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Charoset

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photo courtesy of enwikipedia

This year Pesach begins on Monday night, April 10. There is a lot of preparation for Pesach- cleaning, shopping and preparing. Charoset is one of the fabulous unique flvours 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.

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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.

Figs, cinnamon, cardamon, lemon, ginger – perfect if there is a nut allergy

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 try your own recipe. I have also included a number of different charoset recipes from around the world, so try something new. If you want to send on YOUR charoset recipe it would be lovely to find out what you do.

Have a sweet and meaningful Pesach,

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

 

Traditional Ashkenazi

  • 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

  • 1cup slivered almonds
  • 12 cup dried apricots
  • 1cup 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

  • 1cup dates
  • 1cup shelled pistachios
  • 1cup almonds (shelled)
  • 1cup raisins
  • 1 each: apple, orange, banana-finely  chopped
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 1cup sweet wine
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon black pepper 
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Shir haShirim and Springtime

Earth Tree 0028 Ketubah by Laya Crust with quotations from Shir haShirim

Ahhh, springtime. A beautiful time of the year. The flowers are blooming and we are surrounded by the sweet smells of blossoming trees.

Last week during the Shabbat of Passover we read Shir haShirim, or The Song of Songs. There are two interpretations of Shir haShirim. Throughout history many Rabbis and scholars have opined that Shir haShirim is an allegory for the love between God and the people of Israel.  The other interpretation is that it is a  love poem written by King Solomon for the Queen of Sheba.

It is an amazingly beautiful piece – poetic and lyrical. Within this poem of two lovers seeking and dreaming of each other are nestled gemsP1140782 describing nature and springtime.

Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle dove
is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.

I decided to write some of my favourite phrases from Shir haShirim in a triangular accordion fold book. There are some lovely handmade papers infused with flower petals and grasses, so I chose one of those papers  and wrote the text in a deep but subdued green, beckoning springtime into the letters themselves.

The poetry continues. In chapter 4  King Solomon describes aromatic breezes wafting through an enclosed garden. The night winds are scented with the perfumes of exotic spices.  “Nard and saffron, fragrant reed and cinnamon,with all aromatic woods, myrrh and aloes- all the choice perfumes. A garden spring, a well of fresh water, and streams from Lebanon.” P1140787

The poetry is wrapped up and enclosed, ready to be opened and shared with the world.

Coincidently, William Shakespeare was born on April 23,  1564 . (I wonder if he was a Pesach baby?) He died almost exactly 400 years ago, on May 3, 1616. He is known for his romantic writings, his plays and his sonnets. Sonnet 98 refers to both the flowers of spring and to love. But, I have to say it, Shir haShirim is a better read!

Take care. Feel the breeze on your face. Breathe in the beautiful scents of young blossoms. Enjoy the spring.

Best, Laya

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