Varietal honeys and other traditional treats for the Jewish New Year will be featured at a reservations-only tasting at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Zingerman's Deli, 422 Detroit St., Ann Arbor. (Information: 734-663-3400.)
The Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, begins at sundown on Sept. 22. Apples and honey are a traditional combination in Eastern Europe, where many Jewish Americans trace their heritage, says Ari Weinzweig, a founding partner of the Zingerman's Community of Businesses who will lead the tasting. "Apples were the fruit in season. The significance of the honey is to represent hope for a sweet new year."
Participants will taste 10 honeys from around the world, including Sicily, Spain, France, Florida, and California. "Varietal honeys are based on what the bees are feeding on," Mr. Weinzweig says. "It changes throughout the year."
More than 20 honeys are described in his book Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95). From Sicily comes carob, a late-season honey with a thick, granular texture. Chestnut honey ihas a slightly bitter, smoky flavor, and is the color of freshly brewed coffee. "Fireweed honey comes from the Pacific Northwest," the author says. The honey comes from hives of bees that pollinate flowers that grow after a forest fire.
Buckwheat honey is a full-flavored, robust honey. At Zingerman's Bakehouse, Buckwheat Honey Cake is made each autumn to mark the Jewish New Year. It is available for sale throughout September. The buckwheat honey comes from a beekeeper in upstate New York. It has a big, bold fruity flavor. The cake is made with golden raisins, toasted almonds, fresh orange and lemon zest, and spices.
Other traditional foods for the Jewish New Year include challah, which also is made at Zingerman's Bakehouse. "We are working to produce challah the way it was 150 years ago," Mr. Weinzweig says. "It was naturally leavened with no commercial yeast. It has a 15-hour rise time."
Although challah is at the top of the list of foods for the Jewish Sabbath and high holiday tables, the bread is popular with other Zingerman customers. People who aren't into hard crust breads love it for the soft texture and slightly sweet eggy flavor. It's great for French toast and sandwiches.
As the Jewish New Year approaches, it's traditional to bake challah in round, turbanlike loaves, Mr. Weinzweig says. It is also made richer and sweeter by adding honey, raisins, additional eggs, liqueurs, and even saffron.
Zingerman's features challah sweetened with clover honey in large and small loaves. For Rosh Hashanah, a round Rosh Hashanah Challah turban is made with or without Myers Rum-soaked raisins in large and small. Pain Petri, a challah of the Moroccan Jewish community, is a spicy North African way to ring in the new year. It is seasoned with anise, poppy, and sesame seeds. Both are available Sept. 20-Oct. 2. These breads may be ordered at local stores that carry Zingerman's products such as The Andersons in Maumee and Toledo; Churchill's on Central Avenue, and Walt Churchill's Briarfield.
Spread a varietal honey on hot toast, especially a slice of challah. Varietal honeys also pair well with cheeses. Spread a slice of toast (challah or toasted bread) with ricotta and then spoon the honey of choice, Mr. Weinzweig writes. Gorgonzola goes well with honey, as do most fresh cheeses. Drizzle honey over slices of manchego cheese.