The potato knishes take weeks to make because of the sheer quantity of my mom’s ambition. From 60 lbs of potatoes and the perfect number of onions to complement, my mother would make about 1,200 potato knishes every year for eight households. Many have travelled to Montreal, and some even made the transatlantic flight to England when I was abroad. Now, these are not 1,200 New York-style-sized knishes. They are about the size of a silver dollar and are perfect single bites. 1,200 is still 1,200 though, and they are each hand-rolled to perfect proportion.
My mom learned the knish trade from her grandmother, Bubbie Yetta. She has been making these knishes for almost fifty years, first with Bubbie, then with her kids, and teaching a few friends and family members over the years. It is a well-honed operation. My mom would often begin making the ‘insides,’ as we call it, in July when we were off at camp. The scent of fried onions would take over the house. As my siblings and I grew older, an unnamed few would object to the smell. My mother, ever accommodating yet committed to the task, would stuff towels at the bottom of the kitchen doors to hold in the smell. But it always broke through and the smell lingered for days. Once the onions were folded into the mashed potatoes, it took everything in our power to sneak only a few bites.