Hanukkah, which means rededication in Hebrew, celebrates the miracle that happened in the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt. In the second century BC, The Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greek Seleucids. They were trying to make the Jews more Greek. A small group of Jewish rebels, The Maccabees, managed to defeat their larger rivals. When they went to the second temple, they could only find enough non-contaminated olive oil (the Greeks, in their attempts to destroy the Second Temple, had contaminated the rest of the olive oil that was used to light the candles) to last one night. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days while until the Jews worked to purify new oil to use in the temple. Over the course of 8 nights, Jewish families around the world light a special menorah (candelabrum) called a hanukkiah (can also be spelled chanukiah) to commemorate the miracle that happened in Jerusalem. As you can see, olive oil is responsible for the miracle at the heart of this Jewish holiday.
While now the primary ritual of Hanukkah is lighting the hanukkiah/chanukiah with candles, olive oil is at the heart of the celebrations. Hanukkah, after all, is more than just lighting the candles. Some Jewish families do use oil lamps instead of wax candles to light their hanukkiah. it’s no surprise that eating foods made with olive oil is a big part of the tradition.
More specifically, Jews eat foods fried in olive oil during the Hanukkah period. Not only is olive oil healthier for you than the oils that are typically used to deep-fry food (like the fries you find at just about any fast-food restaurant), food fried in olive oil is lighter. The most typical foods that Jews eat for Hanukkah are latkes, potato pancakes, sufganiyot, and lots of different types of fritters.
You make latkes by peeling and grating potatoes. Then you mix them with eggs beat with salt and then fry them in a pan filled with boiling olive oil. You can also add other flavors and even use sweet potatoes if you heart desires. They’re traditionally served with applesauce to give you a sweet and savory combination, but they’re also delicious with some meat.
For dessert, the most popular food fried in oil are sufganiyot (plural for sufganiya in Hebrew). A sufganiya is a donut with a filling inside. They look just like any jelly donut you could get from your local Dunkin’ Donuts or bakery. While jelly fillings are the typical sufganiyot you’ll find in the US, there are different fillings you can try. Around the world, some use a chocolate filling or even dulce de leche.
If you want to truly celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah this year, La Española is your ally to make the most out of your holiday recipes.
Chanukah Sameach! (Happy Hanukkah)