This year, 2020, Pesach begins on Wednesday night, April 15. There is a lot of preparation for Pesach- cleaning, shopping and preparing. Many of us are distressed by the current covid-19 virus scare. Some people distract themselves with movies, others with cleaning, but I distract myself with charoset flavours from other traditions. Charoset is one of the fabulous unique flavours we have on that most special night.
Charoset (חרוסת) is a sweet brown paste generally made of fruits, nuts, wine and spices. The word Charoset is from the word cheres- חרס, the Hebrew word for clay. The brown sticky spread is designed to remind us of the mortar that the enslaved Israelites used in ancient Egypt. There are many recipes from all over the world each delicious in its own right.
Ashkenazi Jews from eastern Europe tend to have a charoset made of chopped apples, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, sweet red wine and honey. Whether your family came from Russia, Poland, Romania or Hungary, they probably made it that way and that’s what you grew up eating at your seder table.
Mizrachi Jews – whose families come from the Middle East and North Africa Have many different recipes. It seems that each community made its own style of charoset, one that is very different from the Ashkenazi flavour.
Hardy apples walnuts are the main ingredients in the European version. Dates are a staple in the Arab world, and so they are found in nearly every Mizrachi recipe. The European version uses cinnamon as its spice. The Mizrachi flavours include ginger, cardamon, and nutmeg. The Eastern charoset recipes will use pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and/or hazelnuts in the mix.
Each year I make a few different recipes for charoset. I do the traditional Ahkenazt flavour, a mizrachi flavour, and my favourite- a Shir haShirim creation. Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), is read on the Shabbat during Pesach. It is a very romantic love song which describes two lovers seeking and longing for each other. (In traditional Judaism it is regarded as an allegory for God’s love toward the Jewish people.) Throughout this love poem there are numerous descriptions of nature. One of my favourite verses describes the scent of spices wafting on the soft breezes. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria from Tzfat, who lived in the 16th Century suggested making charoset from nuts, fruits, spices mentioned in the Song of Songs.
Below I have listed the fruits, nuts and spices mentioned in Shir haShirim (Song of Songs) with their sources- you can create your own recipe. I have also included the Ashkenazi standard.
I will post a different charoset recipe each week as we approach Pesach. If you want to share YOUR recipe please send it on. It would be lovely to find out what you do.
In the meantime, stay safe and good wishes to you , your family and your friends. This too will pass. Have a good week and a Shabbat Shalom. Laya
Ingredients for a Shir haShirim Charoset (with sources from the original text. )
- APPLES 2:3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.
- 2:5 Feed me with dainties, refresh me with apples
- FIGS 2:13 The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
- POMEGRANATE 4:13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates GRAPES 2:15 … our vineyards (grape vines) are in blossom.
- WALNUTS 6:11 I went down into the walnut grove…
- DATES 7:7 This thy stature is like to a palm-tree…
ADDITION OF WINE 1:2 For thy love is better than wine. SPICES 4: 13, 14 henna with spikenard plants, Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spice
- 3 medium apples- Canadians prefer macintosh (!) peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup sweet red wine
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon honey
Yemenite — food.com
- 1⁄2 cup slivered almonds
- 1⁄2 cup dried apricots
- 1⁄2 cup figs dried quartered
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lime or lemon rind
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 -4 tablespoons sweet white wine
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds – optional
PERSIAN CHAROSET- HALEK food.com
- 1⁄2 cup dates
- 1⁄2 cup shelled pistachios
- 1⁄4 cup almonds (shelled)
- 1⁄4 cup raisins
- 1 each: apple, orange, banana-finely chopped
- seeds from 1 pomegranate
- 1⁄3 cup sweet wine
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper