Fall: Rejoice, Renew and Recycle

I woke up this morning and took a fresh look at the month of Jewish holidays, which we have just finished, beginning with Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, then Sukkot and finally Shemini Atzeret, and the very festive day of Simchat Torah, when we rejoice in completing the yearly cycle of reading the Torah and begin again. I realized that the fall season holds a promise (and not just of cold weather and winter!) that our cycle is one that will renew, will begin again.

Then I thought about two common aphorisms that apply to the fall season's fruits and vegetables: "Pretty is as pretty does," and "Waste not, want not."

I am walking around our store, Hungarian Kosher Foods, and I am looking at all the fruits of autumn and although today the sky is clear, blue and beautiful, I realize that all too soon, it will be cold. So this is the time to take advantage and use these beautiful fruits to full advantage. They are not just pretty to look at but delicious when prepared as preserves to enjoy through the cold winter season.

We have just finished Sukkot, so I still have the very fragrant esrog which we used on Sukkot. And if you are looking to use the esrog, as I am, you have to begin to prepare it. It takes 7 days to prepare the esrog so you can use it to make candy or preserves or even Esrog-Quince Compote (one of my favorite recipes from the cookbook).

I notice that we still have Italian plums and also quinces on our fruit display. So I am sure I am going to get busy today cooking up the plums into a beautiful rich Lekvar (another recipe and one of my father's favorite foods) which I will have to last me until next August, when the plums are ripe again. Also I am planning to make quince preserves.

In the days when my mom was growing up in Hungary, they really practiced "Waste not, want not" is every possible way. They used the cool, underground root cellar with its steady just-above-freezing temperature to store the potatoes, cabbage and other hardy vegetables during the long winter months. In addition they not only preserved fruits (the traditional recipes which we have today), they also preserved vegetables, making tomatoes into tomato sauce and other vegetables into pickles.

When we walk the aisles of today's supermarkets and we see everything a cook could desire both in and out of season thanks to 24-hour air transport, it helps to remember that food has not always been so abundant and that there are big parts of the world (even our own towns) where people are hungry. So using what we have becomes a form both of respect and of gratitude.

With the gratitude in mind, I want to get you started on my recipe for quince preserves. You can find it on page 260 in my book, Food Family and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances. (For a more detailed recipe, see the book) To make about 1 quart of preserves, you will need about 4 to 5 quinces, 1/2 lemon, seeded and finely chopped, equal amounts of water and sugar (I use 2 cups of each). Leave the peel on the quinces (and the lemon), dice the quinces, saving the cores and tying them in cheesecloth. Place all the ingredients in a 4-quart heavy pot, (Including the cores in the cheesecloth) cook at the lowest heat, stirring occasionally, for hours. After about 1/2 hour, you will be amazed at the aromatic fragrance which is permeating your kitchen. Continue to cook, until the preserves are rosy, and thick and glossy. Follow the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for proper canning instructions, and enjoy the preserves throughout the year!