It feels like the summer has hardly begun but this Shabbat we usher in the month of Elul, the opening act to the High Holiday Season. Elul is a heavy time for Jews. Since Rosh Hashana is the Yom HaDin, the Judgment Day, Elul is the time to prepare for that judgment. The way to do this is through prayer, repentence and charity, hopefully all three with some cooking in between. Next to Passover, Rosh Hashana is the Jewish callender’s most food intensive holiday. There are at least a dozen official symbolic foods and many other lesser known ones.
A well known Israeli Yeshiva dean insists that all his Rosh Hashana food be invested with symbolic value. If he’s having chicken he’ll recite a prayer that the enemies of the Jewish people should fly away. (sheyaoofo sonaynu. The Hebrew word for chicken oaf is linguistically related to the word la’oof which means to fly). By the way, during the Second Lebanon War some pundits quipped that one should eat Oaf Im Humous, chicken with chickpeas. so that Hamas (the terrorist organization whose name sounds like humous or chickpeas) should fly away (la’oof).
Another major symbolic theme is fertilty. With assimilation and intermarriage at an all time high, we Jews are an endangered species. In his wonderful book, Rosh Hashana Secrets. Rabbi Dovid Meisels says that some Ashkenazi Jews eat pears on Rosh Hashana because the fruit’s Yiddish name, fruchtbaren connotes fecundity (as does the pear’s shape). On Rosh Hashana and at any time of the year, these pears are a wonderfully tasty, light close to a long and heavy meal. The pairing of sweet malaga wine and the fruit is nothing short of sublime and extremely pretty too. My photo doesn’t do this dish justice.
Best of all these pears will keep in the fridge for weeks absorbing more of the flavor and lucious purple color as they age. Just be sure to cover them tightly. The left over wine marinade makes a yummy drink on it’s own or mixed with club soda.
Wine Poached Pears from Arthur Schwartz “Jewish Home Cooking”
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 and ½ cups sweet red wine
6 firm ripe Bosc pears (in Israel where I live I could only get Anjou’s which don’t absorb the wine as well)
Peel the pairs leaving the stalk intact. (No need to core or seed )
Boil together sugar, water and wine.
Insert peeled pears. Simmer together for an hour turning the pears from time to time so that they can soak up the color.
Refrigerate in tightly covered container and serve very cold.