Today is the first of the two day Jewish celebration, Rosh Hashanah. The name means “Head of the Year” and is observed for two days beginning on 1 Tishrei, the first day of the Jewish year. The Jewish New Year is the first of the holy days which occurs in autumn in the Northern hemisphere. Rosh Hashanah is said to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of humanity’s role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of man’s first sin and his repentance thereof, and serves as the first of the “Ten Days of Repentance” which culminate on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Unlike modern New Year’s celebrations, which are often raucous parties, Rosh Hashanah is a subdued and contemplative holiday. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”. Ancient Jews believed apples had healing properties, and the honey signifies the hope that the New Year will be sweet. Rosh Hashanah meals usually include an assortment of sweet treats for the same reason, including dates and pomegranates.
Ofcourse, food customs vary for people of the Jewish faith in different regions. One warm apple dish that appealed to me is a rustic compote called Mansanada. The term “Mansanada” immediately triggered apples in my head as in Spanish manzana is apple. Lo and behold Mansanada is a Sephardic – Spanish and North African – Jewish spiced apple appetizer served at Rosh Hashanah. It harks the essence of fall in my mind.
4 Cups water
1 Cup honey
Juice of 1 lemon
6 Cups (6 medium/2 pounds) tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into wedges
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of grated nutmeg
In a large pot, bring the honey, sugar, and lemon juice to a simmer over medium heat on the stove. Add the apples and cook until tender but not mushy (about 7 minutes). Remove the apples. Boil the cooking liquid until syrupy, then pour over the apples. It is generally served on yogurt. I would take the liberty of sprinkling a little cinnamon on top for garnish as well.