Hand in Hand Productions

Excerpts from

A Traditional Jewish Woman's Odyssey,
Mrs. Elsie Weisman’s Oral History

Part II -


I like to bake; it’s one of the things I am good at.

I have been a homemaker since I was married at 24 years old. Most of my compliments as a homemaker come for my skills in the kitchen. Where I live now I could go down and socialize everyday. It's nice to socialize, but I don't want to do that everyday because I do love to bake. I use to make 20 dozen hamentashen and I would give them all away.

When we lived in our first house on Upton Avenue, I used to spend my whole summer in the basement canning. Let Judi tell you. I canned peaches, pears, applesauce, pickles, apricots. You name it, cherries, bing cherries. I spent my whole summer in the basement, I had a stove there and you know we had sinks there because my laundry facilities were in the basement. I don’t do that anymore. 

HAND in HAND Productions
Send an e-mail
Saint Paul, Minnesota

My mother kept a kosher home, so it was no big deal for me to keep kosher. And she observed Passover, she had different dishes. My father said he wouldn’t have cared if she didn’t have some of the dishes that my mother made, I can still remember some of her cooking. And really she had so little money to buy stuff. My mother would make sweet and sour tomatoes. She would slice up green tomatoes and pickle them with little onions and cauliflower hmm I can still taste them.

With me it's traditional to keep kosher. We've been doing it for so many years, it's a Jewish way of life. I've read that 20% of the Jewish people are kosher, the rest are not. In the beginning in biblical times cooking like this was done for cleanliness. They didn't have the dishes we have they had no dishwashers. It was a matter of necessity I think. Keeping kosher, it's in our bible. It's a part of Jewish life all through the centuries.

Orthodox Jews will wait hours between eating dairy and meat meals. I don't keep that rule, waiting three hours or six hours. I wouldn't serve dairy and meat on the table at the same time. My children will do that, but I don't care what they do, it's their homes they do what they believe in. But, with me I wouldn't serve it on the same table. I will wash up all the meat dishes before I served dairy. I keep separate dishes, pots, pans, and utensils for dairy and for meat and they are kept in different cupboards.

I see it as a personal point of view. I've always done it and to me it's no hardship, it's traditional because I've always done it. My mother kept kosher and my husband said that he expected me to keep a kosher home. There were other things that were wrong, but the kosher part didn't bother me at all.

For me it's not a dietary restriction, and it was no hardship ever. In fact, at one point I became rebellious I ate everything. I ate bacon a few times it was all rebellion. And, I thought what am I doing to myself, I don't care about this, this means nothing to me. And, now it's second nature for me to keep kosher, I don't find it a burden; I think I cook pretty well.

You know everyone has their own ideas about being kosher. And, for me it is about keeping two sets of dishes, not mixing milk with meat, not cooking meat with any dairy products, to me that's keeping kosher. Having two sets of dishes, two separate towels, everything separate. I don't use my mixer for dairy things. I use a wooden spoon.

When you make a meat meal you can include all other foods that do not have dairy products. You wouldn't do chicken and a baked potato and put butter on it. You could have the baked potato and put margarine on it. Margarine has no milk in it. Or you can put olive oil on a baked potato. If I eat meat it's usually at night. When I eat my dinner I don't eat between meals. Vegetables have no dairy or any meat; it's all what you call pareve– neither meat nor milk. Pareve that's neutral actually. It's a good name for neutral, P-A-R-E-V-E.

I use to make my own gefilite fish for Passover every year. You make patties with ground fish, of course you have to add other ingredients. The patties, you drop in boiling water and with different vegetables and you let it simmer until they're done. I don't even bother with that anymore. Now I make a gefilite fish loaf, that is much easier, I don't monkey around anymore making gefilte fish. See now I can buy ground fish, raw fish that's frozen. The fish loaf recipe that I make it's wonderful. In fact, I always forget to get it, when I'm at Cub I forget to buy it. It's a very nice meal; I made it quite a number of times.

Then for the eight days of Passover[1] the whole kitchen is changed over. I did change dishes completely in the past. I had special Passover dishes, flatware, pans, and utensils. I had two good sets of Noritake. I paid for one whole set of dishes, what you pay now for a place setting now, but I bought them about sixty years ago. I bought a different set of china for meat and for dairy. I never had sterling, I bought silver plate, and I had two sets, one for dairy and one for meat. But when I moved here I gave away my good sets of dishes one set of dishes and flatware to Reina, I gave the other set to Judi. But, I do have Passover dishes, they're in my buffet in the living room, I didn’t change last year. I didn’t feel up to it.

