Remembrances of Rosh Hashanah Apples Past

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An apple next to an apple slice
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There is something about the simplicity of apple slices surrounding a little pot of honey that kindles the hope for a sweet New Year among Jews around the world.

The combination of two sweets symbolizes a year sugared with good fortune. Each bite bestows dreams for the future and nostalgia for the past.

Every family has its own traditions. Some people eat apples and honey at the beginning of the meal. I always serve these treats after the main course, because I consider their natural sweetness a dessert.

But apples need not be reserved for dipping in honey. I like to sprinkle them into Rosh Hashanah dishes, something that is customary at Jewish New Year’s celebrations in dishes such as apple strudel, pies and tarts, as well as apple coffeecakes and babkas. I layer apples into noodle puddings, side dishes and roasted chicken stuffing.

With Rosh Hashanah starting on the late side this year, on Sept. 29, apple season will be in full swing. I adore riding into an orchard on a dusty wagon and picking my own apples for Rosh Hashanah. I come by this naturally, because I was born in Syracuse, New York State’s apple country.

One Rosh Hashanah in the 1990s, my Aunt Ruth waxed poetic about the apples from Syracuse where she’d lived for her first 68 years. By then, she’d retired to Delray Beach, Florida.

“The thing I miss most about home are the apples,” she said. “I still dream about the juicy Northern Spys I used to buy by the bushel.” She longed for them more than the seasons changing or the leaves turning a bright McIntosh red. In Florida, a raft of Syracuse friends surrounded her.

“But the mealy fruit they sell down here wrapped in cellophane is a sorry excuse for an apple,” she said. “Of course, we still dip apples in honey. It wouldn’t be Rosh Hashanah without them.”

In the recipes below, Cortland, Gala or any baking apples are recommended.

Apple and Acorn Squash Casserole | Pareve

Serves 8-10

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 3 acorn squash
  • 6 baking apples
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 7-inch-by-11-inch ovenproof baking dish with nonstick spray. Reserve.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and bake the squash for one hour, until soft. Cool to room temperature. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into slices about ⅛-inch thick.

In a large pot, heat the oil over a low flame. Add the apples and sprinkle them with cinnamon, cloves and salt. Mix gently to coat the apples evenly. Cover the pan. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes or until the apples soften.

Spread the apples across the bottom on the prepared baking dish. With a spoon, scoop the squash from its skin and dollop it evenly over the apples. With the back of a spoon, flatten the dollops to spread them as evenly as possible.

Sprinkle the casserole with the topping below and bake for 20 minutes, or until the casserole bubbles and the topping is light brown and crunchy. Serve immediately.

Topping

  • 1 cup raw oatmeal, plus 2 handfuls. (Don’t use instant or quick cooking 1-minute oatmeal.)
  • ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons margarine, melted

Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until well blended.

Apple and Challah Stuffing | Meat

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 stalks celery, scraped and diced
  • 3 apples, skinned, cored and diced fine
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 1 large round challah (or equivalent amount of leftover challah)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • Nonstick vegetable spray, if needed

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium flame. Sauté the onion in the oil until transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the celery, apples and sage. Stir until combined. Sauté until the celery and apples wilt, about 5 minutes.

Break the challah into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot. Stir until combined. Slowly drizzle in the chicken stock and stir until the mixture holds together. Use the excess stock for another purpose or discard it. Let the stuffing cool to room temperature.

Option 1: Stuff a bird (8-pound chicken or a 10-pound turkey) and roast it as usual. Note: Stuffed poultry often takes longer to roast.

Option 2: Coat a medium-size ovenproof casserole with nonstick spray. Move the stuffing to the prepared casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the stuffing bubbles at the edges. Serve immediately.

Apple Noodle Pudding | Pareve

Serves 12-14

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 pound broad noodles
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 baking apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 6 tablespoons margarine, melted

Place the raisins in a bowl of hot water while assembling the ingredients. Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain them in a colander. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, amaretto and lemon juice. With an electric mixer, beat until the mixture thickens and appears creamy. Drain the raisins in a strainer. Add them to the egg yolk mixture, along with the noodles and apples. Stir gently.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the noodle mixture.

Coat a 10-inch-by-15-inch ovenproof baking dish with nonstick spray. Pour the noodle mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Drizzle the margarine on top. Bake for one hour, until casserole bubbles and the top browns lightly. Serve immediately.

Apple Burst Bundt Cake | Pareve

Serves 10

Make this cake a day ahead to let its luscious flavors intermingle.

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 3 cups baking apples (about 3-4), peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 5 tablespoons sugar, plus 2 cups
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ⅛ teaspoon cloves
  • ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9-inch Bundt pan with nonstick spray.

In a bowl, combine the apples with 5 tablespoons of sugar and spices until coated. The apples will appear muddy. Reserve.

Sift the flour, salt and the remaining 2 cups of sugar and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth, at least 2 minutes.

Drain the apples in a colander.

Spread a third of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan. Spread half the apples over the batter, keeping the apples away from the sides of the pan. Spoon another third of the batter over the apples. Spread the remaining apples over the batter. Cover the apples with the last batch of batter.

Bake for 15 minutes. Tent the Bundt pan with aluminum foil and bake for another hour or until the top of the cake is firm and a toothpick inserted inside returns batter free. Cool completely before unmolding.

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