Sweet and sour stuffed cabbage to celebrate the harvest

A cabbage leaf ready to roll.

A cabbage leaf ready to roll.

HOW CAN SOMETHING that smells so awful taste so delicious? I’m talking about cooked cabbage, that cliche of novels and movies of immigrants in tenement houses. Specifically stuffed cabbage, this week’s recipe. I will be the first to admit that the scent of cooking cabbage is not up there with fresh bread and popcorn as an enticing aroma. Cooking it as stuffed cabbage tempers the problem a bit, because you also get the bouquet of cooking meat and tomato sauce. But don’t be put off by the fear of cooking cabbage! The end result is well worth it.

Before the recipe, let me tell you why I am coking it this week.

In the Jewish world we are preparing for Sukkot (usually translated as “Tabernacles” or “Booths”), a lovely seven-day festival (eight days outside of Israel) that is known as “Zeman Simchateinu,” the season of our joy. It starts this year at sundown on Wednesday. The festival has a dual purpose. It celebrates the fall harvest, and it also commemorates the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.

Sukkot is a plural word (the singular is “sukkah”) that sounds like “sue COAT.” You might also hear it pronounced in Yiddish as “SOOK iss.” A sukkah can be built of anything—wood, plastic, canvas—but the roof has to be made from plant material without any nails or other metal fasteners—for example wood slats covered with pine branches, corn stalks or reed mats. You should be able to see the sky through it. In Israel, where the rainy season hasn’t yet started and it’s still warm, it’s not hard to eat and sleep in a flimsy hut with a partly-open roof. In Michigan, and anywhere else in the northern part of the United States, it can be difficult, especially when the holiday falls in October as it usually does.

When our kids were younger, they’d often declare their intention to sleep in the sukkah. Fine, we’d say, getting out the sleeping bags, foam pads and flashlights. There may have been a year—maybe two—when a child actually made it through the night. Usually the good intentions lasted until the wee hours of the morning, when they’d slink back into the warm house.

(Care to read more? This week, Debra Darvick is sharing a chapter on Sukkot from her book, This Jewish Life.)

Zayda Joe Lewis gets help decorating the sukkah.

Zayda Joe Lewis gets help decorating the sukkah.

Kid-centered decorations

The kids always enjoyed decorating the sukkah. We’d hang up their artwork and the paper chains, along with plastic fruit (real fruit rots too fast and attracts bees). We were delighted last year when our granddaughter visited from New Jersey and helped her Zayda decorate the sukkah! We add twinkly Christmas lights—bought at deep discount one year in January. We even have some lights shaped like chili peppers that I bought from the Lillian Vernon cataglog. I covet my friends’ lights that are shaped like bunches of grapes.

Plastic Thai fruit for sukkah decorations.

Plastic Thai fruit for sukkah decorations.

My friends Mandy Garver and Allen Wolf have a unique collection of plastic fruit in their sukkah. They spent two and a half years in Thailand, as employees for Ford Motor Company, and brought back a nice collection of plastic dragonfruit, jackfruit, durian and other weird-to-us southeast Asian edibles.

Fall harvest foods are popular at Sukkot. These include sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage, a recipe developed by Jews in Russia, Poland and other Eastern European countries. Some call the meat-stuffed cabbage rolls holishkas. My Grandmom Anna, who was born in Russia, called them prockas. This is the way she used to make them.

Tips for making stuffed cabbage

Lots of recipes tell you to boil the head of cabbage and then separate the leaves. This is a mess, because you need a huge pot, and then you have to handle a hot head of cabbage. Others say to cut the leaves off the head of cabbage and parboil them. This is also unsatisfactory, because it’s very hard to get intact leaves off a raw head of cabbage—and then you still have to deal with hot cabbage leaves dripping hot water all over your kitchen.

I have a better way, which I learned from my Aunt Lili. The only drawback is it takes some planning. At least a week before the holiday, buy your cabbage, wrap it well in foil, and stick it in the freezer. After a few days  take it from the freezer and put it in your fridge. A block of frozen cabbage takes a long time to defrost, so allow at least five days! You can speed up the process by defrosting it on your counter, but you’ll still need a day or two. Put the frozen cabbage into a large bowl or deep platter, because a lot of water will seep out as it defrosts.

When the cabbage is completely defrosted, cut out the core and the leaves will just fall away, nice and soft and ready for rolling.


You can see what I mean in this little video. Try to ignore the videographer (my husband) telling me to look at the camera and smile.


