A classic noodle kugel with raisins, cooked in a rectangular casserole dish. Photo by Stu Spivak | Wikimedia.
Noodle Pudding (Kugel) History
Page 2: The Modern Kugel Emerged 800 Years Ago
Kugel is a traditional Jewish dessert or side dish. The word is Yiddish for ball*, but it is sometimes translated as pudding or casserole, and related to the German Gugelhupf (Kugelhopf).
The first kugels were plain and savory rather than sweet, made from bread and flour—not far in concept from the English Yorkshire Pudding.
About 800 years ago, German Jewish cooks replaced the bread with egg noodles or farfel, s small pellet of pasta made from egg noodle dough (often called egg barley in the U.S.).
Eventually eggs were incorporated, and the addition of cottage cheese and milk created a custard-like consistency which define today’s kugels.
In the 17th century, sugar became plentiful in Europe and was added to kugels, creating a sweet kugel to serve as a side dish or dessert. Jewish-Polish housewives added raisins and cinnamon into recipes, and then farmer’s cheese (similar to cottage cheese). Hungarians added sour cream. In the late 19th century, in Jerusalem, caramelized sugar and black pepper were added to create “Jerusalem kugel.”
Here’s our Grandma’s classic noodle kugel recipe, made with broad noodles, eggs, sugar, cottage cheese, milk, raisins, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Savory kugels have always existed, the simplest made with added onions. Over the centuries, cooks have substituted potatoes or matzoh for the noodles, and added carrots, grated cheese, mushrooms, spinach and zucchini.
Some American cooks top their kugels with Corn Flakes, graham cracker crumbs, crushed gingersnaps or caramelized sugar. Others add a layer of sliced pineapple or apricot jam.
The net of it is: Have fun with it. Traditional noodle pudding is delicious, as are modern variations.
- A noodle kugel cooked in a ring mold is called a noodle ring.
- December 11th is National Noodle Ring Day.
*Possibly because the original versions were baked in round pans.
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