Monday, December 28, 2009

Blessing in Disguise - Parshat Vayechi

In Parhsat Vayechi, the last portion of the book of Genesis, Jacob is nearing death and blesses all of his sons and his two grandsons (for the who's who list, indulge me in one last Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat link). In some ways these blessings have very much become a part of Jewish culture - the traditional blessing that parents give to their sons on Friday night starts with the words of Jacob's blessing to his grandchildren "May God Make You like Ephraim and Menashe." Also the famous depictions of the tribes were extrapolated from these unique blessings. But, in other ways these blessings remain strange and ambiguous.

The truth is that they're really not blessings so much as they are Jacob's reflections on his sons' lives and his prophecies of what will befall the future twelve tribes that descend from them. I admit that the text which records these "blessings" rather confuses to me. For instance Reuben, Simeon and Levi get rebuked more than they get blessed and from what Jacob says to them it's a wonder he even wants to talk to them (curious? Read Genesis Chapter 49, verses 3-7) . Other brothers get one-liner blessings about military or agricultural might, and others get long winded exalted descriptions (can you guess which is the longest? The one he gives his favorite son Joseph). Though I still don't understand this part of Genesis as much as I would like to, it seems that these separate blessings-in-disguise are meant to unite them as a family and as future tribes by teaching that they are only whole as a group.

The blessing that caught the eyes of this food blogger is the one given to Judah. It happens to be pretty positive (and I like to think of myself as a pretty positive person), but it also happens to mention wine. Do you see where I'm going with this? The prophecy that Jacob gives Judah is that he will be the progenitor of the nation's monarchy. And monarchy will be pretty sweet; "he will launder his garments in wine and his robe in the blood of grapes" (Genesis Chapter 49 verse 11 ). Not sure how clean that will get things, but if you're a Biblical king you're probably wearing a lot of purple.

Where I'm going with this is actually sangria.

I have a recipe that I tore out of an In Style magazine 4 years ago and still love to use. I always prepare it at least a day ahead to let the cinnamon and fruit flavors work it's way into the wine nicely. The first time I made this sangria I had just moved to Cambridge and was in need of an airtight container to gestate this potent beverage in. I bought this blue and green glass jar that seals like a mason jar, and have been using it ever since, exclusively for sangria making.

Between sangria batches it sits on top of our hutch in the dining room. Strangely, every few weeks it creeps from the front of the hutch to the back, and we have to repeatedly move it back up front because it starts banging against the wall as we walk by. I guess in a Toy Story sort of way it's demanding more sangira.

Winter Sangria
Adapted from an In Style party recipe

1 bottle of red wine (I used an Israeli Petite Sirah - see picture above)
1/2 a bottle of white wine (I used a California Chenin Blanc - see picture above)
1/2 cup of white rum
1/2 cup of fine sugar
4 sticks of cinnamon
1 pear
1 apple
1 orange
1 lime
3 or 4 anise seeds, optional (they have such a pretty shape, but a strong flavor. I find them in the Mexican section of the super market with an ou)

In a large, sealable glass pitcher combine the red and white wines as well as the rum and sugar. Stir to dissolve.

Wash all of the fruits well as you will keep the peels intact when slicing and adding them to the sangria (this makes for a very pretty presentation). Core and slice the apple and pear into approximately 1/2 inch slices (don't go too thin or they will get mushy after being in the wine for a long time). Simply slice the orange and lime into 1/2 inch slices.

Add in the fruit and cinnamon sticks (as well as the anise seeds if you are using them). Seal the pitcher and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, either pour the liquid and fruit into a large clear glass pitcher that will be easy to serve from and bring that to your Shabbat table, or ladle it in individual glasses by dividing the fruit amongst the glasses and then filling them with the sangria.

My mom wants me to tell you that leftover sangria can be stored in the fridge. Not out side of the fridge, because fermentation will cause it to explode - like it did in my mom's apartment after a party she hosted back in the day. Leftover winter sangria would be the perfect thing to enjoy in front of a fire crackling in the fire place.

Photo by Sam Gechter


  1. Hmmm, I wonder if there's some link between this verse and the fact that purple is the color of royalty. Neat. That's a lovely sangria jar you have there. Any time you'd like to pour a glass for your neighbors, we'd be happy to join you by the fire.

  2. Jess, I never even thought about that connection! Sadly all the sangria was enjoyed at a work party today (where I obviously told them all about the parsha connection). Next time I whip up a batch we'll be sure to have you over - yay for fire places (the saving grace of a New England winter).