Did you know that many Jewish children celebrate not one but two New Year’s each year? You’re probably familiar with January 1, which is the day we all welcome a new year on the Gregorian or Western calendar. In addition, Jewish children celebrate their own new year each fall, right around the beginning of the school year. It’s called Rosh Hashanah.
If you ask any Jewish child what their favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is, they are likely to say eating apples dipped in honey, a fun and sticky ritual meant to ensure a sweet year. Because the Jewish New Year coincides with fall, apples feature prominently in the celebration and festival meals, and some families like to pick apples and make applesauce for the holiday to serve with brisket or eat with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
A new children’s book by first time author Allison Sarnoff Soffer and illustrated by Bob McMahon, explores the tradition through the eyes of a child, Katy, who looks forward every year to picking apples and making applesauce with her mom before Rosh Hashanah.
Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014), Katy’s beloved tradition with her mom gets sidelined because of the arrival of a new baby cousin. However, Katy’s friends, school, neighborhood and her dad work together to preserve Katy’s “Apple Day” in time to make applesauce for the holiday.
Every child knows what it’s like to have his or her own priorities pushed aside occasionally because of the needs of another family member—maybe someone got sick or has an important play performance at the same time as a special party. While it doesn’t feel good, it’s part of growing up and realizing that other people have needs that are as important as our own.
However, as in Apple Days, sometimes there are solutions that might not be exactly what we envisioned, but in the end work out at least as well as the original plan and can restore our aching hearts. The book is an excellent lesson in the importance of flexibility and the power of a caring community.
Whether you visit an apple orchard or buy the apples at a farmer’s market or supermarket, you’ll enjoy making your own sweet applesauce like Katy does in Apple Days. Serve it with meat or stir it into yogurt or ice cream (it’s also delicious topped with granola!), or eat it on its own as a light side dish or dessert.
Recipe: Katy’s Applesauce (adapted from recipe in Apple Days)
- 10 assorted apples
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- A generous sprinkle of cinnamon
- Peel, core and chop the apples.
- In a large saucepan, add the apples, water and sugar. Bring the apple mixture to a boil and simmer.
- While the apples are cooking, add the cinnamon and lemon juice. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes with the lid ajar, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft.
- Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon, mash the soft apples into a sauce. Delicious served warm or cold.
Note: a food processor or immersion blender will help create a smoother texture.