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rosh hashanah

My Great-Grandmother’s Brisket

brisket

Despite what the ridiculously warm forecast says here in Michigan, we’re closing in on my all-time favorite season: autumn. I try to contain my excitement until at least mid-September–and then I let my freak flag fly.

After the kids go back to school, the fall decorations are dragged from the closet, the apple orchard and cider mill are paid a visit (or two), the scarves, boots and puffy vests come out of hiding, and the pumpkin spice lattes replace the iced coffees. Move over summer, my season is here!

Making fall even more magical is Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish new year, symbolizing a fresh start.

We gather with family and friends to celebrate the start of a new year, wishing them “L’Shana Tova.” We teach our children discipline by spending hours in synagogue. We urge them to listen to the shofar and hear God’s calling. We ask forgiveness for those we have sinned against, throw away our sins during Tashlich, and we pray we are fortunate enough to be written into the Book of Life another year. We dip apples in honey for a sweet new year. Many of us wear white to symbolize the start of the Days of Repentance.

But of all the parts of the holiday I love, what I find myself most looking forward to year after year–especially now that I have a family of my own–is the tradition of preparing the same exact brisket recipe that my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all made for their families.

From kitchens in the Bronx to New Jersey and now in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Great-Grandma Rose’s brisket recipe has passed the lips of five hungry generations.

Envisioning my son and daughter in their own kitchens someday, whipping up our family’s brisket for their little families gets me all verklempt.

Though the quality of meat has surely gotten better over the years, I love that nothing else about this time-tested recipe has changed except the strong, beautiful women simmering the brisket behind the stove. I feel honored to be fourth in line to this legacy and love knowing my family enjoys it, too. (In fact, of all the dishes I prepare, my great-grandma’s brisket is my Catholic husband’s favorite!).

The world around us may feel crazy, but during this introspective time, we find ourselves trying to seek calm amid the chaos. Cooking is therapy for me–slicing, sauteing, seasoning, searing–there is an inherent serenity as we create memories for and with our loved ones. The world around me may be falling apart, but so, too, is this tender brisket.

Here is how we do it.

Great-Grandma Rose’s Brisket Recipe:

-1 brisket, trimmed

-1 large onion (sauteed in extra-virgin olive oil)

-2-4 bay leaves

-1 or 2 cans of Manischewitz (or Rokeach) tomato sauce with mushrooms — any other brand if those aren’t available, but those are the best

-water

-salt/pepper/paprika/garlic powder

Saute the onions, remove them from the pan, then sear the brisket (seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder) on both sides, then coat with the sauce, a little water (¼ cup for one can; 1/2 cup for two cans), 2-4 bay leaves and onions, and simmer on low with the lid on (to retain moisture) for an hour and half. Remove the brisket and sauce. Refrigerate it for 3-4 hours, then slice against the grain and let simmer another two hours or so. Add water as needed. Season with more salt/pepper/paprika if needed.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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