Everyone has the perfect recipe for charoset and of course, everyone’s recipe is different. Irreparable family rifts have been formed and unforgivable words said surrounding this seder plate item. “The most contested thing that I know of on the seder plate is the charoset,” said Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Pikesville.
Rabbi Cardin recalled a time when she conflicted with her sister-in-law who cherished her own recipe as much as Rabbi Cardin did hers. “I can’t remember how it was resolved way back, but it didn’t occur to me until later that maybe [it was good to have] varieties of charoset with everyone who was there bringing [their own] family traditions [and] encourage them to celebrate the varieties.”
The table at Passover can become a showcase for the wide variety of Jewish heritage and traditions, said Ann-Michele Gundlach, Owings Mills.
“Since Jews come from so many places throughout the world, our seder dinners have reflected the enormous diversity of the Jewish people and our food.”
Gundlach uses an Italian charoset recipe pulled from “The Book of Jewish Food” by Claudia Roden.
For some people, embracing other people’s recipes has enriched their seder as recipes that began as someone else’s have become known as their specialty. For Sima Abarbanel, Owings Mills, her charoset recipe, which came from a seder-seminar workshop held at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation some 15 or 20 years ago and is an Israeli recipe, has become wholly her own. “It’s just a joy to make and see everybody love it. They say, ‘Oh this is Sima’s charoset.’”
For others, charoset was a way to embrace the richness of Jewish heritage. Joy Katz, Owings Mills, who converted to Judaism 30 years ago, didn’t have a family recipe to use for her seder. “My husband’s family was Ashkenazi so I decided to use [Joan Nathan’s] recipe for the traditional Ashkenazi Apple-Nut charoset.” The following year, Katz added in Nathan’s recipe for Persian charoset and now makes both.
The JT team tasted three charoset recipes, two homemade using Abarbanel’s and Gundlach’s recipes and the third from Gourmet Again in Pikesville. The team was impressed by how varied the tastes and textures were of the three recipes, despite having similar ingredients. JT
Sima Abarbanel’s Israeli Charoset
1 apple, peeled and cored
3 bananas, sliced
10 dated, pitted
1/2 cup pistachios
1/2 lemon, juiced and rind grated
1/2 orange, juiced and rind grated
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp cinnamon
Sugar or honey
Put all ingredients except the wine into a blender and blend at medium speed to chop finely. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add wine and cinnamon. The mixture will be rather loose. Add enough matzah meal to achieve desired consistency. Add sugar or honey as needed.
Ann-Michele Gundlach’s Italian Charoset
Modified from the Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food
3-4 apples (sweet and tart) peeled and diced
1/2 pound of pitted Medjool dates, diced
1 cup Sultana raisins
1/2 cup pitted prunes, diced
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/3 -1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar (less or more is fine)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 – 2 cups Sweet red wine
Combine all ingredients in a pot and mix together well. Cook on stove top for at least one hour until the ingredients are soft and the consistency you like. You will need to stir the mixture occasionally. You may also need to add water if it gets too dry. Do not boil this mixture. Once it is heated all the way through – just let it simmer. When it us done, let it cool in a glass bowl.
Joy Katz’s Persian Charoset
25 dates, pitted and diced
1/2 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup yellow raisins
1 1/2 apples, peeled cored and diced
1/2 – 1 cup sweet red wine
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine all the fruits and nuts. Add the wine and vinegar until pasty consistency. Add the spices and blend well.
8 ounces unsweetened coconut
8 ounces chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
8 ounces raisins
8 ounces dried apples
8 ounces dried apricots
8 ounces dried pears
4 ounces cherry jam
Sweet red wine
Combine everything except the jam and wine in a large, heavy pot. Add water to cover. Simmer over low heat and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add small amounts of water periodically so mixture does not stick to pot. Cook at least 90 minutes. Stir in cherry jam. Let cool. Add enough wine to be absorbed.
Syrian Charoset with Apricots, Pistachios and Orange Blossom Water
2 cups whole Turkish dried apricots
½ cup orange juice
¾ cup hot water
2 tablespoons coconut sugar or unrefined whole cane sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 teaspoons orange blossom water
¼ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios or whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons shelled, unsalted pistachios, or whole blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor, for topping
Combine apricots, orange juice, water, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until apricots are very soft and mushy, 30 to 40 minutes. (Make sure to stir every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent burning.)
Pour hot apricot mixture into a food processor and add the lemon juice and orange blossom water. Pulse 1 to 2 minutes until a smooth paste. Scoop out into a medium sized bowl and mix in the chopped nuts by hand. Cool to room temperature. Serve charoset at room temperature in a small, decorative bowl garnished with finely ground pistachios or almonds.