Olive Oil Master Class at the JMM!

Posted on December 26th, 2014 by

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Last Thursday evening was Olive fun at the JMM. We hosted a DIY Olive Oil workshop led by Pearlstone Center farms. The night started off with light refreshments. We then had a rather theatrical explanation of the life of an olive tree – their resilience and strength in the face of harsh weather conditions.  We also learned that Israel is home to some of the oldest olive trees in the world, dating back several hundreds of years.

Pitting Olives

Pitting Olives

We then moved into the messy and fun process of pitting the olives, which involved rolling them with highly technical equipment – a wooden stick – until the flesh separated from the pit. During this process, many participants discovered that un-cured olives are rather bitter and taste awful. After the pitting process, the flesh was collected and dumped into a large press in the middle of the room. Did you know that 5 lbs of olives only yields approximately .75 oz of oil? That means an average 51 oz bottle of oil requires 340 lbs of olives!

Olive Pressing

Olive Pressing

We also learned about a more modern method of exacting the oil via a centrifuge. We explored the physics of this method by grabbing a partner and spinning quickly in a circle together to mimic how a centrifuge spins the olive liquid swiftly until the oil separates from the pulp. We then moved into making our own herb infused olive oils using fresh sage and rosemary from Pearlstone’s farm. As museumgoers were crafting, Laura retold the story of Hanukah and reiterated the importance of oil during the season. All and all, the evening was a blast!

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Showing off rosemary-infused olive oil

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A blog post by Carolyn Bevans, Museum Educator and Programs Associate. To read more posts from Carolyn, click HERE. 

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A Few Vintage Ideas for Chanukah

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by

Many cookbooks, in the past and today, contain more than just recipes.  These books can be considered part of the “conduct book” market, which developed in the US in the 1830s and has been going strong ever since.  Etiquette guides, housekeeping instructions, party planning suggestions: all these works aim to help you succeed at home, at work, and in society.

A comprehensive cookbook, then, may contain measurement equivalents, technique hints, or canning instructions, as well as advice on cooking for invalids, planning a week of menus, or setting a table.  Useful stuff! Conspicuously absent from mainstream cookbooks, however, is anything related to maintaining a Jewish kitchen.  For example – while it is informative in many ways – Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (1857) includes nothing on traditional foods for the High Holy Days, or the rules of Kosher cooking.

Thus was born the Jewish cookbook.  Like most advice books, these guides wanted to help you improve your life, and be the best American you could be … and, in this case, to do both while maintaining, refining, and expressing your Jewish identity. The first American Jewish cookbook was published in 1871, and it was soon followed by many, many more.  Here’s the title page from our copy of “Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book, first published in 1889:

“Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book JMM 1999.065.001

“Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book JMM 1999.065.001

Today we may be just as likely to get our expert cooking, deportment, and decorating advice from a website as we are from a book or magazine, but we still seek expert guidance on questions as simple as how to make the perfect latke, and as complicated as how to celebrate the holidays in modern America. Check out “Celebrate the Authentic Way” and last week’s Jewish Times cover story!

…All of this is simply my attempt at a scholarly justification for looking through our cookbook collection in search of Chanukah menus and decorating advice.  Many, if not most, of the early books focus only on Passover, but by the 1940s Chanukah has entered the mix.  In his 1941 book The Jewish Woman and Her Home (available in our library), Hyman E. Goldin notes that “today, especially in America, [Hanukkah] is gradually becoming a community festival, “ reflecting the holiday’s growing popularity.  Goldin also says “Hanukkah is marked by no special feasting.”  However, in the same year, the popular Jewish Home Beautiful book (also available in our library) was more than happy to provide recipes and decorating ideas for the holiday, including “potato lotkes,” “snow balls or heizenblozen,” and three novelty salads designed to mimic the appearance of a menorah. (A sample table setting, including the menorah salad, can be seen at the end of this post.)

 

Since there are a few days left of the holiday, you may be hoping for some fresh ideas – enjoy these suggestions and recipes from our collections!

