Tropical Charoset Cuban-style is my newest contribution to the world of international charoset recipes. We traveled to Cuba last month. While still processing the diverse sights, sounds, and experiences of our visit, I already appreciate so much about the country. Sweet and ever-so-slightly spicy, this charoset reminds me of Cuba’s rough, vibrant beauty.
Right now, it is all Passover, all-the-time, at my house. I’m practically drowning in macaroons, Passover Chocolate Florentine Cookies, and Passover rolls. But charoset is the centerpiece of Passover preparation for me. We like variety in our charoset. From my family’s traditional Ashkenazic version to slightly spicy Sephardic to Sephardic charoset balls, our table will not lack for variety. Still, I had to add this one more.
Like much in Judaism, there are multiple explanations for why we eat Charoset. The most popular is that charoset represents mortar Jewish slaves used to build Pharoah’s cities in ancient Egypt. In that interpretation, charoset is a symbol of bondage and slavery. Another interpretation refers to the apple tree, a symbol of freedom and redemption. Those interpretations are not as inconsistent as they might seem. Each is a part of a complex narrative about the journey from bondage to freedom.
Judaism is not really about answers or dogma. Instead, it is all about the questions. Exemplified by the four questions that the youngest person asks during the Passover Seder, we discuss rather than dictate. Back-and-forth without resolution is part of Jewish life – in religion, politics and much else. Agreement to disagree if you will. Contradictions are part of life. Growing up with them in one’s religion and culture is good preparation for appreciating Cuba.
Cuba on My Mind
Our trip to Cuba centered on visiting the island nation’s Jews.
I will write more about it later. But for now, I leave you with a few impressions. Open people and a closed society. Art and music co-exist with incredible poverty.
Horses and buggies vie for space with tourist buses.
Free health care for all and yet no drugs available to treat even common illnesses. Contradictions abound, as does beauty.
This Tropical Charoset Cuban-style is not necessarily what you would or could get at a Cuban seder. Rather, it is an impressionistic combination that reminds me of the country.
Coconuts and pineapple are a nod to the island’s tropical location. Initially, I planned to use dried mango, like this recipe. However, when I forgot to buy mangos, I substituted dried apricots. Of course, there are nuts, almonds in this case. The liquid is orange juice, heated to help with absorption. Finally there is candied or crystallized ginger to balance the sweetness of the fruit.
Tropical Charoset Cuban-style
With just a few ingredients, you too can have a tropical charoset gracing your Seder plate. The coconut and sweet dried fruit remind me of Cuba. The candied or crystallized ginger gives it a spicy/tangy edge. Once the Seder is done, leftovers will be delicious alone, on matzo, or as part of a dessert.
- 5 ounces dried apricots, chopped About 1 cup.
- 5-6 ounces dried, unsweetened pineapple, chopped About 1 cup.
- 2 & 1/2 - 3 ounces toasted, slivered almonds, chopped About heaping 1/2 cup.
- 1 ounce candied or crystallized ginger, chopped About 2 heaping tablespoons.
- 7 ounces sweetened coconut, shredded or flaked, toasted and divided About 2 cups or 1/2 of a 14 ounce bag.
- 1/4 cup orange juice, heated
Combine the apricots, pineapple, almonds, ginger, and half the coconut. You can chop them by hand and mix them in a large bowl with a stiff spatula or put them in a food processor and grind to whatever consistency you like. If you pulse the food processor, you can keep them crunchy or you can process these ingredients to a paste.
Heat the orange juice in the microwave or on the stove until it is hot but not boiling. Add the orange juice to the fruit and nut mixture. Let it sit until the fruit/nut mixture absorbs the liquid.
Chill for at least 30 minutes. Then rinse your hands with cool water and form the charoset into small balls. Roll them in the remaining toasted coconut.
You could serve the charoset in a bowl as I did for my Sephardic charoset. But these small, truffle-like balls are fun to make and easy to eat.
Chag Sameach (literally “joyous festival”) or Happy Pesach!