Golden and deliciously savory, schmaltz—Yiddish for rendered poultry fat—is a traditional cooking fat used in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. It was once used in making matzah balls where today we use oil. Schmaltz matzah balls will be the best you've ever had!
Bring on the schmaltz
When you say that something is "schmaltzy," it means that it's a tearjerker in an especially cloying kind of way. It's cheap and greasy and trying to get you to cry. When you say that food is schmaltzy, you mean that there's schmaltz in it—rendered poultry fat. Nowadays, that mostly means chicken fat but back in the day it was also likely to be goose fat.
You can render chicken fat yourself by cooking fatty skins in a frying pan. When I lived on the East Coast and could get chicken skins for this purpose from the wonderful Grow & Behold, that's what I would do. As a bonus, when you render your own schmaltz, you'll get gribenes: the crisped skins, my personal vote for The Real Jewish Bacon.
To purchase schmaltz already rendered, check in the kosher freezer section of supermarkets that have them. You might be able to find a little canister of the golden stuff by Empire Kosher (pictured above).
Store schmaltz in the fridge, where it will last for a long time, and scoop it out as needed. It's no mistake that schmaltz looks like whipped butter: it's basically meat butter, making it handy in the kosher kitchen for savory meaty things. Like matzah balls.
Making the matzah balls
You'll want to soften your schmaltz to room temperature before whisking it with the eggs and spices to make matzah balls. Otherwise, the process is the same as making regular matzah balls: After the egg and fat, the matzah meal goes into the bowl, followed by cold water. The mixture will be loose after you first mix it, but a half hour (or more) in the fridge and it'll firm up nicely. The chilled matzah ball dough should shape up nicely and be easy to work with. Make the matzah balls a bit smaller than you want them, because they do puff up a bit.
You can cook your matzah balls directly in simmering chicken soup, or separately in a pot of boiling water. The soup will stay clearer in appearance if you boil them separately, but the flavor is the same. Matzah balls need to cook for just a few minutes, until lightened and floating.