When I lived in California, I always had a big, beautiful and very productive garden in which I grew organic, heirloom vegetables. Our fruit trees provided us with plums, peaches, citrus, cherries and figs. It seemed sensible with five children and one steady income to supplement our grocery bill with healthy, garden-fresh produce. With super abundant yields, I learned home canning and preserving, making sauces, pickles, chutneys and jams to last us into winter. Living in earthquake country, it also seemed wise to have a store of food on hand in the event of emergency. And when I needed holiday or hostess gifts, I used what I had made to create some pretty fabulous gift baskets. There was always enough at hand to give to a new neighbor or friend in need.
Coming to Israel, not only was continuing an organic garden important to me, but making my (award winning in California) lines of preserves, chutneys, relishes and pickles would become my business – Tamar Gourmet. We were so blessed to rent a home with huge concrete planter boxes outside every window and surrounding our upstairs balcony. The first thing I did when we moved here was to plant.
From the beginning of our Israeli adventure, the realization that there was more to Jewishness than the narrow Ashkenaz (European Jewish) culture than that which I was brought up in. This place is diverse in its mix of Jews from all over the world: the Spanish Sephardim, the Middle Eastern Mizrachi; the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Indian. They have all come here with their own palates creating a taste explosion of spices and food preparation styles, each with their own contribution to this remarkable land. What fun it’s been to get a sampling and learn from the different cultures!!! And for me, experimenting to create a fusion of the different flavors has been challenging, and many times yielding amazing results.
This time of year, late summer, is especially wonderful here, as everyone seems to be preparing for the great Fall Feasts!! From Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year – to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, Mercy & Forgiveness – to Sukkot, the Feast of the Harvest where we dwell for a week in tabernacles – to Simchat Torah, the rejoicing over the Five Books of Moses given to the Jewish people by G-d. And each holiday comes with its traditional foods (yes, even Yom Kippur, a fasting day, starts with a heavy meal before and ends in a sumptuous break fast).
I’d like to share with you some recipes incorporating these different cultures and traditions.
SWEET PEAR PICKLES
I guess home preserving runs deep in my blood, because I remember my parents making pickled pears every year before Rosh HaShannah. Last year, I was going through some boxes and came across my dad’s recipe! So, I’m glad to be able to continue the family tradition. Totally Ashkenaz!
As my parents did, I use the tiny, brown Sekel pears. They are hard and sweet and stand up well to pickling, retaining their firmness without any mushiness. They keep really well for a year, and are delicious as a side dish or sliced up in a salad with blue cheese crumbles and walnuts. I’ve also used them on top of a cake with my Tamar Gourmet Vanilla Pear Conserves as a filling for the middle layers. Absolute heaven!
Ingredients: (makes 8 pints/4 quarts)
5 pounds Sekel Pears (2 1/2 kg) 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 cups spring water 1 cup apple cider vinegar 2 cups sugar 4 sticks cinnamon (broken in half for pint jars) whole cloves 24 whole peppercorns
Thoroughly wash the jars and lids. Submerge them in a large pot filled with water so that they are completely covered. I use a wire rack underneath to insure water circulation. (If using Mason, Kerr, or Ball jars, sterilize lids only, not screw bands). Bring to boiling and let boil for 20 minutes while you prepare the pears and syrup.
Wash the pears and cut in half. No need to peel them. Core out the seeds. Place in large bowl of ice water with lemon juice to prevent browning.
For liquid – Add vinegar, sugar and 3 cups spring water to a pot and heat on stove until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Remove jars from water bath. Add 1/2 stick cinnamon, 8 cloves & 4 peppercorns to each PINT jar. Add 1 cinnamon stick, 16 cloves, 8 peppercorns to the QUART size. Firmly pack in the halved pears. Ladle syrup over the top until there is 1/4 inch headspace. Place lids on top. Screw on the bands.
Place filled jars back into hot water bath and process (bring to boil) for 10 minutes to insure any germs are gone. Take out of bath and let cool on clean towel. The lids will make a slight popping sound as they seal, and should not feel springy when pressed on with finger. This could take up to half an hour. Store when room temperature. Refrigerate after opening.
