Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Carrot Tzimmes

Tzimmes is an eastern European recipe for honey baked carrots, according to  The Yiddish word "meren" means carrots and to increase. Carrots symbolize our hope that we increase our good deeds in the coming year. Some tzimmes recipes add prunes, sweet potatoes or even meat to the sweet carrots.
I had read of tzimmes somewhere, possibly in a book by Philip Roth. I knew it was a Jewish dish. I didn't know it was served for Rosh Hashona.
We had it for Christmas Eve for no particular reason except that I had a lot of carrots and all the rest of the ingredients. Christmas Eve in our house has always followed a pattern set down by my parents back in the early 1950s in the Berkshires. We had a semi special dinner. Then, we went into the library. This, in itself was special, because we normally sat in the living room. However, on Christmas Eve, the tree had been set up with all the presents around it, and to add to the suspense, the door was closed until lunchtime on Christmas day.
My mother sat on the sofa and chose one of the five enormous, crumbling Bibles that sat on the shelf next to the floor, and read Saint Luke. "There went out in the days of Caesar Augustus a decree that all the world shall be taxed...." It was very solemn, and living on a farm, I had a clear mental picture of Mary and Joseph and the manger, and the animals all around. In my mind, the manger was in the red barn on the Curtiss's property.
Then, my father read The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clark Moore and the atmosphere changed dramatically. When he got to "... Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash," he gave a realistic imitation of being sick, much to our childish, teenagerish and young adultish delight. After that, we all simmered down again, and he read The Tailor of Gloucester, by Beatrix Potter. When my father read the Beatrix Potter books, he read every page. "Copyright 1903 by Frederick Warne and Company, Copyright renewed 1931," he intoned.  Then, we hung up our stockings.
That, as far as I was concerned, was what one did on Christmas Eve. When our children were born, we did that for Christmas Eve, every year except the year that we went to London to visit our daughter and ate takeout Chinese food while lying on the bed in our hotel room. However, when children grow up and get married, allowances have to be made.  So this year, things were kind of confused. My brother George was going to come from Arlington some time in the afternoon. My daughter, who had just gotten home from London, had gone off to visit a friend with a vague promise of coming back before we went to church at 5:00. The young marrieds were coming from Alexandria around 3:00 "to spend time with us."
What with having to use the Volvo, now driven by the yms, to pick up George at the Metro in a filthy driving rain, and my daughter saying she would meet us at church, we ended up reading a Revised Standard (unacceptable) version of the Christmas story and having my son read The Night Before Christmas off his cell phone. A total ham, just like his grandfather, he pretended to barf when he got to "...and threw up the sash."
And after early church, I made tzimmes. Apparently it traditionally is served with beef brisket. I served it with a very rich spinach and cheese casserole.
Carrot Tzimmes
10 to 12 medium-size carrots, diced
1 tablespoon chicken fat or kosher shortening (I used Crisco.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3 tablespoons water
1. cook the carrots in the fat in a skillet for one minute, stirring constantly.
2. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer, covered until tender, about fifteen minutes. Evaporate any liquid remaining by boiling. Makes 6 servings.

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