The ultimate charoset challenge

What is the best version of this Passover Seder night staple? Ashkenazi, Yemenite, Modern Springtime, Afghan, Indian or Persian?

By LAURA FRANKEL
March 20, 2013 15:34
Passover Charoset

Passover Charoset. (photo credit: Laura Frankel)

 
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I started playing around with Charoset recipes when my kids were small and during the Seders they eyed the greyish-purple Ashkenazi version with suspicion.  I started doing some research and playing around with ingredients and came up with our family’s favorite charoset menu. A global view of charoset is to acknowledge that everywhere in the world, Jews are celebrating the holiday and each with their own arsenal of flavors and ingredients.

I make knock-out charosets and do not mind eating them with spicy horseradish. It’s a fun play on the palate and makes the telling of the exodus even more exciting.

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Try making several different types of charoset and mix things up with variations and flavors. After all, the Seder is supposed to be fun. We like to make extra of each these charosets and snack on them during the week. Fruit and nuts, what could be better?

Ashkenazi Style Charoset

This is the Charoset that is most familiar to American Ashkenazi Jews. It is sentimental to my family as my kids grew up eating it on the first night of the holiday. I make extra and keep it for snacks throughout the entire holiday.

Parve
Yields: approximately 3 cups


½ cup of crushed walnuts
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 Honey Crisp apples (or your favorite), cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup sweet red wine such as Muscat or grape juice

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1. Place the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for 5-7 minutes until they are fragrant and have darkened slightly. Let cool.

2. Stir all the ingredients together. The Ashkenazi Style charoset can be stored, covered in the refrigerator, for up to three days.

Yemenite Charoset

This Charoset is gooey and fragrant with dried Mediterranean fruit. I like to roll it into walnut sized balls and dust it with cinnamon and ground almonds. My husband loves this Charoset and eats it for breakfast during the holiday and throughout the year with yogurt.

Parve
Yield: approximately 2 ½ cups


1 cup dried black figs, stems cut off
1 cup dried dates, pitted
1 cup dried apricots
2 cups red wine or apple juice
1 tablespoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon additional for dusting
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
½ cup toasted almonds, ground in a food processor

1. Place the dried fruit in a large bowl. Heat the wine or apple juice to a simmer. Pour over the fruit and let steep for 1 hour.

2. Drain the fruit into a sieve suspended over a bowl reserving the liquid. Place the fruit in a food processor and pulse or chop by hand until the mixture is combined and only slightly chunky. You may need to add some of the reserved soaking liquid to help the fruit stick together.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Roll the charoset into walnut sized balls and roll into ground almonds and additional cinnamon for additional texture, if desired. The Yemenite Charoset can be made and stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before serving.

Modern Springtime Charoset

I created this charoset as a brightly flavored and colorful modern addition to a charoset tasting.

The lavender takes the honey to a very floral and fresh springy level and gives the charoset a striking edge. Dried lavender can be purchased in most grocery stores.

Parve
Yield: approximately 2 ½ cups


2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, cored and cut in half
¼ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
Zest of ½ lemon
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon dried lavender (optional)
½ cup toasted, shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped coarsely
1 cup blood orange sections
Several mint leaves cut into thin strips

1. Place the strawberries in a medium bowl. Add the blood orange juice and the lemon zest. Allow the mixture to macerate (marinate).

2. Heat the honey in a small saucepan. Add the lavender (if using) and allow the mixture to simmer for 2 minutes, remove from the heat. Cool the honey mixture slightly. Strain out the lavender and discard.

3. Lightly mash the strawberries with a potato masher. Add the honey and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. The Modern Springtime Charoset can be stored covered in the refrigerator for one day before serving.

Afghan Style Charoset

The Jewish Community of Afghanistan has dwindled down to one Jew who is the care taker of the only synagogue in Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan Jews now live in Israel. I was happy to try this Charoset. Passover is about freedom, and the Afghan Jewish community has suffered for millennia.

Parve
Yield: approximately 1 ½ cups


¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup dark raisins
1 apple, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons sweet red wine
1 ripe banana, peeled

1. Process all of the ingredients in a food processor and store covered, for up to 1 day, in the refrigerator.

Indian Style Charoset or Jaroseth

Wine vinegar in this Indian style Charoset makes the Seder classic very similar to a chutney. The blend of sweet and sour adds a dimension to the condiment. I really wanted to make this charoset and serve it, but because I am Ashkenazi, I left the sesame seeds out. It was a great addition to the Seder. I also made the charoset when it was not Passover just to taste it with the sesame seeds and it was out of this world.

Parve
Yield: approximately 2 cups


2 ripe mangos, cut into medium dice
¼ cup dark raisins
¼ cup pitted dates
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of salt

1. Pulse all of the ingredients in a food processor until they are a paste. The charoset can be made 3 days before serving and can be stored, covered in the refrigerator.

Persian Style Charoset or Halek

Persian food is as beautiful as it is complex in flavor and perfume. The liberal use of nuts and dried fruits gives the Charoset character. I am a fan of rosewater which adds complexity and elegance.

Pareve
Yield: approximately 2 cups


¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup shelled and skinned pistachios
¼ cup walnuts, shelled
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
¼ cup pitted dates
¼ cup dried apricots
¼ cup pitted prunes
¼ cup dried cherries
1 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Rosewater*

1. Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until the mixture resembles a paste. Any remaining liquid will be absorbed by the fried fruit.

2. Cover the charoset and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours before serving or refrigerator overnight. The charoset can be made up to 3 days before serving and can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator.

*Rosewater is a distillation of rose petals. Rose oil is made from distilling crushed rose petals and is used in cosmetics and perfumes. Rosewater is a by-product of this process.

Rosewater is commonly used in Persian and Indian recipes. It is used in desserts as well as savory dishes.
In Europe, rosewater is used to flavor marzipan, marshmallows and scones.

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