The seder is the highlight of the Passover holiday. The dramatic retelling of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt is punctuated with foodstuffs that symbolize events and stir our emotions. Charoset symbolizes the mortar that the Jews used to cement the bricks. It is eaten in combination with the maror or bitter horseradish to remind us of the sweetness of life, even in bitter times.

I love the charoset and don’t even mind eating it with spicy horseradish. It is a fun play on the palate and makes the telling of the exodus even more exciting. Make several different types of charoset and mix things up with variations and flavors. After all, the seder is supposed to be fun!

Ashkenazi Style Charoset

½ cup of crushed walnuts

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into small dice

2 Gala apples, cored and cut into small dice

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup sweet red wine such as Muscat or grape juice

  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 and store, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Yemenite Charoset

1 cup dried black figs, stems cut off

1 cup dried dates, pitted

1 cup dried apricots

3 cups red wine or apple juice

1 tablespoon cinnamon

½ cup toasted almonds

¼ cup honey

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 

  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. Squeeze all the liquid out of the fruit. Reserve 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 for additional texture if desired.

Modern Springtime Charoset

2 cups fresh 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 remove from the heat. Cool the honey mixture. 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.
Laura Frankel is an Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering and author of numerous kosher cookbooks including Jewish Cooking for All Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. To purchase her books, click here.
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