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By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Charoset
Traditional Charoset. ADAM ANIK/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Quick, what is the quintessential Passover food?

Matzo?

Horseradish, which symbolizes the bitterness of slavery.?

Bad but traditional candy fruit slices?

There’s a reason people’s mind goes to food.

Passover (in Hebrew, Pesach) is a holiday built around a meal at which symbolic foods are eaten that represent aspects of the Exodus from Egypt. Guests read parts from the Haggadah (literally, “telling,” a script for the evening), to tell the story, pausing for blessings over wine and food, and for eating those foods. The holiday begins on Friday, April 14 (Passover and Easter always take place around the same time; the Last Supper traditionally was a Passover Seder).

And that’s a Seder. The word means “order,” because the telling has to happen in a particular order.

Matzo is part of the Seder. (Candy slices are not.) Some beloved foods, like Matzo ball soup, are part of the main meal, when Haggadot are put away for awhile, until the grace and the resumption of the Seder.

One of the Seder dishes everyone looks forward to is Charoset (Kha-roe-set. This is a transliteration, so it is also seen as Haroset, Charoses, etc.). It is a dish that symbolizes the mortar the Israelites used when laying bricks, and is a sweet apple sauce concoction.

Ashkenazi Jews usually make a Charoset with apples, walnuts and wine.

But recipes from around the world tweak the format. These four recipes were used at a women’s Seder recently at Congregation B’nai Israel, in Millburn.

Some of the dishes looked truly off-putting, as though they were mortar: I guess that is the point, since if you’ve grown up eating Charoset you see not an image of slavery but the sweet thing that tastes so good on Matzo.

However despite their different ingredients, all are delicious.

Reprinted from CBI Sisterhood Haggadah.

Charoset Recipes from around the World

Ashkenazic

Grandpa Max’s Charoses from Wendy Kaplowitz

Take one bag of ground almonds (6 ounce bag). [Editor’s note: nuts can be omitted.] Open and pour into a bowl. Add one large, peeled sweet apple like a gala, fuji or macintosh, diced into ¼ inch pieces. Season with about ½ teaspoon of cinnamon or more if desired. Add Manischewitz Extra Heavy Malaga (Check if it is Kosher for Passover. If not, use another very sweet wine) until it forms a very thick paste. Taste and add more wine or cinnamon if needed. Before serving, if it is too thick, add a little wine.

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READ: PASSOVER; WINE WELCOMES THE HOLIDAY

READ: NO HAMETZ ALLOWED; PASSOVER FOOD

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Turkish

1 cup black raisins

1 cup dates (pitted)

1 orange, peeled, sliced crosswise and pitted (grate some of the rind)

1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced

Kiddush wine or grape juice

Soak the rains and dates in Kosher red wine or grape juice for a few hours or overnight to soften them. Put the peeled and seeded apple, dates, raisins, some of the soaking wine and some grated orange rind and the orange in a food processor and process until pureed. It should look and feel like “mud that was used to hold together the bricks for the pyramids.” (Thankfully it doesn’t taste like it.) Add more wine if too thicken or some walnuts if it is too sweet or too thin.

Yemenite

From Ellen Shulman

1 pound fresh dates

1 pound raisins

¾ pound almonds

½ pound walnuts

3 pomegranates, peeled and seeded (or 1-1 ½ cups of pomegranate juice)

Tablespoon of mixed spices (equal parts cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cardamom, cloves and ginger) in a food processor, chop all the fruits, including the pomegranate seeds and juice, and the nuts. Add the spices, adjusting each to your taste.

Sephardic Style Haroset Bites

10 large Medjool dates, pitted and cut in half lengthwise

1 cup organic grape juice, slightly warm

1 cup organic raisins

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

½ cup raw walnuts, roughly chopped

1 cup almond meal

Combine dates and warm grape juice in a large bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Combine dates (including soaking grape juice), raisins and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse until they are pureed. Transfer to a bowl, add hazelnuts, walnuts and almond meal and mix until all the ingredients are well-incorporated. Working with 1 tablespoon of mixture at a time, gently form balls (you’ll get approximately 25) and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Charoset
All the ingredients for Ashkenazic Charoset. COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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