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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.

Image result for charoset

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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The Trees’ Birthday

20150203_190816[1]Tu B’Shevat- the Trees’ birthday.

In Judaism we have a special place in our heart for trees. We call the Torah “The Tree of Life” We are always looking back at our ancestors- our family tree. It is forbidden in Jewish law to cut down a fruit tree. And in our ancient history some families had a tradition to  plant a tree when a baby was born- a cedar for boys and a cypress for girls. When a couple got married, branches from their trees were used to hold up the marriage canopy. Another tradition- I remember when I was a little girl we would collect money to plant trees in Israel on Tu B’Shevat.

I mention this now because this year Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of Shevat, begins tonight, on Tuesday February 3 and continues tomorrow, Wednesday February 4.

One enjoyable and tasty idea is to gather 15 fruits that grow on trees. In the collection above I have figs, dates, almonds, olives, pomegranate, grapefruit, walnuts, avocado, orange, persimmon, mango, pear, plum, carob, and just for the fun of it, dragon fruit.

So get your inner fruit lover and enjoy the abundance with family and friends.

In case you missed it a few days ago, here is a repeat of the Pomegranate- Ginger Bark recipe:

20150201_115733[1]You’ll need:

1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips

a pomegranate

fresh ginger root or candied ginger

a sprinkling of salt (I would suggest Malden or kosher salt)
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Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Peel a 1″ section of ginger. Slice the ginger and dice into tiny pieces. (You can toss the ginger with a small amount of potato starch to absorb  the moisture from the fresh ginger.)

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.

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Combine 1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds with 1 Tbsp. of ginger, and stir into the melted chocolate.

Pour onto parchment paper and smoothe it out. Sprinkle with a little kosher or Malden salt.

Pour onto parchment paper and smoothe it out. Sprinkle with a little kosher or Malden salt.

 

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Chill the pomegranate bark in the refrigerator or freezer. Serve and enjoy.

 

 

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