Saturday, 28 March 2015

Charoset Around the World

Last week my friend Ruth posted a BuzzFeed piece on 10 suggested Seder upgrades. The first was a DIY charoset bar. I posted back that I may do a Charoset Around the World post. So Ruth, this is for you! 

Remember: Charoset symbolizes the mortar used by the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. Since I always come up short with Ashkenazi customs (maybe that's because the list is on the short side?!) I want to give Jews with European roots a boost by starting with a classic Ashkenazi recipe

  • 5 fuji apples, skin removed
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 5 tablepoons sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

What about Egyptian Charoset for more of an authentic touch? Claudia Roden -- cookbook author, cultural anthropoligist and the doyenne of Sephardi cuisine -- hails from Egypt. Here's her Egyptian recipe:

1/2 lb (250g) pitted dates, chopped
1/2 lb (250 g) large yellow raisins or sultanas
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet red Passover wine
1/2 cup (60 g) walnuts coarsely chopped

Since I've devoted two posts to Italian seder customs, let's look at their culinary side. Mama Mia! You'll enjoy this Italian Charoset recipe.

1/2 pound pitted dates
1/2 pound shelled walnuts
3 large apples, peeled and cored
1 large unpeeled seedless orange, thoroughly washed
2 large bananas
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine (see note below)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Matzo meal as needed

Not to be outdone, the French have their own twist. Mais oui!

French Provencal Style

1 pound chestnuts
1 cup blanched almonds
2 medium tart apples, cored and chopped
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup dried figs
1 cup raisins
1 to 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
wine vinegar

I found this recipe in a Moment Magazine article -- The Sweet Story of Charoset.  It includes several recipes, so check them out. The one from Curacao particularly caught my eye -- perhaps because it looks like it could solve the side effect so many of us have from heavy matza consumption.

Curacao Charoset Balls (Garosa)
(makes 25 to 30 balls)

14 pitted dates
10 pitted prunes
8 figs, stems removed
cup golden raisins
cup cashew nuts
lemon, unpeeled and cut in chunks
cup sweet red wine
cup honey, or more as needed
2 tablespoons cinnamon to coat

And now for my favorite recipe -- which of course comes from my book Passover Around the World.

On page 12 you'll find a story from Gibraltar. It's called Preparing the Seder Plate, with the subtitle: Why is a Brick Being Used to Make Charoset? The answer: Remember the mortar?  Yup. Once the dates, apples, nuts, almonds, bananas, wine, sugar and cinnamon are mixed, they take a brick, break a few small pieces off (I assume with a hammer) and finely crush them into powder. The grated brick dust is then added to the ingredients, providing the final touch for a true taste of mortar.

Palate pleasing? Not sure. But it certainly gets the message across.

Speaking of messages -- I wish all of you a fun and meaningful Seder that captures the attention of your children.

חג שמח



Charoset Photo Credit