Just a quick explanation here about cholent:
On Shabbat, cooking is prohibited. This means if you want something hot during the 26 hours that comprise the Sabbath, you need to a) have whatever you want pre-cooked, and b) a way to heat it up or keep it warm set up before sundown Friday. By no means is this all that is required for food preparation for the Sabbath, but this is the most basic fundamentals, in terms of hot food.
Cholent is a dish that is prepared Friday morning or afternoon and left to sit on a heat source until it is ready to be eaten for Shabbat lunch. The main components of cholent is meat, potatoes, onions, barley, and beans and often kishka (derma). But no two cholents are exactly alike and there are many different versions of cholent. For example, Sephardic Jews make chamin usually made with lamb, rice, herbs and spices and eggs.
I never would have thought that a company would go and make mixes for cholent. To me, how people season and prepare their cholent is so individual, unique to each family, each Shabbat, that to try to replicate and mass produce that flavor would seem to be impossible.
When I was give the chance to review this product, I had to try it. I had to know if something from a box could come close to an authentic cholent taste.
If you have never made cholent before, or you feel you need a bit of help in terms of a spice profile, the Purely American Savory Beef Cholent Mix is not a bad way to go. You add beef, potatoes, (barley if desired) and the contents of the box. Mix with water, let cook overnight. You will have a very tasty, hot cholent waiting for you on Shabbat morning. The flavor and texture reminded me more strongly of a hearty beef stew. It was pleasant, but not what I would have expected for a cholent. The bean blend cooked wonderfully, and the amount of seasoning provided was just right, despite there be no added salt.
I also tested the Moroccan Lamb Cholent kit, all you need to do is add lamb stew meat and red potatoes. It was tasty, but the flavor was milder than I would have expected. However the flavor profile was just right for lamb and the chickpeas made it more authentic. Both dishes are easy to make and would be a welcome change for our Shabbat meals.
The most pleasant surprise was the healthiness of the product. The mixes are salt, MSG and gluten free, yet give great flavor. For a packaged product, considering all factors, I would have to say this is one of the more superior pre-packaged products I have seen available to the kosher customer.
Would you try a cholent kit?
Now's your chance, enter to win a Cholent Kit Sampler. The winner can choose any 6 cholent kits, currently being offered on Purely American, a $30 value. To enter to win follow the options on rafflecopter below.
I want to thank Tamar Genger at JoyofKosher.com for sending me the samples of cholent/stew mixes to review. All opinions are my own.