Bobbi and Gad Matzner head up the team that makes the brisket and corned beef for next week’s “Bubbie’s Brisket and Bakery: A Jewish Food Extravaganza.”
And indeed, it takes a team to get ready for the popular annual event, set for Nov. 13. The Matzners and five other volunteers from the Beth Shalom Synagogue started last Thursday seasoning, preparing, slicing, portioning and packaging over 400 pounds of brisket and 600 pounds of corned beef in the kosher kitchen at Beth Shalom.
“I don’t care if I see another pound of meat for a while,” Bobbi Matzner said. This past Sunday, her husband Gad and a few others were busy until 7 p.m. making pre-orders of 31 pounds of brisket for pick-up Tuesday.
Again this year, representatives from the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative will be at Bubbie’s. The initiative – a partnership of Historic Columbia, Jewish Community Center and Columbia Jewish Federation – is an ongoing of documenting as well as providing access to and awareness of Jewish history in the Columbia area.
One of the group’s side projects is an updated online version of a cookbook originally printed in the 1970s by the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization. If people have a copy of “The Stuffed Bagel,” printed first in 1975 and again in 1990, the Initiative would be interested in seeing how (or if) families might have altered the recipes. Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative members will have scanners available for guests to scan and share recipes and photographs of their families – especially their bubbies (grandmothers).
“Exploring family stories and traditions around food is another entry point into better understanding (Jewish) culture. And uniting around a table to share is a great way to bring people from various backgrounds together,” said Robin Waites, executive director of Historic Columbia.
And there are other events putting the spotlight on Jewish culture. An expanded Jewish Film Festival is playing now in Columbia through mid-November.
Bubbie’s is the largest annual fund raising event for Beth Shalom’s congregation, and it took a hit from last year’s flooding.
“Everyone was just trying to get through the day,” Bobbi Matzner said of last year’s festival. The Matzners live near the chain of lakes where failing dams caused the most damage and still have to take a circuitous route to the synagogue, because only one bridge has been repaired since last October.
The secret to great brisket, Bobbi said, depends on where you come from.
Bobbi Matzner is a first-generation American, and her mother grew up in Europe and survived the Holocaust. Like most European versions, her mother’s brisket recipe tends to be more savory than sweet and uses little or no salt and only light use of spices. “She did use a sauce base, but the gravy is all au jus, no flour,” she said. Bobbi’s not-so-secret advice is to leave the fat on the brisket until it is done cooking – low and slow – and then let it rest and cool before you trim off the fat.
This year’s featured meal at Bubbie’s will be a vegetarian plate, made of your choice of four of the following dishes: Israeli salad (cucumber, tomato and mint), kasha varnishke (noodles with whole-grain buckwheat groats), tzimmes (a sweet stew featuring carrots, sweet potatoes, raisins and dried plums), noodle kugel (egg noodle casserole made with cream and sugar, often served as a dessert), falafel (deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans and served with pita) or baba ganoush (a smooth dip made with cooked eggplant, tahini, olive oil and seasonings).
“It’s gotten easier” since Bubbie’s began eight years ago said Bobbi Matzner. “At least now we know what we’re doing. It’s a community group effort with dedicated workers who plan everything – before, during and after!”
Bubbie’s Brisket & Bakery: Jewish Food Extravaganza
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 13
Where: Beth Shalom Synagogue, 5827 N. Trenholm Rd., (803) 782-2500, www.bethshalomcolumbia.org
What: A la carte food purchases include brisket, corned beef sandwiches, stuffed cabbage, falafel, baba ganoush, challah, rugalach, mandel bread and more
Also: representatives from the Columbia Jewish Heritage Initiative will be available for recording audio files of memories, stories — and recipes — and scanning photographs documenting Jewish history in the Midlands.
Brisket, pastrami or corned beef: What’s the difference?
Although brisket, pastrami and corned beef all start with the same cut of meat — kosher cut from the front breast of the cow — what you end up with depends on how you’ve prepared the beef. In all instances, wait until the meat is cooked before trimming any excess fat — this will add flavor and help keep the meat from drying out.
Brisket: uses a slow roasting method, with chopped tomatoes, celery, onion and carrots, and is served with the resulting au jus gravy.
Pastrami: is peppered and smoked using a dry roasting method. The outside of pastrami is usually coated in black pepper.
Corned beef: is brined and uses whole peppercorns and pickling spices to season the meat, which is boiled.
Columbia Jewish Film Festival
Films are playing through Nov. 15 at Nickelodeon, downtown Columbia.
Nov. 3: “Apples from the Desert”: Rebecca Abarnabel, a single daughter born into an Orthodox Jewish family, is tired of the lifestyle that her father, Reuven, has forced upon her. She and her mother, Victoria, go on a life-changing journey between worlds.
Nov. 6: “Once in a Lifetime”: The fact-based story of a class of schoolchildren, teenagers, in a, mixed ethnic district of Paris, whose teacher decides to enter them in a competition to examine the Holocaust from the point of view of its affect on young people.
Nov. 9: “Félix & Meira”: An unusual romance blossoms between two lost souls who inhabit the same neighborhood but vastly different worlds.
Nov. 15: “A Borrowed Identity”: A Palestinian-Israeli boy named Eyad is sent to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem, where he struggles with language, culture, and identity.
Nov. 15: “My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes" : A recount of how World War II bicycling idol Gino Bartali, physician Giovanni Borromeo and other Italians worked with Jewish leaders and high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church, risking their lives by defying the Nazis to save thousands of Italy’s Jews.
Nickelodeon, 1607 Main St. (803) 254-3433, www.nickleodeon.org