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Matzo Balls: Sinkers or Floaters?

A funny thing happens when your child’s Will Eat list dwindles into the single-digits: You find yourself making things you’ve never attempted before, just because he ate them elsewhere with abandon. Such is the case with matzo balls. During Passover, pretty much every one of Harry’s favorite foods is off-limits. Pasta. Waffles. Bagels. Pasta. Macaroni. Pasta. Cheerios. But I noticed at a recent Shabbat dinner at his school that my son has developed a fondness for matzo balls, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’ve been watching my mom & dad make them all my life—how hard could it be?

Pretty hard, it turns out. The making itself was smooth, even effortless. You mix up the ingredients the night before, refrigerate, and the next day simmer the balls in salted water. Nothing to it. Except for the small matter of texture. It’s a hotly contested topic among my people: Floaters vs Sinkers. Y’see, I’m a Floater girl. I like my matzo balls fluffy, light enough to need a tether. But even though I followed my mom’s instructions to the letter, my first-ever batch of balls were lead Sinkers. Dense as concrete, sturdy enough to cut with a knife. I was disappointed.

But Harry was thrilled. He ate FIVE. Five matzo balls in one sitting. And four for lunch the next day. It was the most he ate all Passover long. Dude, I’ll take it. And I must admit, in the end I kinda liked the sinkers, too. If I only knew what I’d done to make it happen, I’d make them again the same way.

How about you? Sinkers, or floaters? Any tips on how to make them come out one way or the other?

Traditional Matzo Balls

Makes 8

2 tablespoons fat (my parents use Rokeach Nyafat, but with my mom’s blessing I used oil)

2 eggs, slightly beaten (at room temp)

½ cup matzo meal

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons hot chicken broth, preferably from a pot of freshly-made soup

Note from my mom: “I always make a double recipe. I don’t recommend trying to triple it, as the matzo balls swell a lot while boiling. Best to make it in multiple double batches if for a crowd.”

Mix fat and eggs together. Add matzo meal and salt. When well blended, add hot broth.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. (If making more than a double batch, put each double batch in a separate container.)

About an hour before dinnertime, bring a large, wide pot of salted water to a brisk boil.

While waiting for it to boil, form 8 balls, each a bit bigger than a golf ball, with moistened hands.

Reduce flame and slip the balls into the bubbling water. Make sure water stays at a boil while dropping in each matzo ball.

Cover pot and boil gently for 30 to 40 minutes.*

Have soup nearly at the boil, and use a slotted spoon to gently move each matzo ball from the water to the soup pot. When ready to serve, allow soup to simmer for about five minutes.

*Supposedly, if your balls float during cooking they’re floaters, and if they hang low they’re sinkers. Makes sense, except that mine were floating at the end of cooking and still sank to the bottom of the bowl.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Bari K

    Go Harry! I can eat matzo balls every day during passover. For floaters you have to mix them very lightly and gently, say with a whisk then a fork. Not a spatula and definitely not your hands. I think its the overmixing that makes them hard.

  2. Megan

    Yes, Bari is right. For sinkers, mix VERY well, and mold into tight balls with your hands. For floaters, mix lightly, and use two spoons to form the actual balls. Just scoop out a little of the batter onto one spoon, then use the other spoon to drop it into the pot. They won't be perfectly formed and round, but they will be light and fluffy. You can also use seltzer water instead of water/broth to make them fluffier, too.

  3. ~M

    I can't eat matzo balls since they contain gluten but I've heard the same as Bari that overmixing makes for sinkers. Handle them extremely lightly, and maybe use soda water to try to get floaters.

  4. Unplanned Cooking

    I'm always surprised by what my kids will eat and what they won't. Often there's no rhyme or reason to it. This looks great.

  5. michelle

    I'm with you on the floaters, but I think any kind of matzo ball is pretty tasty. I'm impressed that you go the "from scratch" route as I still rely on a nice box of Manishevitz. The key for me seems to be to beat the eggs with a fork and chill them a bit longer then called for, but that might just be on the boxed mixes.

    My 3 yo daughter also inhaled them this year during Passover, which is why I was crestfallen when a perfect batch of soup with freshly made matzo balls came crashing to the floor Friday night.

  6. DailyChef

    I just keep giggling thinking of matzo balls as sinkers or floaters. I know, I'm very mature…

  7. debbie koenig

    Wow, ask a question, get an answer! Thanks so much, guys. The mixing idea makes sense since it's the same advice for making meatballs. And I've often heard the seltzer thing, but I never understood where to use it–somehow I didn't think of replacing the soup in the recipe.

    Next time I make soup, I'll give the light mixing & seltzer a try.

  8. lark

    My mom always says seltzer isn't necessary–we just beat the eggs a lot (with a fork), refrigerate for at least half an hour (means you can decide more at the last minute that you want to make matzah balls, rather than refrigerating overnight), and then, 'cause we're lazy, just scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture and drop them in the soup. No need to form balls. They're less pretty, but just as tasty. And we use half regular matzah meal, half whole wheat–gives them more oomph, even though they're floaters.

  9. 25BAR

    that broth looks awesome!

  10. marthaandme

    I like the denser, heavier ones. It seems like the floaters sort of come apart in the soup and dissipate.

  11. jesse

    We do what lark does. We also use nyafat, spoon into extremely unpacked and loose balls, and refrigerate for 45 minutes. My mom taught me this method and it always results in light, floaty matza balls. Good luck, adn way to go Harry– thems some good food!

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