One of the essential foods served during a Passover seder is the charoset. Also spelled haroset, this mixture represents both the suffering of the Israelites and their redemption.
Charoset looks like mortar, a reminder of the bricks and mortar the Israelites used to build cities for Pharoah during their enslavement. But it also represents fruit orchards, where the Israelite women went to give birth to their children in hiding during the enslavement in Egypt, when Pharoah’s decrees would have put their male newborns at risk of being taken away. (Remember the Old Testament story of Moses in the bullrushes, hidden from view?)
If you’re not having a seder, should you stop reading right now? Absolutely not. Charoset is a fruit concoction that you can add use in a variety of ways. Somewhere between a salad and a paste (depending on how you make it and what ingredients you use), it is delicious on crackers or added to plain yogurt, and it is a great topping for ice cream.
If you’re into following recipes, you can find fancy charoset recipes with lots of ingredients, simple ones with just a few ingredients, and many versions somewhere in between.
Here is my family’s Ashkenazic (Eastern European) version, which is just apples, walnuts or almonds, a bit of sugar and cinnamon, and sweet wine. This post contains links to several other charoset recipes, ranging from a Persian one to charoset truffles with apricots.
But if you want to make your own, creative version, here’s what you need to know:
- The ingredients should include at least one type of fruit and can include more. The fruits can be fresh or dried or both.
- Most charoset recipes include nuts as well, and spices.
- Usually the mixture is sweetened with sugar, honey or something else (agave?), but there are also spicy variations.
- The fruits and nuts should be chopped or pulverized into small pieces and mixed together with enough liquid (wine or juice) to make the mixture moist without having so much liquid that it pools or drips.
- The traditional liquid is sweet red wine, though any fruit juice will work.
Try experimenting with spices you like and combinations that pique your fancy. Does a basically sweet mixture with a hint of cayenne appeal to you? For a gingery touch, consider cystallized ginger minced into tiny pieces instead of the dried spice. How about adding unusual fruits like pomegranate seeds, or mixing fresh and dried fruits? Tropical fruits like bananas and oranges are found in charoset recipes from regions where those fruits are grown. If you’re adventurous when it comes to nuts, try pine nuts, hazelnuts or brazil nuts.
What’s your favorite type of charoset?
PS – Later this week I’ll post a matzo roll recipe stuffed with charoset, a frolic and detour that turned charoset into ready-to-eat Passover snack food.