Thanksgiving Turkey With Ancient Israel’s Seven Species

Photo by Faith Goble https://www.flickr.com/photos/grafixer/

Photo by Faith Goble.

After enduring many hardships in the New World, the Pilgrims finally succeeded in having a plentiful harvest. They were very grateful to G-d for providing for them, and wanted to find an appropriate way to honor G-d. They turned to the Bible for inspiration and found what they were looking for in Exodus.

They discovered “the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end” (Exodus 34:22), one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals celebrated in ancient Israel during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. This feast signaled the end of the harvest, and the conclusion of the agricultural year of the Land of Israel. It is the harvest festival of Sukkot.

During Sukkot, it is customary to include the Seven Species of the Land of Israel in the sukkah, and to incorporate them into the menu. The seven most important plants that were grown in ancient Israel were wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, dates and olives (Deut 8:8). The Pilgrims consumed the foods from the New World such as turkey, corn, pumpkins, and cranberries.

For this Thanksgiving celebration, I have decided to return to the holiday’s roots. I will prepare the traditional New World bird with the Seven Species of the Land of Israel. It is a turkey brined in pomegranate juice, with wheat and barley couscous stuffing.

Photo by Jim Larrison https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/

Photo by Jim Larrison.

For the Pomegranate Brine

Adapted from POM Wonderful.

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage

For the Turkey

  • one 15-pound turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • salt
  • black pepper

For the Pomegranate Glaze

  • 3 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • black pepper
  1. Place the turkey in a large pot.
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the brine, and pour over the turkey.
  3. Cover the pot tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.
  5. Scatter the chopped onion, carrot, and celery in a large roasting pan.
  6. Remove the turkey from the brine, and place it over the cut up vegetables.
  7. Brush olive oil over the turkey.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Roast for approximately 4 hours.
  10. Boil 3 cups of pomegranate juice until reduced by half.
  11. Mix in the pomegranate arils and black pepper.
  12. Brush over the roasted turkey.
Photo by ukcider ukcider https://www.flickr.com/photos/ukcider/

Photo by ukcider.

For the Couscous Stuffing

  • 1 1/2 cups semolina couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups barley couscous
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped figs
  • 1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates
  1. Pour the couscous into a large bowl.
  2. Add the salt, boiling water, orange blossom water, and cinnamon.
  3. Stir all the ingredients together, and then cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Mix in the olive oil, raisins, figs, and dates.
  5. Sautee the almonds in a little olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle the almonds over the couscous.

Bake Your Own Matza in a Pop-Up Passover Tabun

— by Ronit Treatman

In my family, the Passover celebration begins long before the Seder. Preparing for our festive meal is a big part of the fun. One of my favorite traditions is our annual matza baking party. My husband Howard designs and builds a temporary cinder-block tabun (Biblical oven) especially for the occasion. I aspire to bake a matza with a really authentic flavor. In order to get that, I look for flour milled from heirloom seeds that were native to Ancient Egypt.

How does Howard build the tabun? He uses dry, fireproof cinderblocks, aluminum sheets, and ceramic tiles. His design protects the surface beneath the oven.

Oven-building and matza-baking instructions after the jump.
Materials:

  • 17 regular cinderblocks
  • 6 skinny cinderblocks
  • Four 15″ ceramic tiles
  • Two 3’x3′ aluminum sheets
  • One 3’x3′ perforated aluminum sheet (we used a radiator cover)
  • One 3’x1′ aluminum sheet


1. Select a flat surface to construct on.
Arrange six cinder-blocks in a rectangular shape, with one cinder-block in the center.

2. Place an aluminum sheet over these cinder-blocks. This will hold the charcoal for the oven.

3. Arrange five cinder-blocks on top of the aluminum sheet, leaving gaps for ventilation.

4. Place a perforated aluminum sheet over the cinder-blocks. This allows the heat to rise to the upper chamber of the oven.

5. Create the baking chamber with five cinderblocks arranged closely together, to keep in the heat.

6. Cover the baking chamber with a solid aluminum sheet.

7. Secure this aluminum sheet with flat cinderblocks.
 
8. Cover the aluminum sheet with ceramic tiles for insulation.


9. Use a chimney to start up your charcoal.

We used natural wood charcoal. The Ancient Israelites used dry dung for fuel. Place some crumpled newspapers in the bottom chamber of the chimney, and charcoal in the top. Light the newspapers. The fire will rise to the charcoal. It takes about fifteen minutes for your charcoal to be ready to be placed in the bottom chamber of the tabun. Rap the back of the chimney with a heavy stick to get the charcoals in to the oven. Use the stick to concentrate the charcoals in the center of the fire chamber. We needed two chimneys full of charcoal to get the tabun hot enough to bake our matza. Once you have placed the matza in the baking chamber, prop the 3’x1′ aluminum sheet against the opening with a stick to create a door. This will help keep in the heat.

In Deuteronomy 16:3, matza is described as lechem oni, or “bread of poverty.” What was the bread of poverty in Ancient Egypt? According to the Karaites, barley was the grain of the poor. They bake their matza from the flour of this Ancient Egyptian staple. I wanted to try it this year, so we baked barley matza. I bought whole grain barley flour at Weaver’s Way Coop near my house.  

