What’s YOUR Charoset Story?

Syrian apricot charoset (1)

Desperate for something to eat as the  Passover Seder progression delays the dinner, we welcome the moment when we are free to pile charoset on matzah.

Ironic, isn’t it, that while charoset represents the mortar used to make bricks when we were slaves in Egypt, it is somehow, the tastiest symbol at the Passover Seder?

While almost every Ashkenazic charoset seems to be the same mixture of grated or chopped apples and walnuts moistened with sweet, Kosher wine and seasoned with cinnamon, I turned to Jennifer Abadi, expert in Syrian Jewish cooking, for a Sephardic twist on everyone’s fave symbol on the Passover table. 

As I climbed four flights to her apartment on the UWS, I followed the fragrant trail to her busy kitchen where she was elbow deep in pre-Passover prep.  I was enticed by the unfamiliar and sweet fragrance of orange blossom water and the sweet/tart balance of Turkish apricots.

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The use of local ingredients is an old idea and the Sephardic mixtures illustrate the point well. For those who grew up unexposed to Sephardic traditions, you may be interested to learn that each country, each culture,  and each climate fostered its own variation on the charoset theme.

Yeminite Jews added pepper and coriander to the chopped mixture of dried fruits and nuts, making their charoset spicy, like their cooking.

Persians sometimes use pomegranates or vinegar, reflecting their taste for sweet and sour flavors. Here’s an interesting recipe from Reyna Simnegar, which combines bananas and date paste to make Persian haleg (charoset).

Iraqi and Indian Jews boiled dates, creating a syrup called halek, and moistened chopped walnuts with this date syrup.

Italian traditions vary greatly from family to family and region to region. Ingredients may include pears, chestnuts, oranges, chopped apples and walnuts. Check out Alessandra Rovati‘s oh so chestnut-ty recipe here.

In Greece, pine nuts were the star. Check out this recipe where cherry preserves make an appearance.

In Morocco, matzah meal was added to the nut and dried fruit mixture and rolled into balls. These charoset balls were scooped up in romaine lettuce leaves. Check out this easy recipe.

For a bright and colorful Charoset on your table, check out Jennifer Abadi’s Syrian Charoset recipe, below. You may find more recipes and information about her family’s Syrian Jewish cooking traditions on her blog, Too Good to Passover  and in her ode to her family’s culinary traditions in A Fistful of Lentils.

 Which charoset will you be serving this Passover? What’s YOUR charoset story? 

 

Syrian Charoset with Apricots, Pistachios and Orange Blossom Water

serves 8-10 (approximately 2 cups)

Syrian Charoset with Apricots, Pistachios and Orange Blossom Water

This recipe is from Jennifer Abadi, author of A FISTFUL OF LENTILS. She blogs about Sephardic Passover traditions at www.toogoodtopassover.com

Ingredients

    For Charoset:
  • 2 cups whole Turkish dried apricots
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or unrefined whole cane sugar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • ¼ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios or whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
  • For Serving:
  • 2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios, or whole blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor

Instructions

  1. Combine apricots, orange juice, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until apricots are very soft and mushy, 30 to 40 minutes. (Make sure to stir every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent burning.)
  2. Pour hot apricot mixture into a food processor and add the lemon juice and orange blossom water. Pulse 1 to 2 minutes until a smooth paste. Scoop out into a medium sized bowl and mix in the chopped nuts by hand. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Serve charoset at room temperature in a small, decorative bowl garnished with finely ground pistachios or almonds.

Notes

About Orange Blossom Water: Sadaf brand is kosher (just not KLP) and is available at Kalustyan's @28th and Lex in NYC or other markets with Middle Eastern selections. If you chose to leave this ingredient out, the charoset will still be delicious!

http://kosherlikeme.com/recipes/passover-charoset-with-a-fruity-fragrant-twist

 

16 Comments

  1. Syrian or not, this sounds delicious! Lets see if I can influence my clearly-Ashkenazi family to give this a go….

    • The best way to introduce new flavors is to bring something special to the seder you attend. Good luck and Chag Sameah.

  2. I love this variation! Liz, your posts are always a treat to read and inspire me to try something new…Chag Sameach!

  3. Thank you,Liz! Interesting to hear about the restaurant Seders in NYC. I will dream about them while cooking and especially while doing the dishes! A zissen Pesach.

  4. Your first sentence of this post says it all…we pile it on and it is the tastiest. But the different cultural variations that you describe are fascinating. Thank you for expanding my universe.

    • Experimenting with charoset recipes from other traditions is an easy and tasty way to add something new to your Seder. Enjoy!

  5. My charoset story: I have catered a number of Passover Seders over the years, for groups large and small. I also operated my home as a B&B. I would always make plenty of extra charoset, and serve it at breakfast to the guests (many of whom hadn’t a clue as to what or why it was). It made a lovely brekky addition, as well as a chance to tell its meaning.

  6. Ah, charoset! My grandma made the same old apple stuff. So did I. But my daughter’s walnut allergies forced me away, so I prepared a riff on an Iranian version. My kids hated it. Our cantor (I made some for a synagogue seder) said “this isn’t Charoset!). But the adults loved it. Gradually the kids did too. Now — they will eat no other and I have to double the recipe. I make a new one each year, plus my tried-and-true family favorite. Recipe here: http://ronniefein.com/post/4606451127/charosis-is-more-than-a-blob-of-stuff-that-sits-on

    • Thanks for sharing your story and your recipe, Ronnie. Necessity IS the mother of invention! Your recipe looks delicious and I will gladly add it to my ever increasing volume of charoset recipes.

  7. I truly had no idea there were so many radically different takes on charoset! Now my tiny twist of using cashews and ginger in mine this year seems like nothing worth mentioning. At least there are still many more days to Passover for me try some of these more creative combinations.

  8. At our Seder my cousins and I were talking about how much we love charoset, and how we want to eat it at other times throughout the year and not just on Passover. One of my cousins said charoset is the only reason she observes the holiday!!! lol

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