Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, celebrates heritage and a chance for rejuvenation.
Emily Paster, author of the newly released “The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More — for Holidays and Every Day” said the most common Rosh Hashanah tradition is to eat sweet foods to symbolize the hope for a new year.
“Ashkenazi Jews, for example, often begin the Rosh Hashanah meal by dipping slices of apple in honey,” said Paster, who lives in the Chicago area and writes the popular blog westoftheloop.com. “Quince is the traditional Rosh Hashanah fruit for Sephardic Jews. Other foods are traditional because eating them is considered to be a good omen for the new year, bringing luck and prosperity. These traditions are often based on a food’s color or appearance; or, more obscurely, they are a play on the Hebrew or Yiddish name for the food.”
“With fall being peak season for leeks, these sweet, tender fritters are the perfect appetizer for your Rosh Hashanah meal. And, naturally, leeks are also a symbolic food for the start of the new year. The word for leek in Hebrew is related to the word kareyt, which means ‘to cut.’ Prior to eating leeks on Rosh Hashanah, Sephardic Jews recite a special prayer that those who wish to hurt them will instead be cut down.”
Some of the Rosh Hashanah recipes included in Paster’s book are Fruitful Fig Jam, Golden Pumpkin Butter, Quince Paste and Apple Honey and Rose Water Jam.
“Every recipe in my book was inspired by an idea, and I developed every recipe myself because I wanted it to be a cookbook that everyone can use,” Paster says.
Some recipes call for canning and the use of a pressure cooker. If you’re short on time, you can make the jams, ketchups, pickles, conserves, chutneys and pastes and then refrigerate them. It means a shorter shelf life but less time in the kitchen.
As for Paster, this Rosh Hashanah holiday she’ll definitely be making a round challah.
“Usually challah is a braided oval, but we make a round one on RH to symbolize the never-ending cycle of years and seasons, says Paster, a graduate of Princeton University and University of Michigan’s Law School and a former attorney whose interest in food segued into researching and writing about the subject.
“I begin the meal with chicken soup and a meat-filled dumpling called kreplach. These dumplings are not as famous as matzo balls, but they are very special and traditional for the High Holidays. Some people serve them the night before Yom Kippur — which is the day we fast. I also usually make brisket for the main course. These leek patties are a nice side dish. Dessert is often an apple or honey cake. I like to change it every year.”
Eftes de Prasa (Leek Fritters)
6 leeks, white and green parts only, halved and sliced thinly
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, such as Panko
1/4 cup chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup neutral oil with high smoke point from frying, such as canola or grapeseed
Lemon wedges for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
Sauté the sliced leeks until softened, about ten minutes, but do not allow them to brown. Adjust heat as necessary. Season well with salt and pepper.
Place softened leeks in a large bowl. Add beaten egg, bread crumbs, and chives and combine well.
Heat oil for frying in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Preheat oven to 250. When oil is shimmering, but not smoking, form golf ball-sized balls of batter with damp hands and drop them, three or four at a time, in the skillet and flatten slightly with a spatula.
Cook fritters until browned on first side, 1-2 minutes and turn carefully turn them over and cook on other side, another 1-2 minutes until browned. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary. Keep cooked fritters warm in the oven until all the batter is cooked.
Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.
Fritters can be made in advance and chilled until needed. Reheat in a 400 degree oven prior to serving.
Makes 1 loaf
4 cups all-purpose flour
2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup water,
approximately 110 degrees
3 eggs, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
Poppy or sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, and warm water. Stir to combine. Add 2 eggs, the vegetable oil, sugar, honey, and salt.
Mix the dough with the dough hook until a smooth dough emerges, about 5 minutes.
The dough should be smooth and elastic. It may be slightly tacky to the touch.
Place the dough in a bowl that has been oiled on all sides. Cover the dough with a clean cloth and allow it to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch down risen dough and divide into 3 equal parts. I like to use my kitchen scale to ensure my pieces are of equal size.
Roll each piece into a thin strand about 2 feet long. Pinch the 3 strands together at the top and then braid until you reach the end of each strand. Take the ends and pinch them closed and tuck the under the loaf.
Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover the loaf with a clean tea towel and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Before placing the loaf in the oven, beat the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of water in
a small bowl. Brush the egg wash on the challah, making sure to get in the crevices of the braids. If desired, sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds over the top. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.
Apple, Honey and Rose Water Jam
Makes four 8-ounce jars
3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-in dice (6 to 7 cups prepped)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1½ cups sugar
1 cup honey
1 teaspoon rose water
Prepare a boiling water bath and heat four 8-ounce jars.
Place the apples, ½ cup of water, and lemon juice in a wide, deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stir, and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium, and cook until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent sticking or burning.
Mash the apples coarsely with a fork or potato masher. Add the sugar and honey to the pot, stirring to dissolve. Return to a boil over medium-high heat.
Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and mounds up on a spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. It will splatter, so use caution.
Remove the jam from the heat and stir in the rose water. Ladle jam into clean, warm jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace at the top. Bubble the jars and wipe the rims with a damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings just until you feel resistance. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the water for 5 minutes before removing. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.