Karaite Barley Matza

  • 2 cups of barley flour
  • 1 cup of water
  1. Set a timer for eighteen minutes. From the moment the water touches the flour, that is the total time permitted for the preparation of kosher for Passover matza.
     
  2. Place the flour in a bowl.
  3. Pour the water into the flour, and knead it quickly.  
  4. Pinch off an olive-sized piece of dough.
  5. Say the blessing for taking challah:

    Baruch Ata A-Do-Nay Elo-haynu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvotav V’Tziyvanu L’Hafrish Challah, Harei Zeh Challah. (Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate Challah, this is Challah).

  6. You must burn this piece of dough completely, in a fire that is separate from the one you are using to bake the matza.
  7. Pull off plum-sized balls of dough.
  8. Flatten them with your hands.
  9. Pierce the flattened dough all over with a fork.
  10. Place in the hot tabun.
  11. The matza is ready when it is crisp, and slightly browned.

As we pulled the rustic, golden-brown flat breads out of the oven, their delicious aroma wafted around our yard. The tabun-baked barley matza was softer than the store-bought wheat type. We ate our matza hot, right as it emerged from the charcoals. There was a satisfying crunch around the edges as we bit into it. It had a hearty, slightly nutty flavor. For me, this “bread of poverty” is a delicacy!  

The Philadelphia Tu B’Shevat Adventure


Orange Tree

— by Ronit Treatman

What do April 15th and the Shevat 15th have in common? Both are tax days! Two thousand years ago, the 15th of Shevat was when the twelve Hebrew tribes paid tithes to the Levites in Jerusalem. Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, is described in the Mishnah as the New Year for Trees. During the times of the Temple, fruit tithes would be calculated beginning on Tu B’Shevat. Fruit that grew on trees after the fifteenth day of Shevat was counted for the tithes that were due the following year. These tithes supported the Levites, helped feed the poor, and paid for Tu B’Shevat festivities in Jerusalem.

Following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, the Jews were exiled from Israel, and tithes were no longer paid. The Jews in the Diaspora preserved the memory of Tu B’Shevat by remembering their connection to the Land of Israel. In the Jewish communities of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, and Kurdistan, Tu B’Shevat developed into the “day of eating the seven species.” The seven species are the seven fruits and grains that are listed in the Torah as special products of the Land of Israel. In the 16th century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the famous mystic of Safed, and his students collaborated to create the Tu B’Shevat Seder. The observance of Tu B’Shevat has undergone many permutations
since that time.

How can you and your family enjoy this ancient holiday in present day Philadelphia?

Some hands-on ideas to bring your families the warming spirit of Tu B’Shevat this winter follow the jump.


Seven Species

The Longwood Gardens Seven Species Scavenger Hunt

This year, Tu B’Shevat begins on February 7th, at sunset, and extends through the daylight of February 8th. This holiday presents a great opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens. The outdoor gardens will probably be covered with snow, so the half mile long hothouse will be your main destination. The conservatory, built in 1919, resembles a crystal palace. As you step inside, you will be transported to a place where spring has already arrived. The warm air will envelop you. Your family will inhale the aroma of a garden in full bloom, see the beautiful colors of the plants, and hear the rustle of leaves and dripping of water as they explore the greenhouse. It will be fun to look for some of the seven species in the gardens. As is mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, the Land of Israel is described as a “land of wheat and barley, of [grape] vines, figs and pomegranates, and a land of olives for oil and [date] honey.” Here is a guide to help you find them.


Olive Tree

Grape Vines

Olives: In Biblical times, olive oil was very important for cooking, as a fuel for lamps, and for preparing soap. There is an olive tree in the Silver Garden.

Grapes: The Estate Fruit House has grape vines. In ancient times in the Land of Israel, grapes were used to make wine and vinegar. The fruit was eaten fresh off the vine. The grape leaves were used in cooking.


Figs at the Vine

Pomegranate Tree

Figs: A fig tree grows in The Estate Fruit House. Figs were eaten fresh, and used in cooking in Biblical Israel. Fig honey and alcohol were made from them.

Pomegranates: A miniature pomegranate tree (with tiny red pomegranates!) may be found in the Bonsai Display. In ancient Israel, pomegranates were used to make wine. Pomegranate juice was used as a dye. They were also a popular snack fresh off the tree.



Dates

Wheat

Barley

Dates: The wild date palm grows in the Palm House. Dates were eaten fresh or dry during Biblical times. They were made into honey. It is thought that when the Land of Israel was described as a “land flowing with milk and honey,” it meant date honey, not bees’ honey.

Wheat and Barley: Wheat was used to bake bread in ancient Israel. It was the staple of the people’s diet. Barley was used to cook porridge and barley cakes. Poor people relied on barley more than on wheat, since it was more plentiful. It was also fed to the cows and goats. Wheat and barley do not grow in the greenhouses of Longwood Gardens! I suggest planning in advance and ordering a bundle of wheat and a bundle of barley from Curious Country Creations.

