I remember when I got married and moved to South Africa I felt very lost. I missed my family. I missed my grandmother. I missed the traditional Iraqi Jewish food I had grown up with, which even though my husband’s grandfather was Baghdadi wasn’t at his family’s festive tables. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah was approaching and I remembered my grandmother’s fragrant apple jam and so I called my grandmother, who resided in Los Angeles at the time, and asked for her recipe. It was so simple. A few ingredients I jotted down on a piece of paper with colorful pencil scrawls, as a careless 21 year-old, who did not know she was recording history, would.
Every year as we welcome the Jewish New Year, a day we pray not only for our own sweet year, but a sweet, blessed year for the whole world, I make her apple jam. Every year I play with the quantities, how many cardamom seeds to throw in, how much rosewater to spritz. Some years I boil it more jammy than others, some years it’s more golden, more fragrant with cardamom and rosewater than others. Whatever the jam outcome, every year I feel I am continuing the ancient Babylonian tradition I grew up with, where the tradition of apples dipped in honey was my grandmother’s Iraqi Jewish apple jam.
Apple Jam Recipe
4.5 pounds/2 kilos of Apples (Can be a variety of apples – this year I mixed Pink Lady with Golden Delicious and Granny Smith)
2 cups of Sugar
5 Cardamom Pods (or more depending how strong you like it)
1 Tablespoon of Rosewater (I don’t really measure I just splash it in)
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (optional and not in my grandmother’s recipe)
Note you can play with the quantities. (I always do.) The main thing is the apples should have enough sugar to soak in overnight and be boiled up with.
Peel the apples and slice them – I like slice mine long, but you can cut smaller to make it jammier. Cover the apples in a pot with the sugar and leave overnight.
Boil the apples mixture on the stove with the cardamom pods and lemon if you add that. Simmer for 40 minutes, although the truth is I allow mine to simmer until it looks golden which is usually for longer.
Add the rosewater at the end in the final last minute simmer.
Once cool store in airtight jars.
This jam can be enjoyed on toast, with chiffon cake, vanilla ice cream, or even on its own. Recently I put a spoon in sparkling water and it tasted like sherbet. Feel free to share your joyous combinations with me.
Wishing you all a sweet New Year full of apple jam blessings.