Still Life With Brandied Peaches

th Food-writer-Bobbie-Lewis-in-her-kitchenA NOTE FROM BOBBIE LEWIS: In the mid-1970s, it seemed like everyone had a big glass jar of brandied fruit on their kitchen counter. It looked so pretty: yellow pineapple chunks, orange peach slices, maraschino cherries. And it tasted so good as a topping for pound cake or ice cream!

We got a “starter” cup from a friend. We added fruit and sugar, waited a week or so for it to ferment, then dug in. We needed to “feed” it every couple of weeks with more sugar and fruit. The idea was that when the jar was full, we’d  give some to a friend so they could start their own pretty glass jar full of brandied fruit. This was the pyramid scheme of desserts. It didn’t take long to run out of friends—because all the friends we’d already given it to now had growing quantities of brandied fruit that they needed to foist onto their own friends! And there’s only so much boozy pound cake and ice cream one can eat.

After about six months, we euthanized our brandied fruit by eating it all up. I thought of those happy days when I read this lovely essay by guest blogger Eli Finkelman, who last instructed us about making pickles. He is a rabbi, scholar, teacher and freelance writer as well as a cook, brewer, vintner and assistant to the cheese-maker with whom he shares his home.

By Louis “Eli” Finkelman

He loved the United States of America. After all, he had come here as a teenager, alone in a strange land, and had found opportunities to raise the money to bring just about his whole birth family to America. He worked hard and planned efficiently, so that after his brothers and sisters came here, he continued to bring other relatives. He had to. His people had no future in Europe.

The Lang family, with the author's mother, age 11, at left

The Lang family, with the author’s mother, age 11, at left

He took one job after another here, whatever people would pay him to do. At one point he even had a little kosher butcher shop, but he had little aptitude for butchery. His wife saw him try to handle a meat knife and after that would not let him cut the meat. Eventually he earned enough to move his young family from Harlem. He bought a new house in the farmland of the Bronx. He immediately arranged to join the other homeowners in buying land for a synagogue.

Summer in a tent city

Soon he could afford to take his family to the tent cities of Orchard Beach for their summer vacations. The tent cities divided by ethnic group. He could have chosen to live in a Jewish “neighborhood,” but he preferred an integrated one so that his children would see that non-Jews in America were decent people, and the non-Jews would see that the Jews were good neighbors, dependable people. He saved enough money to buy some rental property elsewhere in the Bronx, but even before the official start of the Depression, he earned very little. His tenants could not always afford to pay their rent. He would sometimes take his precocious middle daughter to ask for the rent. If his tenants could not pay, they would not take out their frustration against a little girl. He believed in observing American law scrupulously, both because he was an honest, law-abiding man, and because he owed a great debt to America, the land that had allowed him to rescue his family. One American law, though, he could not take seriously. Prohibition made no sense to him. He planted grapevines in the backyard in the Bronx, so he could have homemade wine for Kiddush: a glass of wine should always accompany the prayers that introduce festive meals. Even the law of Prohibition allowed a person to make sacramental wine at home.

A still in the basement

A jar of brandied peaches, photo by Mike Willis

A jar of brandied peaches, photo by Mike Willis

Not quite as legal, he had a still in the basement, for making overripe fruit into brandy. He knew someone who had a fruit store, so there was always a source of fruit. After synagogue every Saturday morning, and every festival morning, he would invite the people from the synagogue over to his house to share huge pieces of cake or great oblong fruit pies, and one small shot of brandy each. He understood that in America there were men who drank the rent money, who came home drunk and beat their wives, or who got drunk and did not come home at all. But he could not understand how those poor women would be helped by a law that prevented the folks who visited his home in the Bronx from having their one shot each of fruit brandy. The still lasted longer than Prohibition. He lived to see the beginning of World War II, and the beginning of the realization of his worst fears about what Europe meant for Jews. He would read the newspapers, in those days, and say one bitter word: “Civilization.” After he died, his youngest son took the still apart and got rid of all those copper pipes. So I never saw the still; I saw only the ceramic crocks that once held homemade wine and brandy, made by my grandfather, Elias Hirsch Lang, who died before I was born. I know these stories because I heard them, more or less in these words, from my mother, the precocious little girl who tried to collect rent in the Bronx.