 

Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, compiled by the Hebrew Day Nursery, Baltimore (1905), only has a specific menu for Passover, but it does include a recipe for potato pancakes:

From Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, JMM 1999.105.1

From Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, JMM 1999.105.1

Alas, the extremely thorough and otherwise marvelous Settlement Cook Book (ours is a circa 1920 edition), which was sold as a fundraiser for recent Jewish immigrants, includes menus for a Passover supper – as well as meals for Lent, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Washington’s Birthday – but nothing for Chanukah.  Here’s the suggested “Christmas supper,” in case you want to try it out on the 25th.

From  Settlement Cook Book JMM#1999.065.006

From Settlement Cook Book JMM#1999.065.006

At last, here’s a full meal for you, from The New Jewish Cookbook of Favorite Recipes, Betty Dean (1947 – JMM K2011.5.2):

Channukah

Tomato juice                                                      Mixed green salad

Liver with onions                                              Pickles

Breaded lamb chops                                       Potato pancakes with apple sauce

Cauliflower – string beans – beets            Tea

 

And finally, a helpful hint from The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger, 1958 (1969 edition – JMM K2011.5.1). Here, the author hedges her bets: Though the Chanukah section mentions latkes and kreplach, “we are not giving you any single menu but suggest experimenting with a variety of dishes suitable for festive occasions in the winter.”

table setting ideas

Chanukah table setting ideas, from (top) Jewish Home Beautiful, 1941, in our library; and (bottom) The Complete American Jewish Cookbook, edited by Anne London and Bertha Kahn Bishov (1952), JMM K2011.5.3.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

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JMM Insights December 2014: Dear Abby, the Holiday Edition!

Posted on December 19th, 2014 by

Our “Dear Abby” feature gives us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to get the most satisfaction out of your JMM visit.  These questions are often asked of our Visitor Services Manager, Abby Krolik, thus, the name! (Any resemblance to a syndicated feature with a similar name is purely coincidental.)

 

1) Dear Abby,

Time flies so fast, and I’ve just realized that winter break is right around the corner! I love my kids, but the thought of having all three of them home at once, with nothing to do, for a week and a half, fills me with dread. What can I do with them to keep them from each other’s throats and to keep me from tearing my hair out? Oy vey!  There’s only so many times in a row that I can watch Frozen before “Let It Go” becomes permanently stuck in my head.

Please, please, please tell me that the JMM is open during the holidays!

 

Sincerely,

Avoiding Cabin Fever

 

Dear Cabin Fever,

We will be open for much of the holiday season, but with a few exceptions to allow our staff to enjoy some time with their families. We will be open at our regular hours except for New Year’s Day, when we will be closed completely, and we will have early closings December 24th (closing at 3pm), December 25th (closing at 4pm), and December 31st (closing at 3pm).

As always, there is something to do here at the JMM for all ages! Kids and the young at heart have delighted in the maze in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit (while the adults at heart enjoy the content), and the Voices of Lombard Street and The Synagogue Speaks exhibits have several hands-on portions. In addition to our interactive exhibits, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on our programs calendar, which you can find on our website, on Facebook, and on many local online calendars (such as The Baltimore Sun and The Jewish Times). We strive to have programming for all ages, from lectures for adults, to the rocking Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights concert we had for kids just a couple of weeks ago!

We’ve got you covered this winter break (and every school break) when it comes to entertaining your family!

 

Best Wishes,

Abby

 

2)  Dear Abby,

I’m the kind of man who thrives on staying busy—especially if it’s a task that will bring a smile to a kid’s face. I’m a real sucker for a kid’s big, toothy grin. Right now, I’ve got a great job in a factory up north that’s going through its annual crunch time this season. I love it! The only problem is that our only day off from work is Dec. 25, when everything is closed. And I know what you’re going to say—why don’t you go see a movie and have some Chinese food? Those are always open on Christmas Day. But like I said, I enjoy being busy, and watching a movie or devouring chicken lo mein doesn’t count as busy in my book.

I happen to be pretty close to my boss, so I was telling him about my problem, and he told me that he and the missus often come to your museum on Dec. 25 because you’re one of the few places open, and that you guys always have a great program. It sounds like a good idea to me, but I thought I’d check in and see what exactly you guys are doing that day.

 

Happy Holidays,

Your Friend from the Great North

 

Dear Great North,

It’s always nice to hear that someone had such a good time at our museum that they recommended us to a friend. Please tell your boss that we would really appreciate it if he and his wife could leave us a review on our TripAdvisor page. You should do write one too, once you’ve come to visit us!

