Jewish tradition commemorated romance long before St. Valentine’s Day was established as a means to Christianize and tone down the revelry associated with the Pagan holiday of Lupercalia—a fertility festival. Tu B’Av was originally a minor holiday celebrated in Israel after the second Temple was built in 349 BCE and falls on July 31 this year. According to the Talmud, “the daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards and whoever did not have a wife would go there.” The vineyards would be outside the walls of Jerusalem away from the Temple Mount, an expression of joy away from the sadness of destruction.
In modern Israel, the holiday has been resuscitated. Girls dress in white, there is dancing on beaches and in fields, red roses are given and love songs are dedicated on the radio to the paramour’s love. Picnics and outdoor grilling are traditional much like our Fourth of July celebrations. Foods that can be served cold and transported easily are popular as well as simple grilled meats.
Here is a traditional Hungarian Cold Cherry Soup that can easily be transported in a thermos or container, is very simple to make, can be served as a first course or dessert, and is Pink, the color of love! So #ChooseLove by creating your own traditions as the full moon rises over your summer day on Tu B’Av and enjoy the people and activities you love. Snap some fun pictures and share them on our #ChooseLove gallery!
Hungarian Cherry Soup (Meggy Leves)
- 1 16 oz. or 2 10 oz. bags frozen tart or sweet cherries with juice
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Grated zest of ½ medium lemon
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup dry red wine (Zinfandel or Shiraz would be good) or orange juice
- ½-1 teaspoon almond extract, optional (according to taste)
- Kosher salt, as needed
- Habara’s (Thickening Mixture)
- ¾ cup sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or more according to taste
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1. Combine the first seven ingredients in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes until cherries are tender and flavors have combined.
2. Remove 8 cherries for garnish. Set aside. Discard cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.
3. Pass the cherries and liquid through a food mill to puree. Alternatively, blend the mixture in a blender until mixture is fairly smooth. Return pureed soup to the pan. Add the almond extract (if using) and a pinch of salt. Re-heat soup on low heat while you make the Habaras.
4. In a 1 quart bowl, whisk the sour cream, confectioner’s sugar and flour together.
5. Whisk some of the hot soup into the sour cream mixture and then add all of the mixture back into the pot of soup. Simmer soup, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes or until thickened.
6. Cover surface of soup with plastic wrap to prevent a tough skin from forming on the top and chill. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and garnish with reserved cherries.
If you have the time, a cherry pitter, and an older child you could make this soup with fresh cherries. However, the attention span of most children under the age of 10 will lose interest before all cherries are pitted.
This soup is very easy to make and its flavor can be adjusted to a child’s palate by adding some almond extract and/or a little more sugar if necessary.
Sour cherries (the traditional type for this recipe) are very hard to find. However, the frozen, sweet variety is not that sweet and will adapt in any recipe calling for tart cherries.
Habaras is a traditional mixture that is used for thickening soups. The flour may be eliminated if you can’t eat gluten. Just add a few tablespoons more confectioner’s sugar as it helps thicken the soup because it contains three percent cornstarch.