Wednesday, April 8, 2009

131. Ashkenazic Haroseth (p. 902)

I'm not Jewish, but when I was a little boy, I attended a Jewish nursery school because it was only a few blocks from our house. Ever since I then, when we made construction-paper Seder Plates, I've had an interest in Jewish food and culture.

Haroseth, or charoset, is one of the six elements of the traditional Seder Plate. Each of the items on the plate recalls a part of the Jews' exodus from Egypt. This element, with its dark color, and pasty, pebbly texture, is meant to represent the mortar that the Jews used during their enslavement to build the storehouses of Egypt. Symbolism aside, this dish tastes nothing like mortar. In fact, it was pretty good. The Seder Plate has a reputation as being more of a traditional than a gastronomical experience. But, while the bitter herbs and shank bone don't seem that appealing, haroseth is said to be enjoyed libreally and is a favorite of children.

This recipe,* which comes from the Ashkenazi branch of Judiasm in Eastern Europe, combines chopped Macintosh apples, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and a generous splash of Passover wine. Apparently these are all ingredients mentioned by King Solomon in The Song of Songs. All you do is combine the ingredients and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to develop. Serve it on matzos and enjoy!

The area I live in doesn't have a particularly large Jewish community, and I think that's why I had a tough time finding the ingredients for this recipe and the other Passover dish I made (a Passover Sponge Cake with Apples that I'll post about next). For this recipe, I was able to find matzos at my usual grocery store, but it wasn't until I got home that I noticed that they weren't "Kosher for Passover." Same with the Manischewitz wine I bought. The grocery store had just run out, so I went to the New Hampshire State Liquor Store. Under a handwritten sign that said "Kosher Wine for Passover" I found a few lonely bottles of Manischewitz Elderberry wine. The Book calls for the Concord Grape variety, but it was either Elderberry or nothing, and I figured that it was close enough. Well, when I got home and did a little bit of research, I learned that Elderberry is the only variety of Manischewitz that's not available "Kosher for Passover." Thankfully, I was looking for "Kosher for Passover" items for reasons of authenticity rather than religion. Otherwise, it would have been a real challenge to make these two Passover dishes.

As I said, this dish was pretty good. It wasn't amazingly great, though. The apples stayed crisp and sweet, and the cinnamon was a clean and bright note, but the wine was the dominant element in the recipe, giving the haroseth a cloying sweetness and booziness. I found it a bit liquidy too, which suprised me, since I was expecting the apples to soak up more of the wine. In all, I'm glad I made this recipe, and I'm enjoing snacking on it from the refrigerator this week, but I don't think I'll make it again.

Date Cooked: April 4, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B-

*This recipe is not on

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