The month of Elul is almost here, and so is the season for plums and pears, a connection European sages made hundreds of years ago.
The crops were not the only reason they associated the fruits with Elul (which began the evening of Aug. 20 and lasts 29 days). In Yiddish, the word for plum (floym) sounds like “flame” and the word for pear (barne) sounds like “burn” — and Elul is a time to prepare for the coming High Holidays with that kind of fiery intensity.
Here are recipes for Plum Good Pot Roast and Pear-Raisin Kuchen, a fuss-free parve cake ideal for snacking and adapted from a recipe from my husband’s late Aunt Lee.
Plum Good Pot Roast
Serves 6 to 8
- Spice mix (see below)
- 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast
- 4 Tbs. oil, divided
- 4 cups chopped onions
- 2 Tbs. chopped garlic
- ⅛ tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups 1-inch chunks of carrots
- 1 lb. plums, pitted and chopped into eighths
- 3 Tbs. lemon juice, divided
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste, divided
- 3 Tbs. honey, divided
- 1 cinnamon stick, 2 to 3 inches long
- Garnish (See below)
Prepare spice mix. Set aside half. Rub remainder all over roast. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add meat. Brown bottom. Flip and brown other side. Remove meat to rimmed plate.
Add remaining oil to pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until softened, stirring up browned on bits on the bottom. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Stir in remaining spice mix and red pepper. Add water. Bring to simmer. Add carrots, plums, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, 1 Tbs. tomato paste, 2 Tbs. honey and cinnamon stick. Return to simmer, stirring occasionally. Add meat with accumulated juices. Cover. Reduce heat to keep at simmer. Baste meat with sauce every half hour and turn meat every hour.
Simmer covered for 3 to 4 hours (timing will vary) until a dinner fork pierces meat without resistance. Remove meat. Add remaining juice, tomato paste and honey. Simmer uncovered until sauce has thickened and reduced by about half. Taste. Stir in salt, juice and or honey as needed so sauce is tangy but not too sweet or sour.
Let meat rest 20 minutes before slicing against the grain. Serve with sauce and garnish. For best results make at least a day ahead. Store meat (unsliced) and sauce separately in refrigerator. Remove fat from cold sauce if desired. Slice meat while chilled. Reheat in sauce.
Spice mix: Combine 1 tsp. salt with ½ tsp. each ground cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, and black pepper.
Garnish: Toss ¼ cup chopped parsley or mint with 1 cup chopped, pitted plums (cut in ¼-inch pieces) and 1 Tsp. each lemon juice and honey.
Aunt Lee’s Pear-Raisin Kuchen
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tsp. oil
- 1½ cups plus 1 Tbs. flour
- 2 cups peeled, chopped pears (½-inch pieces)
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- ¾ cup sugar (use 1 cup for a sweeter cake)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- ½ tsp. almond extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp. salt
- ½ cup golden or other raisins
- Cinnamon sugar, optional
Grease bottom and sides of 8-by-8-inch baking pan with 2 tsp. oil. Add 1 Tbs. flour. Tilt pan so flour covers bottom and sides. Shake out excess. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss pears with lemon juice then sugar in large bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in ⅓ cup oil, eggs and extract.
In another bowl, stir together remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix into pears. Stir in raisins. Spoon into pan. Bake about 30 minutes until top is golden and firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Slice. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.