Ruth's Cholent

Cholent is comfort food for the Jewish sabbath. It is a long-cooking meat and bean dish that was designed to accommodate the proscription against cooking on the sabbath. Consequently, cholent is begun on Friday afternoon, partially cooked and then put on a blech (a specially designed burner cover or warming tray that follows the religious restrictions and allows for food to be kept hot for long periods of time) or in a crock-pot to continue cooking slowly until the sabbath (Saturday) noon meal.

This recipe was originally taught to me by Yehudit Taube in Rehovot, Israel where we were on sabbatical in 1976-77. Mrs. Taube, a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust and lived for many years in Montreal with her husband (a noted cantor), made aliyah in 1976 to Rehovot; she died in March, 2003--may her memory be for a blessing.

Mrs. Taube cooked her cholent slowly in a foil-lined box built by her son, in which he installed a single lightbulb as the heat source. She began the cholent on her stove, brought it to a boil, and then simmered it on the stove for an hour or so until just before the sabbath begins. Before the sabbath, she put the pot into the foil-lined box to continue the slow cooking until lunch on Saturday. I've always been intrigued by her method, but I've never tried it.


Heat oil in a 10 quart enameled pot, as heavy and well-insulated as possible. Sauté onions and meat until lightly browned. Add parsley and barley, stir quickly. Add beans, potatoes, and about 2 cups of water. Stir a few times to be sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining ingredients, ending with the kishke. Then cover the mixture with water, up to the top of the cholent. Be sure that you have about 1-1/2 to 2 inches above the mixture at the top of the pot. Heat very, very slowly to a simmer to avoid burning. Cover tightly, and cook for 20-24 hours (on a blech). The cholent needs to just bubble to maintain a safe temperature.

It's important not to burn the cholent, so additional water can be added if it becomes dry. Serve the cholent either on one large server tray, directly from the cooking pot, or separated into its meat and other components in several serving bowls. Accompany cholent with a green salad, sliced tomatoes, or other salads. This is a very heavy and rich dish and should be served with light, crisp side dishes.

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