For Passover I don't bring any bread products in, we eat matzos and we make due. For the week of Passover you buy a fresh package of tea, of coffee, milk if you buy it ahead of time before Passover, it can be used. You don't have to have a label on it. That became a racket, putting Passover labels on something that didn't even need labels.

For our Seder [2] we had gefilite fish because fish could be used as either meat or dairy. I would have roast turkey, I would make a stuffing out of matzos. Judi makes a very good matzo pudding, Kugel. If you don't put any dairy products in it, it's pareve. You can have fruit, you can have dried fruit, and you can make compote of dried fruit. That would be a Passover meal.

To keep kosher when I go out to eat I only eat fish or omelet, eggs or vegetables. I ate out twice this week. I went out last Sunday I went out Tuesday. Tuesday they served a chicken chow mein, but that was at a synagogue and they keep kosher there. When I ate the chicken chow mein, then I was eating a meat course.

I'm not saying I'm a gourmet cook, I'm not, I don't pretend to be. I'm not competing with anybody. I like to cook, I like to bake, I like to experiment, I like keeping Kosher. I like to take chances on different things. This is what I'm about in the kitchen.

But that isn't my whole personality, I enjoy other things, I enjoy opera, I enjoy reading, I enjoy music.

This is a traditional Jewish pastry and I don’t want it forgotten.


Preheat oven 15 minutes at 350°


Mix thoroughly:

6 eggs
2 c sugar

Then add:

1 ½ c oil


6 c flour (or more to make stiff dough)
6 tsb powder
¾ ts sal

Mix in:

1 orange rind & juice
½ lemon - juice only
1 ts vanilla

Wrap dough in saran wrap and chill


For filling GRIND UP:

1 12 oz package prunes
1 c apricots
1 c raisins
1 c dates
1 c nuts
1 lemon - grind whole lemon including rind

Mix well and add:

½ c honey
1 ts cinnamon

Roll out dough on a floured board and cut into 2 ¾” circles.

Place rounded teaspoon filling on each circle, pinch and shape into triangles.

Bake at 350o until lightly browned

“This is also a traditional Jewish pastry. It should not be forgotten.”


Preheat oven to 350°


4 eggs3 TS oil
2 ¼ c flour + 1 tsb powder
½ ts salt
1 ¼ c honey
1 c sugar
1 ts powdered ginger
2 TS cold water

Beat eggs

Add oil and dry ingredients

Mix well to make a not sticky dough

Roll out 4 rolls of dough with hands into 1” diameter rope. Then cut to ½” pieces

Mix honey and sugar in a big pot, when boiling add pieces of dough. Only a few pieces of dough at a time, until all are in the big pot and coated with the honey and sugar.

Cover and cook on top of stove 10 minutes to coat and absorb honey and sugar. Be sure honey-sugar coating is distributed equally.

Then place pot this same pot in oven

Bake covered 25 minutes at 350°

Pieces should be crisp, (crack one with fork – inside should be done) Bake additional 5 or 10 minutes if needed

Add / Sprinkle with powdered ginger.

Add cold water to syrup to stop the cooking

Remove Taiglach with slotted spoon, placing in bowl with coconut.


Ritual Jewish Bread

Preheat oven to 400°


1 TS dry yeast
1 ts sugar
¼ c warm water


make sponge

5 – 6 c flour
1 ¾ hot water
1 ½ ts salt
¼ c sugar
¼ oil
2 eggs (3 if double recipe)
- take some yolk, place in a small bowl
- add TS water
- Save to brush top of bread at end


Make sponge of yeast, sugar, and warm water.
 (Blend together and let sit 10 minutes till bubbly)

Beat eggs in well of half of flour
Mix well

Add sponge, rest of flour, salt & sugar & oil
Mix well

Make a ball
Put dough on a floured board - knead 8-10 minutes
Let dough raise in a warm greased clean bowl 
Cover let rest in a warm place 20 minutes. 
Dough is ready if indentation in dough remembers.

Shape dough.
Cut in half for pan bread.
Roll out 3 strips and braid – start in middle to braid makes it look even.
Grease pans, sprinkle with corn meal.
Cover with saran wrap.
Refrigerate for 2 hours (can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours).

Before baking keep at room temperature 10 minutes.
Bake 25-30 minutes at 400° oven.

Test for doneness by tapping.
If hollow sound bread is baked.