We do have a fantastic program planned for December 25th, a.k.a “Mitzvah Day.” We are collaborating with Jewish Volunteer Connection to participate in the city-wide Mitzvah Day program. From 10:00am to 1:00pm, we will be decorating puzzles and putting together fun gift packages for children who have to stay in Sinai Hospital over the holidays. Sounds like a perfect fit for you!

If you’re wondering why puzzles, it’s because of our current special exhibition, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. Mendes Cohen spent much of his life trying to piece together his complex identity, much like putting together a puzzle. And who doesn’t love puzzles, anyway?

Then, at 1:00pm, our renowned local historian, Gil Sandler, will further explore the topic of identity building in his talk, Becoming American in Jewish Baltimore. He will share the story of how many early Jewish Baltimoreans got their start.

It should be a great day, and we would love for you to join us!

Best Wishes,

Abby

See you on the 25th!

See you on the 25th!

3) Dear Abby,

I’m from out of town, but my son lives in Baltimore, and I’ll be visiting him during Chanukah.  Since you work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you must know everything there is to know about Jewish Baltimore! The first and most important thing I must know is …where is the best place to go for Chanukah shopping? I still have several people left on my holiday gift list—which brings me to my next question. My husband is a dreidel enthusiast. He collects dreidels of all kinds. I’d like to buy one for him to add to his collection, but every time I see some in the stores, I realize he has at least one of each kind there. I need to find him a unique dreidel. Is there some kind of dreidel emporium in Baltimore?

The next important thing I need to know is…which is the best deli in Baltimore? Is it Attman’s, Lenny’s, or Weiss’s?

 

Happy Hanukkah!

Mrs. Dreideleh

 

Dear Mrs. Dreideleh,

I see you have your priorities straight! I’m more than happy to answer your questions—and the first one in particular. It just so happens that the best place in Baltimore to go to for all of your Chanukah shopping needs is…the JMM! We are currently having a Chanukah Madness sale, which means that everything in the shop that is Chanukah related is 25% off until the end of December.

Joseph's Coat Menorah

Joseph’s Coat Menorah

Do you need a menorah in the shape of a trolley car? We’ve got it! Do you need Chanukah candles? We’ve got it! Do you need more gelt than you can possibly eat in a life time? We’ve got it! We also, of course, have our usual array of Jewish books, art, games, and jewelry that are perfect for that special someone on your holiday gift list.

Safed Candles from Israel

Safed Candles from Israel

Which brings me to your second question: do we have a supply of not-your-everyday dreidels? Of course we do! We have metallic dreidels, wooden dreidels, and we have plastic dreidels that you can fill with candy. We also have a whole case full of decorative dreidels that come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I couldn’t possibly describe them all, so you’ll just have to come down here yourself to take a look.

And while you’re down here, you can sample the three delis of Corned Beef Row and decide for yourself which one is best.

 

Happy Shopping,

Abby

 

4) Dear Abby,

I hate winter.  I hate the snow and the slush and the cold winds. I especially hate driving in this weather—people are just crazy when the weather turns bad! The whole season makes me wish I were a bear with lots of fur and nice warm cave to hibernate in. But if I can’t sleep the season away, I might as well keep myself entertained, and I do enjoy the exhibits and programs that you have at the JMM.

However, the last thing I want to do is battle the elements and idiotic drivers to get to the museum only to discover that it has closed because of the weather.  How do I find out ahead of time whether the museum has decided to close or open late (or close early)?

 

Sincerely,

Waiting for Spring

 

Dear Waiting for Spring,

I’m glad you asked that question because it’s a very important one. There are times when the weather outside is frightful and we do have to close the museum. The first place you can always check for this kind of information is our website:  www.jewishmuseummd.org .  If we have plans to close the building, it will be posted on the middle of the front page.  We try to make sure we’ve posted our decision by 9am so that you can make plans accordingly.  If it’s a weekday, our policy for the first day of any weather event is to go along with whatever the Baltimore City Schools are doing. After the first day, however, we make the decision ourselves based on the conditions of the roads and on the ability of the folks who clear the sidewalk and secure the building to make it to Lloyd Street.

We’re a hardy group, so we try not to close unless it is really necessary!

 

Best Wishes,

Abby

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