Marijuana Matzo Balls: Jewish Food Gets a Green Twist

Denver chef Joshua Pollack’s lox and bagels will give you ‘a really nice, mellow high’ as he infuses cannabis with Jewish tradition in his New York-style deli.

These are not your bubbe’s matzo balls. Or are they?

Ever since marijuana was legalized in Colorado, Denver chef Joshua Pollack has been part of a local movement to incorporate weed’s active ingredient into various and sundry edibles. For Pollack, who runs an acclaimed New York-style deli, this means fusing Jewish tradition and Mary Jane.

Pollack first soared to fame with his attempt to cure lox in a marijuana solution. His deli, Rosenberg’s Bagels, tested that out for a local 4/20 celebration earlier this year.

It was immediately apparent that the lox had an advantage over brownies.

'The flavor is really great, not that weed brownie flavor that you try to cover up with chocolate," Rosenberg’s general manager Nicholas Bruno told The Huffington Post at the time. It’s been described as having a “herbaceous” flavor with a strong pot smell.

Pollack tries to infuse the salmon with just the right amount of THC so that a single serving on a bagel will give you “a really nice, mellow high; you’re stoned, but you’re still able to actually function,” as he told food website Grub Street.

The fish isn’t yet available for sale. Colorado’s strict laws limit the amount of THC in any serving of infused food available for sale, and achieving a consistent dosage of THC in the food has proved tricky.

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is extracted by immersing the leaves in alcohol or oil. To make the salmon, Pollack first soaks marijuana in alcohol, and then boils off the alcohol before adding some of the remaining tincture to his recipe for gravlax.

Meanwhile, oil - or schmaltz, to be precise - lends itself handily to no small number of Jewish classics. Pollack has been working on matzo balls, chopped liver and brisket, he told Grub Street.

Most recently, Pollack was invited to serve marijuana matzo balls and lox at a local Jewish food conference called the Harvest Gathering.

While weed has long been present at Jewish conferences - in an informal way, as The Forward noted - Harvest organizers told the Jewish newspaper that they believe this is the first time it’s been part of the official program.

“There’s something inherent in Judaism about cannabis use,” Pollack told The Forward.

Regardless of whether you agree with that statement, this is certainly not the first attempt to fuse pot with Jewish values and tradition. One of the stranger episodes in Israel’s political scene was the short-lived Holocaust Survivors and Grown-Up Green Leaf Party, a party campaigning for elderly rights as well as marijuana legalization that actually ran in the 2009 elections.

The idea for the party began as a political satire skit, “Sabale Yarok” - green grandpa - that came out during the 2006 election campaign.

That party never made the Knesset and has since disappeared. Which is unfortunate, because had green grandpa stuck around just a little longer, these are just the foods he might serve at your family shabbat dinner.