Brush with egg yolk water (saved before) Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds

My description of making my Challa:

You put your sugar in a fourth cup of warm water and then you take a tablespoon of dry yeast, that's the only kind I've been using because that can be frozen. And you put your dry yeast in the warm water that has the sugar in and that starts to rise – that's what the sponge is. In the meantime, while this is rising, you take your flour, salt, sugar and oil, two (2) eggs. You mix it up with a wooden spoon, you put it in your hot water, not boiling water, but hot water and, of course, you take a tablespoon, you take some of the egg yolk and put a tablespoon of cold water in it – that will be for brushing. And, then you add this to your sponge, don't let it rise too high to make - it goes way up over the bowl, so use a bowl that's big enough so that it starts to rise – the sponge - then you add your sponge to all that and you'll hear it sizzle. And then you work on the dough, and you blend together and let it sit until it's …… you know I set a time, it might take less than that I don't know. I guess at some of the times. Mix well, add the sponge, rest of the flour, salt, sugar and oil, mix well, make a ball and put the dough on a flour board and you leave it for eight (8) to ten (10) minutes. And, you can tell when it's smooth because when its sticky you keep adding a little flour to your hands, but your bowl should be clean, your hands should be clean when you start kneading the dough. And when your dough is a smooth ball you put it in a warm greased clean bowl and you cover and let it rest in a warm place twenty (20) minutes and it starts to rise – and the dough is ready when you put your finger in – if the indentation remains then its ready to shape. You cut it in half – now I gave you the recipe for two (2) loaves of bread, right. You cut it in half and you roll off three (3) strips and you braid. You start in the middle because then it makes a nicer braid. Start in the middle and braid it through – I can't make it with any more, some people make it with four (4), I don't know how to do that. I make it with three (3) and you pinch your edges together, you turn it around and you braid and …… you put it in your greased pan, sprinkle a little cornmeal and put it in the pan, cover with plastic wrap – you put it in the refrigerator and at least for two (2) hours it should be refrigerated. You can keep it over night – that's the beauty of doing the cool rise method. I found this in the paper and I think it's wonderful because once it's in the refrigerator you can go about your business, do whatever you want to do, see. You can take it out after two (2) hours, let it sit for ten (10) minutes at room temperature, then you brush it with the tablespoon of water mixed with the egg yolk, you brush it and you can sprinkle with either poppy seeds or sesame seeds, then you bake it at 400°. And, when you take it out, you take it right out of the pan, you tap it — if it taps — it's done.


Preheat oven to 325°

Kosher Brisket

Garlic cloves – 1 clove per pound of brisket
1 package dry onion soup mix
½ about cup wine + some water

  • Sometimes I take a bag, you know you can buy these oven bags, and they're wonderful because it cuts the cooking time.
  • I put the brisket in the bag and I take garlic cloves, smash them. If there are little holes in the meat on the top, I put the garlic in the holes.
  • Mix a package of onion soup mix with about ½ c wine and add a little water.
  • Pour on top and then close your bag and you punch holes in the bag so the steam evaporates.
  • Cook 2 hours. (I had a piece of meat that was not quite two 2 pounds. It took 2 hours and it was done.)
  • And then you cut the bag open and you have a bunch of juice, you've got the gravy
  • Let it stand about fifteen (15), twenty (20) minutes, a half hour then you slice it.


Kosher brisket is different. I take the top of the brisket or I get what I call a French roast, it's not always good, but this is what I've been getting, they call it brisket.


Preheat over 350°

Purchase ground gefilte fish loaf from Cub in Saint Louis Park.

Follow directions and cook for one hour

Sauté green pepper, onions, carrots, celery, and mushrooms in oil

Sprinkle in some oregano

Cool a little

Remove paper and put loaf in Pyrex pan

Mix tomato sauce with vegetables

Pour over fish

Bake1 hour longer in a 350° oven


Preheat 350° oven

Red Potatoes – scrubbed and cut in chunks

Olive Oil

  • I take medium red potatoes, scrub them real good until they're clean and I cut them in chunks. I only use red potatoes, they have more moisture. I don't like the white potatoes they're too dry
  • I take a little olive oil because I love olive oil, I don't use it for everything, but you use much less of that because it's a heavier oil, and you dip the slices in the olive oil
  • Then you put some paprika on them
  • When I didn't have any parsley I used to use basil. I took fresh parsley, you wash it and you put sprigs of parsley all over.
  • Put them in the 350° oven, for about fifteen (15) minutes.
  • Turn them over add a little more paprika on the slices
  • It takes about a half an hour and they're all done.

[1] During Passover no leavening agents are permitted. Because there may be leavening agents left on the dishes etc, a kosher kitchen has different Passover dishes, pans and utensils.

[2] Retelling the story of the Israelites coming out of Egypt and includes the Passover meal.

<< Back to Family Projects Page

© 2017 HAND in HAND Productions

You can Make A Difference! Projects worked on Services offered Mission Statement Home page