Apples and honey for the new year
It always surprises me to see local apples in the markets when it still feels like summer. Somehow I think of apples as a fall fruit but it’s really a transition fruit between summer and fall, some ripening in the warmer weather and some sweetening up after the first frost.
It’s no surprise that apples play a major role in the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which always falls sometime in September or October; apple season. It is both a time of rejoicing and of serious introspection, a time to celebrate the completion of another year while also taking stock of one’s life. We eat apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah to symbolize our hope for a sweet new year.
I will always remember someone telling me that true love is knowing what your partner’s favorite apple is.
Here are some recipes to share with your loved ones and help celebrate the Jewish New Year:
Easy Apple Cake
2 eggs 1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (to taste) 1/2 cup oil, or softened butter 6 medium Honey Crisp apples (or any favorite apple will do) 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cinnamon and oil.
Peel and slice the apples and add to mixture in bowl (coating as you go to keep apples from turning brown.)
Mix together the baking powder and flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Mix well (best with a fork) until all of the flour is absorbed by the wet ingredients.
Pour mixture into a greased one 9x13 or two 9″ round pans.
Bake for approximately 55 minutes at 350 F.
Apple cider (sweet, hard or vinegar)
Cider is made by fermenting fresh apple juice, using the natural yeast present in the apples for fermenting. This is a great way to use up apples that are small or blemished, although it is necessary to cut out any brown or decayed spots and mold. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly and follow directions carefully to ensure your cider is made and stored safely. Pasteurization is the best way to ensure food safety, but many people take the risk and choose to forgo pasteurization in favor of preserving strains of wild yeasts and bacteria in the cider, which affect flavor, and possibly nutrient availability.
Yield: 1 Bushel makes about 3 gallons
1 bushel of apples (or less for smaller batches); you can use any combination of sweet, aromatic or tart apples, but avoid green, underripe apples as those result in a flat flavor.
Before juicing, rinse apples lightly, then slice into quarters.
Wash buckets, jars, bottles, and other utensils in hot, soapy water and rinse well.
Depending on availability of equipment there are several ways to extract the juice from the apples:
Use a food processor or blender to chop the cleaned apples. Place apples in a clean muslin sack or pillow case. Twist and squeeze out the juice into a bowl.
Or use an electric juicer, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Or for larger quantities, use an apple press.
Once you've squeezed out the juice, you can drink immediately or make apple cider.
To make sweet cider, use a funnel and pour the apple juice into clean jars or bottles. Use a cotton ball or coffee filter with a band to cover the container. Capping with an airtight lid could cause an explosion if not burped frequently.
Let stand at 72 F. for 3 or 4 days.
After 3 - 4 days, bubbles will begin to form on top of the juice. Now is the time to stop or slow fermentation by placing it in the refrigerator. You can rack off the cider to eliminate the sediment, if a clear cider is desired.
*If not drinking immediately, you may pasteurize the cider to prevent food borne illness. Heat cider to between 160 F. - 170 F. for 10 minutes. Do not boil. Skim off any foam that may develop and pour the hot cider into heated, clean and sanitized glass bottles or jars. Refrigerate immediately, or to freeze, fill containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace for expansion and allow to cool in refrigerator before placing in freezer.
Hard (dry, alcoholic) cider
Let the apple juice* ferment at room temperature for about 10 - 14 days. Leave some headroom in the glass bottles or jars and use an airlock (or several layers of cheesecloth secured with a string or rubber band) to allow gasses to escape.
To increase alcohol content, honey or brown sugar may be added, as well as commercial yeast. Recipe here.
At about 10 days the cider will look quite frothy and possibly foam over the top of the container. Just replace the muslin with a clean piece and allow the process to continue until it quits foaming, which signals that fermentation is complete. The sugars have all been converted to alcohol.
Enjoy responsibly and don't share with children.
Note: To make sparkling cider, sugar must be added back and carbonation allowed to build up in sealed bottles. This can be tricky and involves pasteurization. Click here for some thorough instructions.
Apple cider vinegar
Making vinegar simply involves allowing the apple cider to ferment beyond the sweet and hard stages until it tastes like vinegar.
Place the unpasteurized apple cider in a dark colored jar or bottle, leaving 25% head space for foaming during fermentation
Cover with a triple layer of cheesecloth or clean tea towel secured over the top of the container with string.
Store the juice in a cool, dark place for 4 to 6 months. At 4 months, remove the cover and taste the vinegar. If it is strong enough, bottle it and pasteurize at 170 F. for 10 minutes, if desired.
If it is not as strong as you would like it, let it continue to ferment, tasting weekly until desired flavor is achieved.
During fermentation, the vinegar will form a jelly-like substance on top (a SCOBY). This is the "mother", which can be saved (prior to fermentation) to use as a starter for making future batches of vinegar. It speeds up the process considerably.
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