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What's on YOUR latkes?

Hanukkah is coming, and with it my usual debate with my husband’s family. They are wonderful--sophisticated, warm and accepting of my last-minute hysterical gift decrees (no plastic toys, no battery-operated toys, whatever is bothering me that year). They are flexible about what a proper Menorah is, especially if a grandchild constructs it. But, don’t touch their toppings.

Latkes with sugar.

I mean latke toppings.  My in-laws eat their latkes with granulated sugar. Insist on it. Won’t pick up a fork on Hanukkah if they don’t see a sugar bowl on the table. As my cousin Raymond says, “It just ain’t right.”

I got married in December. It was a year before the question of latke toppings came up. In that year, I got really, really attached to my new spouse. Also, we moved to California. This made it very hard to for me to follow my instinct to run home to Mama when my beloved surveyed the Hanukkah table asked for the sugar.

Latkes with traditional
applesauce and sour cream.

In my mother’s house, applesauce and sour cream was the rule. My mom made her own applesauce every year just for Hanukkah, which I looked forward to all year. Mom cored and quartered the apples and cooked them with their skins on.  I put them through the Foley food mill. The applesauce was always served cold from the fridge.  The coolness of the sauce, along with the pink color made a great contrast to the warm, golden, crisp latkes. For a meat meal, we skipped the sour cream, but the applesauce was always there, and there never was any sugar served. Sugar? Ecccch....

My kids are straight applesauce eaters, except when they eat latkes with sugar just to gross me out. My brother-in-law, who belongs to the “Low fat Faithful,” only eats totally nonfat baked latkes with sugar. My other brother-in-law doesn’t care for latkes, or any form of potato other than the French fry.  His mother is still trying to figure that one out.

Then there’s my cousin Rifky, the Long Island balaboste. Her family eats sour cream and applesauce with their latkes, but for variety, Rifky makes a DIFFERENT KIND OF LATKE EVERY NIGHT except Shabbat.  She also is a real estate broker, helps her husband with his investment business, does all her cooking for the week in one day, and manages to stay well-groomed all the time, manicures and all!  Here is her latke rotation:

Four kinds of latkes. Top to bottom: carrot, zucchini, chioggia beet, and potato.

Cousin Rifky’s Seven Nights, Seven Kinds of Latkes

  1. Zucchini-2 parts zucchini by volume to 1-part potatoes

  2. Carrot-equal parts carrot and potato

  3. Regular

  4. Kinneret Frozen Latkes (no fool, my cousin Rifky)

  5. Mixed Veggie Latkes with Tam-Tams

  6. Parsnip or Chioggia Beet—equal parts parsnip or beet and potato

Latke varieties one, two, three and seven are really a basic potato-based latke batter with the novel vegetable added, With some water in your Cuisinart, using the fine shredding disk, grate one large onion and 4 large potatoes. Switch to the chopping blade and pulse the shreds a couple of times to give them a hand-grated texture. Transfer the shredded potatoes into a bowl, cover closely so no air gets in, and keep in the fridge until needed.  Then, drain the potatoes; add 2 eggs and 4 extra egg whites, salt and pepper, and enough potato starch until batter is mushy but not sticky. 

Veggie Latkes use ground Tam-Tam crackers instead of potatoes, and canned mixed vegetables. Mix one can (16 oz size) mixed vegetables, 10 tam tam crackers ground fine in the Cuisinart, 1 egg, and fry. Sometimes these need some potato starch to thicken. As Rifky says, “They are yum.”

For low-fat Latkes use an egg substitute like Egg Beaters.  Make the regular potato batter an hour ahead of serving time, spread the batter directly on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets that you have sprayed with cooking spray, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove cookie sheets from oven, let latkes cool briefly, and remove from paper with spatula. These latkes are extra thin and crisp, and will satisfy even my brother-in-law, who is so anti-fattening foods he holds his breath whenever he drives by a KFC.

Rifky’s family really enjoys their parade of latke variations. But they eat all of them with applesauce and sour cream, which is the right thing to do. The sugar bowl stays in the cabinet.

Preeva Tramiel is a freelance writer in Palo Alto, California.  She blogs at Melon Memories.

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More on: Food, Hanukkah,
5 Comments

Cinnamon and sugar. Mmmmmm.

Hmmm it's interesting to hear that sugar on latkes might be a "Polish thing." My family comes from Polish stock and we go the applesauce route.

Peppery oniony latkes with sour cream!

Sorry Preeva,your mother-in-law has it right. Granulated sugar is the only way to go. Powdered won't do, it has got to be granulated, just plain old granulated sugar!!

I think this is a regional thing. If you hail from Austria/Poland, as I do, then the taste buds demand a sweeter taste, like plain sugar. The further west you go, say Hungary or Roumania then the taste buds sing out for something savory like sour cream... You can try this test on taste preferences for Gefilte Fish, it works the same way, sweet to the west, sour/savory to the east.... I don't know where the heck putting applesauce on latkes came from, -- my guess is that it's an American invention.

Using a Cuisinart to make latkes? You can't be serious. The basic recipe sounds about right. However, even if the Cuisinart can approximate the hand grated texture, which I would argue that it can't, it's not the same. This is almost as wrong as accepting latkes made from shredded potatoes, which by all rights should just be called what they really are; hash browns. Next we'll be arguing if ketchup is an acceptable topping. But I digress.... but as far as I'm concerned, a latke, just like good horseradish has to be grated by hand. If you don't contribute a bit of your knuckle in the process, then it just doesn't taste right. And as far as discussing how to cook them..... well that's pretty obvious ... just fry them in Oyl !!

I know of one other family who puts sugar on latkes, and they are from Poland.

Could it be a Polish thing?

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How to cite this page

Tramiel, Preeva. "What's on YOUR latkes?." 11 December 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 21, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/whats-on-your-latkes>.

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