Chutneys give limitless opportunity for experimentation. I make several varieties and use them on sandwiches, as part of an hors-d’oeuvre board with crackers and cheese, and even mixed into cooked rice as an accompaniment to meats. Especially yummy on burgers or with spices Indian food! I’ve developed my own basic recipe, but really enjoy playing around with different veggie, fruit and spice combos to create the ultimate, perfectly balanced pickle.
The British set seem raving mad about their chutneys, each having their own opinion on the perfect combo. I’ve learned a few new twists from my Indian friends from B’nei Menashe. But ultimately, I rely on what I have at hand and my family’s taste preferences.
I start with a kilo (about 2 pounds) of vegetable – my last endeavor used up the beets in my garden. Sooo yummy! You can try cauliflower, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, peppers… Into a very large pot, cut peeled veg into bite sized pieces. I always add 1 whole, peeled purple onion, cut up. Then add your fresh fruit: 2 cups cut up pears or apples, apricots, peaches, mangos, pineapple. Mix in a cup of dried fruit such as dates, raisins, cranberries, cherries, Add 1 cup apple cider vinegar to the mixture in the pot. Next stir in your sweetener, if you need it (to your taste. Often I leave out the sweetener as the fruits make it rich enough). You can add honey, brown sugar, silan – date syrup- or maple syrup. The spices can be as conventional or exotic as you wish. Powdered cloves, ginger, cardamom, pepper, nutmeg, cumin, curries, allspice, turmeric, chili, even espresso powder in small amounts or horseradish are interesting additions. Use the spices that best suit your flavor palate. Add a little at first and increase very, very gradually. The chutney flavors tend to intensify during cooking and in the week after. After bringing up the heat on the stove to a near-boil, I let the mixture simmer for a few hours, until the fruits and veggies are soft, and the fragrance in the house becomes irresistible. (Works great in a crock pot too!) Then I ladle the hot chutney mixture into sterilized jars, sealing the lids, and processing for 10 minutes in a boiling hot water bath. The chutney keeps for a year unopened, but can be stored in fridge for up to a month after opening.
My Choggia Beet harvest was pretty sweet last fall, so I made the most delicious – and easy pickled beets. They are soooo beautiful!! If Choggias aren’t available, golden or red beets will work as well. They’re pretty tempting straight from the jar, but my favorite is to place them on a bed of mixed greens with my pickled onions and feta cheese. I use a little of the juice as a dressing. Pretty amazing!!
Ingredients: (3-4 pint jars) 2 pounds (1 kilo) beets, peeled & sliced into circles 1/2 cup white (or champagne!!!!) vinegar 1 cup spring water 1/4 cup sugar 1 /2 cinnamon stick per jar 8 whole cloves per jar 4 peppercorns per jar
Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water bath 20 minutes. In large bowl, mix the vinegar, water & sugar, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cloves and whole peppercorns to each jar. Pack in beet slices. Pour liquid over top. Add the cinnamon stick. Seal with lid and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Keeps for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.
This summer, my basil has been out-of-control outrageous! I’ve trimmed it up numerous times for Caprese Salad (sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, drizzled olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper & basil leaves). It’s a tremendous add to my spaghetti sauces, pizzas and panzanella (stale bread cubes, tomato pieces, red onion cubes, and basil with an Italian dressing poured overtop).Lately, I’ve been making pesto, canning much, freezing some in ice cube trays, and stirring it into a 15% cream sauce with some grated Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano to serve atop pasta. Really delicious! So – here’s an easy Pesto Recipe that’s sure to delight! Pour it over roasted chicken for an awesome change of pace.
3 cups fresh, washed basil leaves 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 4 nice big pieces garlic 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Place all of the ingredients in food processor or cup of an immersion blender and process until a thick paste forms. Can be used immediately; refrigerated; frozen in ice cube trays (stored in freezer baggies); or processed in glass canning jars.
