The Joys of Jewish Preserving

Inspired by the bounty at her local farmers market and a desire to eat more locally and seasonally, Emily Paster began preserving and pickling ten years ago.

In her fabulous new cookbook, The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More—for Holidays and Every Day, Emily combines her love of preserving with her love for traditional Jewish foods.

Emily writes for the popular blog West of the Loop primarily about food but with forays into parenting and family life, and she is the co-founder of the Chicago Food Swap, a national leader in the growing food swap movement. The author of Food Swap (Storey, 2016), she lives in a suburb of Chicago.

Emily and I had a lovely lunch last week when she was in town to promote her book at one of my favorite spots in San Francisco, 20th Century Cafe. Fellow Jewish food bloggers Yael Cohen of Nosherium, Beth Lee from OMG Yummy, and Kristen Posner from Nourish-SF joined us for a lively talk during which we learned all about the rich Jewish tradition of preserving and pickling foods.

Preserved foods are central to all Jewish cooking traditions, and Jewish cooks, even casual ones, are proud of the history of preserved foods in Jewish life, from the time of living in a desert two millennia ago to the era in which Jews lived in European ghettos with no refrigeration during the last century. In earlier times, preserving was part of the preparation for various Jewish festivals.

Emily told us that Ashkenazi Jews preserved summer fruits for winter as a matter of necessity because of the harsh climate and because pickled vegetables livened up their bland diet. Furthermore, Sephardic Jews made preserves and jams with local fruits—such as quince, figs, and dates—for joyous occasions. Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, beautiful spreads of pickled and marinated vegetables were served as appetizers before meals. Because of the laws of kashrut forbidding dairy after meat meals, fruits and nuts were often a typical way to end a meal, and preserving fruits was a way to enjoy those fruits not in season.

With over 75 terrific recipes both sweet and savory, and rich and detailed information about Jewish food traditions, The Joys of Jewish Preserving is a celebration of delicious foods from Jewish cooks. With recipes such as Slow Cooker Peach Levkar, Russian Style Sour Cherry Preserves (recipe below), Apricot Walnut Eingemacht, Golden Pumpkin Butter for Rosh Hashanah, Polish Style Pickled Beets, Syrian Pickled Cauliflower, and more, this is a book that will take you beautifully from Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot and season to season.

I’m looking forward to pickling and preserving my way through The Joys of Jewish Preserving all summer long.

All photos (with the exception of Emily’s photo) were taken by Leigh Olson from The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More—for Holidays and Every Day, by Emily Paster courtesy of Harvard Common Press. Author photo: Doug McGoldrick

Russian-Style Sour Cherry Preserves
Courtesy of The Joys of Jewish Preserving: Modern Recipes with Traditional Roots, for Jams, Pickles, Fruit Butters, and More—for Holidays and Every Day, by Emily Paster, Harvard Common Press

From Emily: Cherries are an ancient fruit but, unlike many other ancient fruits, do not appear anywhere in the Bible or Talmud. Nevertheless, as cherries grow abundantly throughout Europe and the Middle East, they are a vital part of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish cuisines. There are two kinds of cherries, sweet and sour. Sweet cherries can be eaten fresh. Sour cherries, which are smaller and less shiny, are primarily used for baking, preserving, and juice. I find that most sweet cherries, while delicious for eating out of hand, can be cloying as a jam, so I use sour cherries for preserving. Sour cherries are notoriously fragile and perishable, and they are not usually sold in grocery stores. You may have to seek them out at a local farmers’ market during their relatively short season, but it is worth the effort. This kind of cherry preserve, with whole fruits suspended in syrup, is typical of Russian cuisine. The fruit preserves are not spread on bread or toast, but rather eaten with a spoon to accompany tea. You may enjoy these cherries over ice cream, as a topping for cheese blintzes, or swirled into yogurt.

Makes three 8-ounce (235-ml) jars

2 lbs (908g) sour cherries, pitted 2 cups (400 g) sugar
2 cups (400 g) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄8 teaspoon cloves

Prepare a boiling water bath and heat three 8-ounce (235-ml) jars. Combine the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a large pot.  Let it sit for an hour, until the cherries have released their juices and the sugar has mostly dissolved. If using frozen cherries, thaw them completely before continuing. Stir the fruit and collected juices. Add the cinnamon and cloves, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 minutes. It may seem watery, but it will thicken as it cools. Ladle an even amount of cherries and syrup into clean, warm jars leaving 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) of headspace at the top. Bubble the jars well, adding more syrup if necessary, and wipe the rims with a damp cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw on the rings just until you feel resistance. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the water for 5 minutes before removing.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Note: You may have leftover syrup. Save it to flavor seltzer or cocktail



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4 Comments on The Joys of Jewish Preserving

  1. David
    July 23, 2017 at 11:34 pm (5 years ago)

    Beautiful photos!! can’t wait to try this stuff!!

  2. Tammy
    July 24, 2017 at 12:11 am (5 years ago)

    Perfect timing–we just had a bumper crop of cucumbers and were thinking of the best way to preserve them…pickles!

    • Janie friend
      July 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm (5 years ago)

      I love reserving. Will enjoy these recipes.

  3. Michael
    July 26, 2017 at 1:19 pm (5 years ago)

    Another amazing post Julie!!!!


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