An elixir called Rumtopf

The following recipe is for an elixir the Germans call Rumtopf. They use layers of fruit as they come into season, so they get a mixed fruit liquor as a result. The Joy of Cooking calls it Tutti-Frutti Cockaigne, the name for an imaginary country where people have enough to eat. (It is also the name of the authors’ country home;  they append the word to their favorite recipes.) I like the single fruit model. The alcohol and sugar should keep the mixture fresh indefinitely. Make it now, and sometime in the winter, open up the crock and enjoy a taste of summer! (For more about spiked fruit, see this terrific article from the New York Times.) 

Mmmmmm, brisket!

The best brisket is cooked for a long time with moist heat.

The best brisket is cooked for a long time with moist heat.

There’s an old Jewish joke about cooking traditions—but there’s nothing Jewish about it. I’ve heard the same joke told by Lutherans.

A mother is showing her daughter how to cook a roast. “The first thing you do is whack off the end, like this, and put it aside,” the mother says. The daughter thinks this is odd.

“Why do you cut off the end?” she asks.

“That’s the way my mother always did it, and that’s the way she taught me.”

The girl goes to her grandma and asks her why she cuts the end off the roast before cooking it. “That’s the way my mother always did it, and that’s the way she taught me,” says the grandma.

The daughter is lucky enough to have her great-grandma still living, so she goes to her in an effort to solve the mystery. “Why do you cut off the end of the roast before you cook it?” asks the daughter.

“Because it was too big to fit in my pan,” says the great-grandma.

Ah, tradition! I think of that joke whenever I make brisket, a staple of the holiday table in Jewish families from a European background. Brisket is popular for holidays because it’s not only delicious, but it’s easy to make. Unlike a rib roast or other cut that’s best served medium-rare, it can cook for a long time. As long as you use enough liquid and keep it covered while it’s roasting, you won’t need to worry that the meat will get dried out or overcooked while you’re waiting for your guests to come home from synagogue services. And it’s even better made ahead and reheated. This week, cooks all over the world are preparing festive meals for Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish New Year celebration that starts at sundown on September 4. I thought this would be a good time to share this terrific brisket recipe from my step-aunt, Irma Zigas, who died a few months ago at the age of 83.

Cooking with Grandma

Here is a delightful video in which Irma shows her grandson Caleb how to make her famous “California” brisket.

I think it’s a very worthy memorial to her. I’ve watched it numerous times and I smile every time. It’s part of a series of multi-ethnic “cooking with grandma” videos on the www.chow.com website. The video was made for Passover, but brisket is an equal-opportunity entrée! Here’s a little bit more about Irma. She married my Uncle Art a few years after my mother’s younger sister died at 39 of breast cancer, bringing two daughters into the family with my three cousins. Art and Irma were married for 46 years. They were both New Yorkers, and at first they lived in East Meadow, on Long Island. I would see them when I visited my grandmother in Brooklyn, or at family events with my New Jersey cousins. In 1978, Art and Irma moved to San Francisco and I saw them only a few times after that at major family celebrations.

CLICK ON THE VIDEO SCREEN, below, to watch the video. If a video screen does not appear in your version of this column, try clicking on the main headline, “Mmmmmm, brisket!” to reload this column.


A feisty, flaming liberal

What I remember most about Irma was her feistiness. She never hesitated to let people know what she thought—you can get some sense of that in the video. And she was an ardent liberal, active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s and early 1970s. She was a draft counselor and a leader in the National Council for Universal and Unconditional Amnesty for draft resisters and  in Women Strike for Peace. Irma was also artistic, and she had canny business sense as well. As a young woman she performed with the Yiddish Dance Theater. After moving to San Francisco, she worked as director of retail operations for the San Francisco Opera. Later she started Banana Republic’s travel book program and the Book Passage bookstore. Before retiring in 2003, she was director of retail and wholesale for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where she grew the museum shop into one of the best in the country. She left wonderful, accomplished children and step-children. I’m glad I had the opportunity to know her.

Rosh Hashanah: Apples and honey for a sweet year

Apples and honey symbolize a wish for a sweet year.

Apples and honey symbolize a wish for a sweet year.

WE ARE IN Elul, the last month in the Hebrew calendar. That means Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is right around the corner. This year, it starts the evening of September 4 and continues until sunset September 6.

If you have Jewish friends or co-workers, you may hear them say, “Rosh Hashanah is so early this year!” Indeed it is. Sometimes it doesn’t start until the end of September. In fact, this is the earliest Rosh Hashanah can be—the last time it started the evening of September 4 was 1899! (The latest date it can be is October 5, which won’t happen again until 2047.)