You can bring these plants with you, and your family may admire them during the visit to Longwood Gardens. Then, the wheat and barley may be part of your Tu B’Shevat Seder decorations!

You can inform yourself about the plants that these fruits of the seven species come from, and admire their beauty at Longwood Gardens. After learning about all these beautiful plants by seeing, smelling, and sometimes touching them, it is time to go home and taste some of them! The way to do that is with a Tu B’Shevat feast!


Tu b’Shvat Seder

The Tu B’Shevat Seder

The first Tu B’Shevat Haggadah was called Pri Etz Hadar” or “Fruit of the Goodly Tree” in Hebrew. It was published in 1753. This Tu B’Shevat Seder was modeled on the Passover Seder. This Seder consisted of a festive meal that celebrated the Kabalistic diagram of the Tree of Life. The original purpose of the Seder was to restore G-d’s blessing by repairing and strengthening the Tree of Life. The traditional concluding blessing of the Tu B’Shevat Seder is “May all the sparks scattered by our hands, or by the hands of our ancestors, or by the sin of the first human against the fruit of the tree, be returned and included in the majestic might of the Tree of Life.” Fruits grown in Israel were served at the Seder and were related to the Four Worlds or “planes of existence” in the Kabbalah. These are Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action, which are like the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves of a tree. Four cups of wine, symbolizing the four seasons, were also served. Participants read Biblical passages that discussed trees, sang songs about trees and nature, and danced dances inspired by trees. Almonds were important to this Seder because almond trees are the first to blossom in the springtime in Israel. The Kabbalists called this Seder the “Feast of Fruits. Turkish Jews called it “Frutikas Seder,” and referred to Tu B’Shevat as “Frutikas.”  You can follow the first published Tu B’Shevat Seder in your own home.


Almond Tree Blossoms

The Tu B’Shevat Seder was first embraced by the Sephardic Jews, and then by the Ashkenazi Jews. The Ashkenazi Jews developed the custom of eating fifteen different fruits in honor of the “Tu” (15 in Hebrew) in “Tu B’Shevat.” It became a tradition to serve carob, a hardy fruit that could travel well from Israel to Europe. Eating etrog (citron) from Sukkot that was either candied or preserved was another custom that developed. In the late 19th century the Zionist pioneers arrived to cultivate the land of Israel. Israel’s ecology had been harmed by many years of war, extirpation of trees, and desertification. In 1890, Rabbi Zeev Yavetz and his students planted trees in Zichron Yaakov in honor of Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish National Fund adopted this custom to help with the reforestation of Israel. Most recently, Tu B’Shevat has become the Jewish Earth Day. Nature, ecology, and environmentalism are celebrated.

In honor of the Tu B’Shevat Seder, your family may have fun making your home look and feel festive, with a tablecloth, some flowers, and the bunches of wheat and barley on the table. Red and white grape juice should be available. The juice should be served as indicated by the Tu B’Shevat Seder Hagaddah of your choice. Several links to free Hagaddas are provided below.


All of the Tu B’Shevat Hagaddot require the following cups of juice:

  • The First Cup: White grape juice, to symbolize winter.
  • The Second Cup: 2/3 cup white grape juice and 1/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize a progression to spring.
  • The Third Cup: 1/3 cup white grape juice and 2/3 cup red grape juice, to symbolize spring.
  • The Fourth Cup: Red grape juice, to symbolize summer.

Fifteen types of fruit should be arranged on the table:


Almonds

Autumn Red Peaches
  • Fruit that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside:
    • Pecans
    • Almonds
    • Coconuts
    • Walnuts
       
  • Soft fruit with a pit in the middle:
    • Olives
    • Peaches
    • Cherries
    • Plums
    • Dates
       

    Ripe Carobs

    Fragaria Stawberry
  • Fruits with and inner pit and a tough skin:
    • Avocado
    • Carob
    • Pomegranate
    • Mango
    • Orange
  • Fruit is that which is soft on the inside and outside, and is entirely edible:
    • Grape
    • Fig
    • Strawberry
    • Raisin

You may display a picture of an almond tree in full bloom to learn about the first blossoms of spring in Israel. It is customary to serve a dinner which incorporates fruits and nuts in all of its courses.  Here is a sephardic recipe which includes all seven species.

Sephardic Seven Species Pilaf

  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked wheat berries
  • 1/2  cup cut up dried figs
  • 1/2 cup cut up dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced grapes
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Some very good recipes are available at Aish. There are many other recipes that may be found on the Internet. Following are links to some free Tu B’Shevat Seder Haggadahs that are available online. Many more may be found.

Plant A Tree

Following a visit to Longwood Gardens, and a Tu B’Shevat Seder feast, there is an opportunity to plant a seed and nurture a plant. It is too cold in January to plant a tree in Philadelphia. Your family can plant a tree in Israel with the Jewish National Fund. There is a delightful new tradition that you may adopt. You may plant parsley seeds in a pot. Then water ther seeds, give them plant food, and make sure that they are exposed to enough sunlight. If all goes well, in April, you will have a parsley plant that may be used for Karpas (green spring vegetable) in the Passover Seder.

From Seder to Seder, may it be a fruitful year of joyful celebrations!