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Hanukkah means "dedication" in Hebrew and refers to the time in 165 B.C. when a small army of Jews won a battle with a much larger Greek force and liberated the temple in Jerusalem.
It had been occupied by Greek worshipers of Zeus and needed many repairs.
When they attempted to re-light the eternal flame, they had only enough oil for one day.
However, it burned for eight full days, enough time for more oil to be prepared. The temple was re-dedicated to the God of the Jewish people, thus Jews the world over celebrate Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights.
It falls on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev, so it occurs on various dates in December. It's usually noted on most calendars.
My favorite Hanukkah tradition, latkes, or potato pancakes, are traditionally fried in oil in remembrance of the oil in the temple.
They are delicious pancakes made of grated raw potato and onion. I've always loved them.
My mom made them a lot. The only thing I didn't like about all the recipes I tried was that the raw potato turned kind of gray before you could cook it; not an appetizing food color.
The only recipe I use now is one I found in the Junior's restaurant cookbook from Brooklyn.
The grated potato/onion mixture is blanched two minutes in before making the latkes. They're golden brown, crispy and traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce. Super delicious!
I recently experimented with baking the pancakes in a hot oven on a greased cookie sheet with sides.
I set the oven at 450 degrees and put 1/3-cup mixture for each pancake, flattening it a little.
They were done after about 15 minutes per side. I won't say they were as good as the fried ones, but if you really have a problem with fried foods, they're definitely worth a try.
Happy Hanukkah from Susan's kitchen!
JUNIOR'S POTATO PANCAKES
2 lbs. potatoes, peeled
1 c. grated onion
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1 T. salt
1/2 t. white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
3 T. butter
1 T. vegetable oil
Grate or finely shred the potatoes (you need 4 cups of potatoes) and let them stand in ice water for 15 minutes. Fill a medium pan with water and bring it to a boil. Put in the potato and onion and blanch for 2 minutes. Then drain well, squeezing out the excess water. Pat dry on paper towels and transfer to a large bowl. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper together in a cup and toss with the potatoes and onions. Fold in the eggs just until the potatoes are coated. Do not overmix. Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet. Then for each pancake, scoop about 1/3 c. of the batter on the hot pan making 4-inch pancakes about 1 inch apart. Fry the cakes till golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 6-8 minutes in all. Makes one dozen 4-inch pancakes.