June Hersh: Iconic Jewish Food, Kosher Hot Dogs and Onion Rings Recipe

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 24
September 28, 2023

Cookbook author June Hersh grew up enjoying foods that were the best of both worlds.

“I came from what I call a mixed marriage,” Hersh, author of “Iconic New York Jewish Food: A History and Guide with Recipes,” told the Journal. “My mother is Ashkenazi, my father is Sephardic, and I think that gave me the benefit of really being exposed to two very different types of Jewish cuisine.”

Most of her friends were raised on matzo ball soup and potato latkes. These “beige foods,” which Hersh loves by the way, come out of a typical Ashkenazi kitchen.

“It was really fun to have that other aspect of cooking in my life and fabulous Sephardic dishes,” she said. “It made our house so unique during the holidays.”

While Hersh grew up with a love of food, cooking and eating, her foray into writing came later, after they sold the family business in 2004.

“My sister said to me, ‘We did well, now, let’s do good,’” Hersh said. “I was trying to think what my good was going to be, and that’s when I approached the Museum of Jewish Heritage to write a cookbook.”

“Recipes Remembered, a Celebration of Survival” is a compendium of stories and recipes gathered from Hersh’s interviews with Holocaust survivors. The book’s goal is to preserve food memory and honor the legacy of the Holocaust survivor community. A newer version, called “Food, Hope & Resilience” will be out in November. All of her books and book signings have a charitable component.

“Recipes Remembered” was my first foray into food writing, and it’s just been a delicious ride ever since,” Hersh said.

Hersh says her latest book, “Iconic New York Jewish Food” could have also been called, “Iconic New York Food That Happens to be Jewish.”

“When I was beginning to write the book I realized that … most of the dishes that are the most craveworthy in New York – that people travel across the country to sample that line up on a weekend to to taste and savor – happen to be Jewish foods,” Hersh said. “These are not just Jewish foods; they’re foods that really everybody loves and associates with New York lifestyle and New York culture.”

She adds, “The stories that are built around the foods that we eat – that we cherish [and have] nourished and nurtured us for so many decades and centuries – have such a wonderful provenance; I think that’s what makes them so especially satisfying.”

Hersh’s favorite iconic Jewish food is the kosher hot dog.

“Give me a good, crisp hot dog on a roll with mustard, and do not put ketchup on it, because that is an insult to the hot dog world,” she said.

For the history behind the hotdog, go to JewishJournal.com/podcasts, and check out the latest episode of Taste Buds with Deb. Hersh’s recipes for Onion Rings and Refrigerator Pickles are below.

On this episode of Taste Buds with Deb, host Debra Eckerling speaks with food writer and cookbook author June Hersh, “Iconic New York Jewish Food.” Hersh discusses her foodie origins, the connection between recipes and history and her favorite iconic Jewish food: the kosher hot dog. She also shares recipes for onion rings and refrigerator pickles. Recipes are below.

Read more about June Hersh and follow @JuneHersh on Instagram.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:


Beer Battered Onion Rings


Crispy onion rings can stand up to that snappy first bite of a juicy kosher frank, one of New York’s most Iconic Jewish Foods. Use mustard for your hotdog and have a big bowl of ketchup ready for the rings to take a dunk.

2 large Vidalia onions, peeled and cut into ½” thick rings.

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour, divided.

½ cup cornstarch, divided

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1- 1 ½ cups golden ale

Vegetable oil

Separate the rings of the sliced onions (removing the thin film) and place in an ice water bath for about 15 minutes. This helps mellow out the flavor. While they soak, prepare the dredge, batter and oil.

Place 3/4 cup of flour in a dredging dish with ¼ cup cornstarch.

Place the remaining flour and cornstarch in a mixing bowl seasoned with the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk in 1 cup of beer to create a thin pancake-like batter, adding more beer if needed. Don’t overmix; you want the airy bubbles to remain.

Bring 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a Dutch oven. Set a cooling rack over a baking pan

Remove the onion rings from the ice water, dry thoroughly, then dredge in flour/cornstarch mixture. Shake off excess and dip into the batter, allowing extra coating to fall back into the bowl.

Drop several rings into the heated oil allowing them to turn golden brown (1½ minutes), flip over and continue cooking until golden brown (45-60 seconds more). Remove with tongs to the waiting rack and season with kosher salt. Repeat until all the rings have been fried, being sure to maintain 375-degree temperature throughout.

Serve at once or keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.


Quick Refrigerator Pickles

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Here’s a quick refrigerator pickle that needs no fancy equipment, just a jar (or container) and an overnight stint in the fridge. They last for weeks, but I doubt they’ll be around that long once everyone tastes them.

4 Kirby or the equivalent weight in English cucumbers

¼ bunch (about 10 sprigs) fresh dill, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 tablespoon pickling spice

¾ cup distilled white vinegar (if you prefer a sweeter pickle use apple cider vinegar)

¾ cup cold water

Cut the cucumbers in coins, about ¼” thick. Place them in a 1-quart jar along with the dill and garlic.  Try to create layers so that all the ingredients mingle.

In a measuring cup combine the salt, pepper, pickling spice, vinegar and water, stir to combine.  Pour the liquid into the jar, adding water and vinegar in equal parts if needed to fill the jar.  Close the lid and give it a good shake, making sure the cucumbers are submerged.

Refrigerate at least 1 day, for a true pickle flavor.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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