I love that the Jewish calendar has not one, but four “New Year’s” days. With each one, I take stock of my kitchen. I inventory my closets, cabinets, refrigerator, and freezers (I have four!). I try to find uses for the uneaten aging frozen foods and figure out what to do with all those interesting spices I bought in my travels.
The multiple New Years — the first of Nisan; 1 Tishrei, or Rosh HaShanah; and 15 Shvat, aka Tu b’Shvat (the fourth, 1 Elul, is generally unobserved) — serve to demarcate holiday observances and time-bound rituals.
At the time of the Exodus, God commanded that “this month [Nisan] is for you the beginning of the months….” So the 1 Nisan New Year’s day, in the month in which we celebrate Passover, corresponds to the redemption from Egypt and the birth of the Israelite nation. The months and holidays are counted starting from this day.
Tu b’Shvat is the New Year of the Trees. According to Jewish law, fruit from trees less than three years old cannot be consumed, and Tu b’Shvat is used as the starting date for determining the age of the trees. The mystics of Safed in the 16th century devised a Tu b’Shvat seder — now growing in popularity — that uses fruits and wine mixtures to emblemize the change of seasons and opening up to God’s holiness. For many decades, the day has served as the traditional time to plant trees in Israel through JNF and has come to symbolize environmental awareness.
And, of course, Rosh HaShanah, the start of the seventh month and regarded traditionally as the anniversary of the creation of the world. It is on this New Year’s day that the calendar year advances and from which the years are counted.
As 5778 approaches, we look forward to the blessings of a shanah tovah um’tukah. I offer two of my favorite sweet recipes for your holiday gatherings. Enjoy!
GRANDMA DOTTIE’S JEWISH APPLE CAKE
Until now, this was my family “secret.” I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does. The cake lasts a few days in an airtight container, and it also freezes well.
5-6 medium Granny Smith apples
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups + 5 Tbsps. sugar
1 cup oil (vegetable, corn, or canola)
1/3 cup orange juice
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. baking powder
nonstick cooking spray
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray Bundt pan generously with nonstick spray.
- Peel and core apples; cut into thin slices (or to your preference). Mix cinnamon and five tablespoons sugar; toss apples in mixture, coating evenly.
- Beat eggs on low speed until fully blended. Gradually add sugar, oil, juice, and vanilla.
- Combine flour, baking powder, salt in separate bowl; gradually add to egg mixture until smooth.
- Pour one-third of mixture into the pan. Place one-third of apples on top of mixture. Repeat twice.
- Bake for 90 minutes. Top should be golden brown. Check to see that cake is ready by inserting a testing stick. Stock should come out dry; the cake should not be wet or gooey.
- Let cake cool partially (20-30 minutes). Place a platter or plate on top of the pan and flip to remove cake from pan.
FRENCH ALMOND CROQUANT (CRISP)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sliced and toasted almonds
- Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray or line with parchment or silicon nonstick baking mat.
- Combine sugar and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir mixture gently over high heat only until sugar dissolves. Brush sides of pan with pastry brush or spatula to loosen any sugar.
- Continue cooking the mixture until it gets golden brown (10-15 minutes). Do not leave the mixture unattended.
- Remove mixture from heat; gently stir in almonds. Immediately pour over prepared cookie tray.
- Cool and break into pieces. May be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.