The Jewish calendar, like the Muslim calendar, is lunar, with months of 28 or 29 days. But unlike the Muslim calendar, the Jewish calendar makes corrections to keep the holidays seasonal: Rosh Hashanah will always be in the fall, and Passover will always be in the spring. It’s a complex system, involving seven leap years in a cycle of 19 years.

Adding a month in leap year

In a leap year, an extra month is added to the calendar. The coming year is a leap year, so there will be a second month of Adar in the spring, before Passover, which will push back everything that follows. Next year’s Rosh Hashanah won’t start until the evening of September 24.

Rosh Hashanah is known as Yom HaDin, Day of Judgment. Traditionally, this is the time that God decides everyone’s fate for the coming year. One’s fate is “sealed” on Yom Kippur, 10 days later, allowing for a period of atonement and repentance that can reverse a less-than-favorable decree.

The season of spiritual introspection starts for many people at the beginning of Elul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Ideally, we should spend time every day in Elul thinking about what’s happening in our lives, what’s going on that we’re not too thrilled about, what we want to change, and how we’re going to behave to bring about that change.

The real question: What’s for dinner?

In actuality, though, most Jewish women spend a good deal of time during Elul thinking about who they are going to invite for Rosh Hashanah dinner–or whose house they are going to go to for dinner–and what they are going to serve or bring as part of the dinner. Who will make the fish? Chicken, brisket or turkey? Should we buy the food now, or will there be a big sale next week? If we start cooking now, do we have enough room in the freezer?

The meal often includes the usual suspects of Ashkenazic (Eastern European) Jewish festive dining: chicken soup, gefilte fish, and roast poultry or meat, along with sweet side dishes made with carrots, sweet potatoes and/or fruits. For dessert there might be an apple cake or honey cake.

Want to try the sweet-sticky teiglach this year? Among the holiday dessert options, you might hear about teiglach, a confection made by boiling small balls of dough in a honey/sugar syrup until you have a nice, sticky mound of honey-coated pastry, often mixed with nuts or fruit. Confession: I have never even eaten teiglach, much less made it. It’s quite labor-intensive, and I don’t even know anyone who makes it—though I might give it a try this year, now that I’m retired!  This looks like the best of the many recipes I found online, and is the one I’m likely to try.

No matter what’s on the menu, every Jewish holiday table will include apples and honey. At the start of all of the festive meals–lunch and dinner on both days of the holiday–we dip a piece of apple in honey and recite a blessing, asking that our lives be renewed for a good and sweet year.

Why apples? According to the Jewish educational organization Aish, the Jewish people are compared to the apple in the Song of Songs (2:3): “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved (Israel) amongst the maidens (nations) of the world.”

A side note: the Talmud, the major compendium of Jewish law, says the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was wheat, figs or grapes, not apples. According to Aish, there is one Jewish source that mentions an apple as being the fruit of temptation, but that source doesn’t have the authority of the Talmud. However, the Christian world adopted the apple story. Some scholars think this started with a pun in a Latin translation of the Bible: the same word, “malum,” can mean “apple” or “evil.”

Why honey? Not only is it sweet, but it recalls God’s promise, repeated often in the Torah, to bring the Children of Israel to “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In those days, the reference was more likely to have been to the syrup of overripe dates than to the bee honey we are more familiar with.

Here is a recipe for honey cake that I often make at Rosh Hashanah. I wish all my readers, of whatever faith, a sweet and happy year.

The Best—and Worst—Strawberry Shortcake

StrawberriesNote from Feed The Spirit columnist Bobbie Lewis: Today’s post is by guest writer Lois Armstrong, who has been a good friend for more than half my life. We met when she hired me to be the publications coordinator at Sinai Hospital of Detroit many moons ago. We worked together again when I was communications director at Hospice of Michigan, where she was a VP. We stayed in touch after Lois, a Detroit native, moved to Phoenix. She is now president of Solstice Living Solutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Betty and Frank Armstrong, circa 1975

Betty and Frank Armstrong, circa 1985

My husband’s mom and dad, Betty and Frank, met at church. They eloped when Frank’s formidable mother, Ruth, refused to approve the marriage.

They made a life in Bucyrus, Ohio, where each worked their way up in their professions—she from secretary to insurance underwriter, he from advertising manager to publisher of the local newspaper. Ruth lived with them the whole time. Betty forgave Ruth for trying to keep her away from Frank when they were young and for repeatedly flooding the laundry room when Ruth was old.

