle. 2016. “NYC Water 101: From the Catskill Aqueduct and Robotic Measurements to Your Tap.” 6ftsq: CITY LIVING, TECHNOLOGY, URBAN DESIGN.Date Accessed May 26, 2019. https://www.6sqft.com/nyc-water-101-from-the-catskill-aqueduct-and-robotic-measurements-to-your-tap/

Gilbert, Sara. 2005. “New York Pizza: is the water the secret?”Slashfood. Weblogs, Inc.

Jackson, Kenneth T.  et al.   2010 . The Encyclopedia of New York City (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Keohane, Jo. 2011. 00 FLOUR IS BEST FOR MAKING PIZZA:Caputo 00 flour is the test kitchen’s favorite for pizza crust. Saveur Magazine. Date Accessed May 26, 2019. https://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/Best-Flour-for-Making-Pizza

Mitzewich, John. 2018. “New York Style Pizza Dough.”  The The Spruce Eats. Date Accessed May 26, 2019. https://www.thespruceeats.com/new-york-style-pizza-dough-recipe-101630h

New York City 2018 Drinking Water Supply & Quality Report. New York City Environmental Protection. Date Accessed May 26, 2019. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dep/about/drinking-water-supply-quality-report.page

Otis, Ginger Adams et. al.  2010. New York City Lonely Planet City Guide. New York City: Lonely Planet.

Swerdloff, Alex. 2016 . “What the Price of a Slice of Pizza Can Tell You About New York”. Munchies.vice.com.


New York Style Cheesecake

 

 

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This month, we a continuing to showcase the food of New York with this recipe for New York Style Cheesecake.

Contrary to popular belief, the first “cheese cake” may have been created 4,000 years ago on the Greek island of Samos and not in New York City. In Greece, cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms were also known to use cheesecake as a wedding cake. When the Romans conquered Greece circa 146 B.C., the cheesecake recipe was just one spoil of war. They added their own spin on the recipe including crushed cheese and eggs. The Romans called their cheese cake “libuma” and they served it on special occasions. Marcus Cato (234 – 139 B.C,), a Roman politician in the first century BC, is credited as recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe. The writer Athenaeus is credited for writing the only known surviving Greek recipe for cheesecake in 230 A.D.

As the Romans expanded their empire, they brought cheesecake recipes to Europe around 1000 AD. Great Britain and Eastern Europe began experimenting with ways to put their own unique spin on cheesecake. Cheesecakes were also flourishing throughout Scandinavia and northwestern Europe.

propertitle-lgIn Europe, the recipes started taking on different cultural shapes, using ingredients native to each region. A cookbook entitled “A Propre new booke of Cokery” (1545) was printed in London during the Renaissance and it described cheesecake as a flour-based sweet food.

It was not until the 18th century, however, that cheesecake would start to look like something we recognize in the United States today. In the 18th century, Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make their breads and cakes rise. Removing the overpowering yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert treat. When Europeans immigrated to America, some brought their cheesecake recipes along.

Many foods that Americans have come to regard as uniquely “American”, are Jewish originating from the Ashkenazi. Because of the Jewish dietary restrictions (Kashruth), the restriction on serving meat and dairy products at the same meal gave rise to a set of traditional dairy dishes including blintzes, cheesecake, and noodle pudding. The concept of delicatessens also came to the United States in the mid-19th century with a new influx of European immigrants.

In 1888, Katz’s Deli was the first Jewish American delicatessen to open in New York City. The popularity of delicatessens that specialized in kosher food spread throughout American culture with the help of the Ashkenazi. As delicatessens began to spring up in many Jewish communities they locally became known as “delis” as they proved even popular with the general public.

Katz'sDeli01 (2).jpg

Photo Credit: Katz Delli circa 1920s.  Marvin Padover and Marlene Katz Padover

 

Cream cheese was an American addition to the cake, and it has since becomehistory_cont_1872_new.jpg a staple ingredient in the United States. It was invented in 1872 by American dairyman William Lawrence of Chester, New York, who accidentally developed a method of producing cream cheese while trying to reproduce a French cheese called Neufchatel. In 1880 Lawrence started distributing his cream cheese in foil wrappers under the name of the Empire Cheese Co. of South Edmeston, New York, where he manufactured the product. He called his cheese Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, now a famous trademark. Lawrence adopted ‘Philadelphia’  as the brand name, after the city that was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food, including ice cream….but that is another story for another time. 

In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Co. of New York bought the business and with it the Philadelphia trademark. The brand was bought by the Kraft Cheese Co. in 1928. Kraft Foods still owns and produces Philadelphia Cream Cheese today.James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese in 1912, which led to the development of pasteurized Philadelphia Brand cream cheese. It is now the most popular cheese used for making cheesecake today.

By the 1900s, New Yorkers were in love with cheesecake. Nearly every restaurant had its own version of the dessert on their menus.

 

 

arnoldreuben1946-2By the 1920s, the deli became a celebrated gathering place in Jewish and American life and the signature sandwiches were a standard. Sandwiches like the overstuffed pastrami or corned beef on rye was popular choice in Jewish American delicatessens — becoming a hallmark of an iconic New York institution. Even though he is best known for his resturants and signature sandwiches, Jewish-German immigrant Arnold Reuben (1883-1970) is generally credited for creating the New York Style cheesecake in 1929. The story goes that Reuben was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Allegedly, he was so intrigued by this dish that he experimented with the recipe until he developed the beloved New York Style cheesecake. New Yorkers have vied for bragging rights for having the original recipe ever since.

As all food lovers know, New York is not the only place in America that puts its own spin on cheesecakes. In Chicago, sour cream is added to the recipe to keep it creamy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia cheesecake is known for being lighter and creamier than New York style cheesecake and it can be served with fruit or chocolate toppings. In St. Louis, they enjoy a gooey butter cake, which has an additional layer of cake topping on the cheesecake filling. Even around the  World, every country  has its own take on the best way to make the dessert. For example, the Italians use ricotta cheese, while the Greeks use mizithra or feta. Germans prefer cottage cheese, while the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. There are specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies and even tofu! In spite of all the variations, the popular dessert’s main ingredients – cheese, wheat and a sweetener –remain the same.

No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings on Samos over 4,000 years ago to its current iconic status around the world this creamy cake remains a favorite for sweet tooths of all ages.

 

Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake, Serving 8 to 10

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
½ stick unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
Four 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh fruit, for garnish

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 º F.

To make the crust: In a large bowl, add the crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Blend until a sandy texture is achieved.

Evenly spoon the crumb mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, halfway up, pressing down the sides and bottom firmly making the crust adhere to the pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and then bake the crust until set, for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.

To make the filling:  In a large bowl add 1 package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch together and using an electric mixer, beat on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cream just until completely blended.

Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Prepare a ban-marie (water bath). Place the cake pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes approximately 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.

Bake until the edge is light golden brown, the top is light gold, and the center barely jiggles, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours undisturbed. While remaining in the springfrom pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, for 24 hours.

On the following day, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and unmold from the springform pan. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with fruit if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
In slicing the cheesecake, use a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, to get a clean cut. Be sure to rinse the knife with warm water between slices. Refrigerate any leftover cake, tightly covered, and enjoy within 2 days, or wrap and freeze it  for up to 1 month.

 

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