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Alsatian Pear Kugel with Prunes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Kugel Is the King of the Sabbath Meal

I had Shabbes dinner with Cohn. He served kugel and it was with a guilty conscience that I ate this holy national dish, which has done more to preserve Judaism than all three issues of the Zeitschrift. —Heinrich Heine, letter to Moses Moser, December 19, 1825

The poet Heinrich Heine was not the only one who liked kugel. It was the nineteenth-century Alsatian writer Alexandre Weill who called it the king of the Sabbath meal. In his memoir, Ma Jeunesse, he said that on Friday night his family would also have a schaleth, which he called "the first cousin of a kugel." He said that Sarah in the Bible invented the schaleth in honor of the angels who visited her but continued that the "schaleth was still the vassal of Seigneur Kougel."

Kugel originated in Alsace-Lorraine and the Rhineland of southern Germany, since the word comes from the Germanic root meaning "ball" or "globe." Kugel, here put in a shallow terracotta vessel, was baked in the oven next to a pot of choucroute or pot-au-feu, and another pot of beans for the Sabbath. People passing through Alsace-Lorraine and southern Germany on their exodus out of France during expulsions learned about kugels and took them eastward, to Poland and Russia. Originally made of leftover bread and suet, they eventually included dried or fresh pears and/or prunes and sometimes onions. As potatoes and homemade noodles became popular, and industrial rectangular pans came into existence, Jews adapted them to this Sabbath side dish.

Alsatian Pear Kugel with Prunes


Bosc pears and Italian blue plums (dried for use in the winter) are fruits that were most often put into kugel. This very old Alsatian Sabbath kugel uses leftover bread that is soaked in water, squeezed to remove any excess moisture, and then mixed with the dried or fresh fruit and left to stew in the oven overnight. Some, like this version, include onions, which add a savory dimension to the sweetness of the fruit and the dough. I love this dish, which I serve in my home for Rosh Hashanah and the Sabbath as a side dish with brisket.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9-inch springform pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Peel the pears, and cut all but one of them into 1-inch cubes. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Lightly saute the onions until they are translucent. Remove from the heat, salt lightly, and allow them to cool slightly.

Soak the bread for a few seconds in lukewarm water, and squeeze dry. Put in a large bowl and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix with 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the butter or pareve margarine. Stir in the eggs, the onions, and half of the diced pears, setting aside the remaining pears for the sauce.

Pour the batter into the springform pan, and bake for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours.

While the kugel is cooking, make the sauce. In a heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat, put 1 cup water, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the prunes, cinnamon, lemon juice, and the remaining diced pears. Cook this compote mixture uncovered for 30 minutes.

Finely grate the reserved whole pear and stir it into the cooked compote.

When the kugel is done, remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Unmold from the pan onto a serving platter, and spoon half of the compote over it. Serve the remaining compote on the side.

NOTE You can make this kugel using only prunes or plums in place of the pears, and use them in the sauce as well.


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This page created December 2010