by Jay Kitterman
As a youth growing up in Chicago, the Jewish New Year holidays normally arrived in late September or in some years, early October and during the World Series. I remember being unable to watch the games (they were all daytime then) for I was in temple.
Watching the series will not be an issue this year, since the Jewish New Year starts sundown Monday, Sept. 6, the earliest I can remember. The Jewish holidays appear to shift around relative to our Western – Gregorian, calendar. This is because the Jewish calendar is lunar, while the western calendar is solar.
For today’s article, I will write about some holiday food customs. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Over the centuries it has become associated with many food customs, for instance, eating sweet food to symbolize our hopes for a “Sweet New Year.”
Biblical texts often mention “honey” as the sweetener of choice, although some historians believe that the honey referenced in the Bible was a sort of fruit paste. Honey represented good living and wealth. The Land of Israel is often called the land of “milk and honey” in the Bible.
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, we dip challah into honey and say the blessing over the challah. Then, we dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet year.
Patrick from Incredibly Delicious always goes to the special effort of making round challahs for the holiday. He advises that all round challahs must be ordered (call 217-528-8548) by Friday, 10 a.m. and picked up on Saturday, Sept. 4.
Challah is a kind of braided egg bread that is traditionally served by Jews on Shabbat. During Rosh Hashanah, however, the loaves are shaped into spirals or rounds symbolizing the continuity of Creation. Sometimes raisins or honey are added to the recipe in order to make the resulting loaves extra sweet.
Honey cake is another traditional item for a Sweet New Year. Often people will use a recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Honey cake can be made with a variety of spices, though autumnal spices (cloves, cinnamon, allspice) are especially popular. Different recipes call for the use of coffee, tea, orange juice or even rum to add an additional dimension of flavor.
A pomegranate is often in the holiday meal. In the Bible, the Land of Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that this fruit contains 613 seeds just as there are 613 laws. Another reason given for blessing and eating pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah is that we wish that our good deeds in the ensuing year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate.
Rosh Hashanah literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew. For this reason, in some Jewish communities, it is traditional to eat the head of a fish during the Rosh Hashanah holiday meal. Fish is also eaten because it is an ancient symbol of fertility and abundance.
I am often asked by my non-Jewish friends what an appropriate holiday greeting is. Very simply, just say “Happy New Year.” Jews will often greet one another on the holiday with the rough Hebrew equivalent, shana tovah (pronounced shah-NAH toe-VAH), which literally means “good year.”
We wish everyone a healthy and Sweet New Year. Shana tovah!
Another traditional holiday food is a kugel. Kugel, a type of pudding, is an Eastern European culinary mainstay that every Jewish person’s grandmother makes and is an expectation for the holiday. You don’t have to be Jewish to love it! Expert baker Merle Shiffman has provided us a recipe for Kugel. Thank you, Merle.
Double Apple Noodle Kugel
Makes 12 servings.
- 16 oz wide or extra wide egg noodles
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) nondairy or regular margarine or butter melted
- 1 cup natural applesauce without sugar added
- 4 whole large eggs
- 2 large egg whites
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup raisins
- 4 medium green apples, such as Pippin or Granny Smith, peeled, quartered thinly sliced
- Nonstick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole with nonstick spray
Kugel-Cook noodles several minutes less than package directions until barely tender. Drain and return to saucepan. Add melted margarine and applesauce and toss to coat. In a medium bowl, whisk whole eggs, whites, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until blended. Stir into noodles with raisins and apples. Mix well. Pour into casserole, spread evenly. Spray a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and place on top of noodles. (Unbaked kugel may be refrigerated overnight.)
Bake, covered at 350F for 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 375. Remove foil, spray top with nonstick spray, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let sit at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!