Betty’s life came to an abrupt end when she fell head-first off her bicycle and sustained a severe head injury. She was 65. By the time my husband and I arrived at their home, Frank was sobbing with his head in his hands. When he finally looked up he said, “She was such a good person.”

A wonderful baker

Though Betty couldn’t get the meat, the veg and the potato on the table at the same time, she was a wonderful baker. Many of Betty’s recipes stemmed from the time during World War II when Frank was fighting in the Pacific and she kept house for her daughter, my 2-year-old husband and Ruth.

One family favorite was her wartime Strawberry Shortcake. It was made with a scant cup of this and that—sugar and other commodities were rationed—and a pint of strawberries that she could buy, during the war, for mere pennies.

One summer shortly before she died we were all gathered around the table. The strawberry shortcake was served. Frank took a bite, looked up and said, “Betty, in 40 years this is the worst shortcake you ever made.” Betty later reckoned she’d forgotten the baking powder, but at the time, she simply burst into tears.

Even today, when I serve this dessert, as I do often, my husband and I cannot take a second bite without saying, “Betty, in 40 years this is the worst shortcake you ever made.” I’m proud that we loved both Frank and Betty enough to remember them exactly as they were.

Here is Betty’s recipe, which serves 6 to 8.

Mindfulness with Geri Larkin in cooking and in eating


Buddhist author Geri Larkin cooking dinner in her Oregon kitchen.

Buddhist author Geri Larkin cooking dinner in her Oregon kitchen.

When people ask me why I keep kosher, which greatly limits what I eat, I answer that one of the reasons is that it helps me be mindful about food. I can’t put just anything into my mouth. First I have to be sure that the food itself is kosher. Then I have to be sure I’m not mixing meat or poultry with anything made from a dairy product. For me, this elevates eating into a holy act that connects me with the Jewish community and with more than 5,000 years of Jewish history.

Interested in reading more? I do plan to devote some future Feed the Spirit columns to the meaning of keeping kosher.

But, today, I’m turning farther East—to tell you a little about Buddhist mindfulness and food. When I read one chapter of Geri Larkin’s latest book, Close to the Ground, recently, I got a new appreciation for the idea of mindfulness. You can meet Geri today in a new in-depth author interview.

A factor in enlightenment

Geri is a well-known Buddhist writer after nearly two decades writing books for various publishers. In this, her 11th book, she turns to the nuts and bolts of enlightened living. She draws on a 2,000-year-old portion of Buddhist teaching that lists seven factors that can contribute to enlightenment, including mindfulness, energetic activity and joy.

Geri doesn’t give readers long sections of Buddhist analysis. Instead, she tells delightful stories of experiences that made her, and the people around her, vividly aware of these seven factors in their own lives.

In an interview, Geri said she was determined not to get “too Buddhist-y” in the book.

“Many Buddhist teachings and practices take years to appreciate and develop. It takes a long time in life to approach what might be called mature spirituality, but we have to start somewhere. And we all can start, every day, with small things we experience and choose to do,” she said.

Mindfulness in meal preparation

Carefully preparing meals can be an experience of mindfulness. Geri’s first experience in real cooking was at a Buddhist retreat, when she was asked to chop a box full of onions. She didn’t even know enough to peel the onions first, and hacked away at them with a dull knife, onion pieces flying everywhere.

Geri says since then she’s prepared countless meals, she’s eaten food at many retreats and she’s been served many meals as a guest. “And I can always tell when things were prepared mindfully, when the cooking itself was a spiritual practice,” she said.

She adds, “Whenever I want to know how I’m doing, vis a vis mindfulness, including today, all I have to do is look at an onion I’ve chopped up. The same is true for all fruits and vegetables. When the pieces are even and neat and piled somewhere carefully, mindfulness is in the air.”

Along the way, Geri became an accomplished cook. Her latest book includes this recipe, which will serve 4 to 6, depending on how hungry everyone is. (And many thanks to loyal reader and Read the Spirit contributor Debra Darvick for taking the time to make the recipe and photograph the result.)

Kreplach keep family tradition alive

Chicken soup with kreplach

Chicken soup with kreplach

Note to Readers from your host Bobbie Lewis: Got questions on any our food stories? Just ask us by adding a comment below. Our earlier story on pickles already has drawn questions—and answers.

