Twice a month, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa shares a Shabbat greeting from a member of our Board of Directors. This Friday, we are pleased to share this personal message from Danya Vered.
Dear friends,

This time of year reminds me of two of my favourite things: my family and my mom’s potato knishes. Or maybe it is my mom’s potato knishes and my family (the knishes are really that delicious!). Growing up, we hosted Erev Rosh Hashanah for family and friends. The house would be filled with laughter and the fragrance of potato knishes. (See the evidence of the joy they bring in the photo below from 2007.)
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.
Rolling, stuffing, and folding the knish dough is an art form. We would line up around our kitchen island and do our darnedest. The supply of ‘insides’ seemed never-ending and we didn’t want it to end. It was meaningful to be together, consequential to contribute to the mass quantity, and an adventure to be covered in flour and potatoes. It was fun to identify our misshapen knishes on our plates once all was said and done and Rosh Hashana arrived. That is, if we looked at the knishes long enough before stuffing our faces.
Who knew I would end up writing this Shabbat message about potato knishes? I started writing about a different topic. Once potato knishes entered my mind, it was all I could think about. We all deserve a little knish-like escape. While the pandemic stopped us from ‘knishing’ together, we know it is temporary. As we look forward to the year ahead, I hope we can each find our own knish-esque memories and traditions to warm our hearts until we can gather together again. And eat potato knishes to our heart’s content.

PS. While my mother has never written down the Vered family Knish Dish (she prepares it by feel), here is a link to various knish recipes. Please let me know if you try them!