Pickles are all very popular here in Israel – the Yemenite and Mizrachi Middle Eastern Variety. Pickled eggplants done up many ways, pickled cauliflower, turnips, olives, cucumbers, green tomato, carrots. Most are very vinegary and most are harif – very, very spicy for my family’s tastes. You will not find the usual Kosher, half, sour garlic dills here (although I have an old New York deli recipe that I’ve played around with). These assorted pickles can be found at any falafel stand and are often served at table before a meal.
Here, I will present 4 versions of pickled carrots, each representing the different cultures.
SHABTAI’S CARROTS (HARIF!!!!!)
These are sure to knock your socks off!! Please adjust to your own taste-
2 pounds very fresh, hard carrots, peeled & sliced into rounds (1 kilo) 5-10 small, green chilis, sliced into rounds (please don’t rub your eyes – and wear gloves. I did this with him, and it burned my skin for hours!!!!) 1 white or yellow onion, sliced and quartered 1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds 1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds 1 tsp carraway seeds 3 cups white vinegar 1 cup water 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup salt
Shabtai didn’t bottle to sterilize his jars (I would). He recycled old mayo jars (I wouldn’t). I guess the peppers will kill almost anything…
In large bowl combine the veggies.
Toast the seeds over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to release fragrance. The seeds should just start popping, but not turn brown.
In another bowl add vinegar, water, sugar & salt. Mix well for sugar & salt to dissolve as much as possible. Pour over veggie mix and let sit for an hour. Ladle into jars. Put in fridge.
ROLA’S EEMAH’S CARROT PICKLES
This is a Mizrachi family recipe. It’s more than possible that it came from the Persian Jews who immigrated to Israel to escape persecution and genocide in the 1970s, as did Rola and her parents.
2 pounds fresh, hard carrots, scrubbed & sliced into strips 1 small head cauliflower, washed, cut into bite sized pieces 1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded & cut into thin strips 1 Tbsp mustard seeds 1 Tbsp coriander seeds 1 Tbsp cumin seeds 1 Tbsp whole cloves 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns 1 large bay leaf, crumbled 1/2 tsp curcuma (tumeric powder) 10 cloves garlic, peeled, whole 600 ml (2 1/2 cups) white wine vinegar 100 grams (1/2 cup) white sugar 1 tsp salt for each jar made.
Cook the carrots and cauliflower in very salted boiling water 5 minutes to soften. Drain. Toast seeds and bay leaf in large pot until it releases it’s fragrance, about 1-2 minutes on medium heat. To this, add vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.
Arrange veggies and divided garlic cloves to each clean (sterilized) jar. Pour pickling liquid over top to cover the veggies completely. Add 1 tsp salt to each jar before sealing. I would place this in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for safety reasons, but Rosa didn’t seem concerned. Let it sit for 2 weeks before serving at room temp.
URI’S PICKLED CARROTS I really like Uri’s carrots. I stayed with Uri during my pilot trip, and after a long day, I would come back and devour a bowl of these light and tasty carrots! He was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors of Eastern Europe. Uri fought in the 1967 War, and is an amazing vegan chef who still practices yoga and goes for long bike rides. This is his own recipe ( I added the sugar just to balance the tartness).
1 kilo (2 pounds) peeled carrots, sliced into rounds 3 green onions, cut into bits 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder 1/2 cup white vinegar 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 tsp salt 2-3 fresh dill sprigs
Cook the carrots in boiling, salted water for a few minutes to soften. Drain. Combine rest of the ingredients, minus green onions and mix well to dissolve. Pour over carrots. Stir in green onion. Place dill sprigs on top. Cover and refrigerate.
MY MOM’S “COPPER PENNIES”
OK, so this was a staple in my house when I was growing up. My mother would give them out to friends and neighbors at holidays. Today, they remain a favorite item. John & the kids use the sauce to spoon over backed chicken or roast beef. They’re a Shabbat table regular at our house. Years ago I “stole” her original clip out recipe… if she were alive today, I hope she’d feel honored…thanks, Mom!
(Note: here in Israel, I haven’t been able to find canned soups, so I’ve learned to make and store jars of my own – even tomato!!!!)
Next week’s post will have recipes using the Seven Species of produce grown here in Israel and their significance, both spiritually and culinary…. stay tuned!