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P’tcha, also known in Yiddish as galyer, galareta and fusnoge, is a classic Ashkenazic dish made from jellied calves’ feet.
In this video, two lifelong friends, Irene Kronhill Pletka and Ruth Sher-Friede, who grew up together in Melbourne’s Bundist community, demonstrate how to make ptcha with a twist: Since the selling of calves’ feet is illegal in Australia, they needed to prepare the dish without its most famous ingredient so Ruth explains what her butcher recommended she use instead.
And then the two ladies get to work, preparing the centuries-old dish with playful energy and the obvious competence of years of experience.
Irene Kronhill Pletka, who was visiting Melbourne when she decided to do the p’tcha cooking demo, currently lives in New York and serves as the vice-chairman of YIVO’s board. She also runs a foundation that supports Yiddish culture. Pletka was born in Shanghai to Jewish refugees from Poland who had received visas from the Japanese consul in Lithuania, Chiune Sugihara. After the war her family settled in Melbourne, where she studied at a Yiddish school two days a week and was an active member of the Bund’s youth movement, “Skif”.
Ruth Sher-Friede was born in Melbourne in 1941 to parents who had left Riga in 1939. She studied at the I. L. Peretz Yiddish Sunday School and later taught there for years. She was active in the Bund’s youth movement, “Skif,” both as a child and later as a “helfer,” a group leader. A retired pediatric physiotherapist, she and her husband, Henry (Anush) Friede, married in 1963 and have two children and five grandchildren.
Henry Anush Friede, who filmed the video, was born in 1940 in Kazan, Russia to Jewish refugees from Lodz. His father was mobilized in the Soviet army and killed in action in 1943. After the war, Henry, along with his mother and grandparents, returned to Lodz, where he attended a Yiddish preschool. Fleeing anti-Semitism in Poland, the family was smuggled into Belgium by the Bund in 1946. The young Henry studied Yiddish in Brussels; among his teachers was the Yiddish novelist, Chava Rosenfarb. In 1950 he and his family settled in Melbourne, where he met his future wife through “Skif.” The couple raised their children as Yiddish speakers.
For those who want to try making p’tcha themselves, here is the recipe:
P’tcha (without calves’ feet)
6 pounds of calves’ feet (or chicken feet, beef knuckles and/or oxtails or a mixture)
2 bunches of flat parsley
2 heads of garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
Chopped fresh thyme
20 quail eggs
Boil the quail eggs for 4 minutes and peel them.
Put the calves’ feet (or chicken feet, calf knuckles and/or oxtails) into 1 or 2 large stock pots and add water to cover. Add garlic, carrots, parsnips, parsley, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and simmer on medium heat for 2-3 hours, skimming off the froth from time to time. When the meat is falling off the bone, it’s done.
Remove from heat. Remove the meat and bones into a bowl and pour the liquid through a sieve lined with paper towels to ensure a clear broth. Pour a small amount of broth into the prepared pans and allow to set in the fridge.
Chop the meat finely, adding thyme, salt and ground pepper to taste. Combine the meat mixture with the broth.
Cut each quail egg in half. Cut the cooked carrot chunks into small circles using a very small cookie cutter.
Place the egg halves and carrot rounds into two 9” x 13” baking dishes. Carefully pour the broth-meat-thyme mixture over the eggs and carrots and place the two oblong pans into the fridge overnight until it gels.
Flip the two oblong pans onto trays. Serve with cider vinegar, lemon juice or mustard.