No matter how you slice them—or bake them, juice them, braise them, or drench them in caramel and serve them on a stick—apples are the mascots of the fall harvest season. They’re at home in countless dishes, from appetizers and condiments to sides and entrées, and, of course, in delicious desserts of all kinds.
You’ll also see apples on every Rosh Hashanah table, sharing the spotlight with their co-star, honey. (You could say they make a “cameo” appearance.) The custom of dipping apples into honey on the Jewish New Year is thought to have originated with Ashkenazi Jews as far back as medieval times. Like so many other holiday food traditions, there are various interpretations about why this sweet combination symbolizes Rosh Hashanah. Some point to mentions of these ancient foods in the Torah. Others see symbolism in the star-shaped center of the fruit when it’s cut horizontally. The most common explanation is that it represents our hopes for a sweet, fruitful new year.
Apples are especially bountiful this time of year. What’s more, over 100 varieties are grown commercially in this country, according to the U.S. Apple Association. Each has its own personality; some beg to be cooked while others are best eaten fresh.
But do you know your Jonagolds from your Fujis? Kayco, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of kosher food products, presents a guide to the versatile Malus pumila, and some delicious ideas for the holiday table. So if you’re tantalized by the lovely palette of reds, golds, and greens in the produce aisle but confused about how to use them, read on. All recipes are courtesy of Kosher.com.
And don’t forget to pick up some pure, unadulterated, high-quality Gefen honey!
Apples for the Rosh Hashanah Table. Although most apples brown quickly after cutting, some varieties stay picture-perfect for a while, making them ideal for passing around the table with a honey pot close behind. These include the extra-sweet and juicy Gala, New York’s own sweet-tart Empire, the tangy Cortland, and the firm, lemony Cameo.
Apples for Cooking. The tart Granny Smith is the perfect foil for savory, salty dishes like the simple zucchini-onion Kugel (also kosher for Passover) or roasted pumpkin and apple soup. If you’re lucky enough to find delicate Gravensteins, either the red or yellow varieties, grab them. Much more ubiquitous is the all-purpose, slightly tart Cortland. Both are ideal for cooking; try them in a cinnamon-infused one-pan autumn roast chicken or these elegant caramelized onion- and apple-filled chicken breasts. When it comes to applesauce, some grandmas swear by the soft-fleshed McIntosh, while others recommend the sweet, juicy Honeycrisp or the firm Empire. Why not try a combination of all three?
Apples for Salads. Granny Smith apples aren’t just for cooking; they add zest to a vibrant marinated Waldorf salad and this creative, refreshing twist on coleslaw. Honeycrisps work beautifully in a healthy crunch-and-color salad.
Apples for Baking. Firm and sweet, the Winesap is a good choice for apple strudel. The relatively soft texture of the Golden Delicious makes it versatile for pies and desserts like this elegant apple-blueberry crisp (but handle with care; they bruise easily). Try Cortland or tart Jonagold apples in an orange cran-apple crumble, and go with the Pink Lady if you’re looking to make a splash with a classic apple pie. Any of these baking apples, or the creamy, yellow-fleshed Rome Beauties, are good choices for carrot apple muffins—ideal for Rosh Hashanah, with their honey-sweetened icing.
Apples for Lunch Boxes. When you think about how kids used to bring an apple to the teacher, the sweet, crisp Red Delicious is what comes to mind. But many other varieties are perfect for eating out of hand as well. The juicy, sunrise-colored Braeburn has a spicy-sweet flavor, while Honeycrisps are as sweet and satisfyingly crisp as their name promises. The Japanese-born Fuji and the popular Gala are also very sweet and firm, and they’re typically available all year long.
Kayco (www.kayco.com) is the leading kosher-food distributor in America, with a variety of brands and products available at supermarkets, independent grocers, kosher-food stores, and natural-food stores throughout the U.S.