I remember my grandmother’s kreplach, little pasta dumplings filled with beef and onions. They could turn an ordinary bowl of chicken soup into something ambrosial. They were something way beyond my mother’s limited cooking talents, so we enjoyed them only on infrequent trips from Philadelphia, where we lived, to Brooklyn, where my grandparents lived. I’m determined to remedy this deficit. I recently learned how to make kreplach from my friend Ruth Marcus, who invited me to her house for her family’s annual kreplach-making marathon.

(Kreplach, by the way, a Yiddish word, is plural. The singular is “krepl” — but no one ever eats just one!)

Every culture has something similar

Almost every culture has something similar to kreplach. You’re probably familiar with Italian ravioli, Polish pierogi and Chinese wontons. There’s also buuz (Mongolian), manti (Turkish), momo (Nepali), pelmeni (Russian) and many more ethnic permutations. Kreplach are usually triangular. Some say the three sides represent Judiasm’s three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but I think that’s what we generously call a “bubba meise” – an old wives’ tale.

Ruth, on the other hand, is an inspiration. Every year for more than 35 years, she has been gathering her family – first her own three children, now her daughter and the three granddaughters who live nearby – to make hundreds of kreplach in a single afternoon.

Transmitting family recipes—and values

Mema's kreplach recipe has a prominent place on the counter on Kreplach Day.

Mema’s kreplach recipe has a prominent place on the counter on Kreplach Day.

Ruth is living proof that cooking with children and grandchildren is one of the best ways to transmit family values and lore. She grew up in Baltimore, eating kreplach made by her grandmother, Lillian Miller. Now she uses the recipe from Lillian – known to Ruth’s children and grandchildren as Mema – along with several family objects that have taken on almost ritual significance.

There’s a tablecloth Mema gave to Ruth as a shower gift, now used only for rolling out kreplach. There’s Mema’s old wooden rolling pin, and a pretty china plate that once belonged to Mema, where the kreplach rest before going into the pot.

As toddlers, granddaughters Isabel Johnson, 7, and Olivia Johnson, 5, played with small portions of kreplach dough while the grownups worked. Ruth gently teases them about how they used to sit in their highchairs and say, “Roll it, roll it, roll it.”

Ruth Marcus fills a batch of kreplach with her daughter, Lauren Marcus Johnson, and granddaughter Isabel Johnson, 7.

Ruth Marcus fills a batch of kreplach with her daughter, Lauren Marcus Johnson, and granddaughter Isabel Johnson, 7.

Now Isabel is experienced enough to roll and cut the dough, and Olivia can portion out bits of ground beef for the filling. Both can fold the square pieces of dough into triangles and crimp the edges. Ruth’s oldest grandchild, Sydney Marcus, 18, goes to college in Colorado but timed her summer visit back home to Michigan to coincide with Kreplach Day.

Ruth and the girls knead, roll and cut the dough, and fill, fold and crimp the dumplings. Ruth’s daughter, Lauren Marcus Johnson, mans the stove; each burner holds a big pot of boiling water. Ruth’s husband, David, is in charge of packaging: 12 kreplach go into a zip-closed sandwich bag, then the filled sandwich bags go into a gallon-sized freezer bag.

A few small bags will go to friends, but most will be frozen and enjoyed later at the Marcus’ Sabbath and festival dinners. They’ll start eating this year’s batch at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September and finish the last kreplach next spring before Passover, when everything made with flour has to be tossed or locked away.

The secret ingredients

Granddaughters Olivia Johnson, 5, and Sydney Marcus, 18, work on a batch of kreplach.

Granddaughters Olivia Johnson, 5, and Sydney Marcus, 18, work on a batch of kreplach.

There’s more to kreplach than flour, egg, water, beef, parsley and onion. “What are the secret ingredients?” asks Ruth. “Love!” says Isabel. “And telling the stories.”

The little girls never met Mema, their great-great-grandmother. But they can tell the story about how she came to America from a farm in a little village in Russia. Mema was 8 and her sister was 4. Her father had already left. Her mother hired a wagon to take them to the train, and Mema’s little legs dangled off the back of the wagon. She waved goodbye to her grandmother and grandfather, knowing she would never see them again.

Ruth says the one pound of meat in this recipe will make between 80 and 100 kreplach. “You can stop when you have used up the dough, or you can make another batch of dough. It never comes out even! If you have a little meat left over, shape and cook a hamburger!”