Passover is a holiday filled with traditions and symbolism. From chanting the ancient blessings to forgoing bread, the rituals involved in this unique holiday hold a special place in many people’s hearts. And among all of the traditional aspects of Passover, the food we eat during the seder, or the traditional holiday meal and service, is often one of the most-anticipated parts. Whether the Passover dinner table includes the classic matzo ball soup or the infamous gefilte fish or your grandma’s age-old brisket recipe, the chance to gather and dine among family and friends is a wonderful part of this celebration.
While symbolic items like bitter herbs and bowls of salt water are must-haves at the Passover seder dinner, one of the most beloved staples is the charoset, a dish that many people look forward to scooping up with a piece of matzo.The sweet and spice-tinged deliciousness of the charoset fruit-and-nut mixture is a highlight of the seder ceremony. Luckily, how to make charoset is easy to teach, and it’s a recipe you can share with loved ones year after year. Understanding the significance that charoset brings to the Passover seder makes eating the dish even more meaningful.
What Is Charoset?
A Passover seder is unlike any other holiday dinner and comes with some unique customs: Guests eat unleavened matzo instead of bread, drink four glasses of wine in one sitting, and recline on pillows placed on their dining chairs. In the middle of the table sits a platter, called a seder plate, containing various symbolic foods used throughout the Passover ceremony, such as a roasted egg, fresh greens, a lamb shank bone, and charoset, a sweet mixture of ingredients that can vary from region to region, or family to family.
Although delicious, charoset is meant to symbolize a material usually not associated with tasty food: clay. That’s because during Passover, Jewish people celebrate being freed from slavery when they were living in Egypt under the Pharaoh Ramses II’s rule. The mixture of fruits, nuts and other ingredients in charoset is intended to resemble mortar, the material the Jews used to construct buildings for the Egyptian ruler. Eating charoset commemorates the enslaved ancestors, and the eventual miracle that the Jews were freed from the Pharaoh’s rule.
How Do You Make Charoset?
To make charoset, simply chop, grind, or pound the fruits, nuts, honey, spices and other ingredients (see recipes below) using a food processor, a chopper, or even a sharp knife, and then mix them together. Some people prefer their charoset on the chunkier side, while others want it to look more like a paste. The good news is that there is no “wrong” consistency for charoset, as long as it can be used to symbolize mortar in the Passover ceremony.
Many families follow charoset recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation and that reflect their regional heritage. For example, Iraqi charoset might include dates, while an Italian version might use chestnuts, and a variation that originates from Surinam may involve coconut. Ashkenazi Jews, who originate from Eastern and Central Europe, often make charoset using apples, walnuts and wine.
No matter which recipe you follow, make sure to store your mixture in a bowl with a sealable cover and refrigerate the charoset for a few hours before serving, to allow the flavors to combine.
Perhaps the most popular charoset recipe (at least in the U.S.), the Ashkenazi version of this traditional dish is made by blending apples, wine, walnuts, honey and cinnamon, for a mouthwateringly sweet-and-spicy flavor.
When prepping the apples, you can either peel the fruit or leave the skin on. It’s a personal choice, but if you like to peel the apples, have a good-quality peeler handy to make your prep a breeze.
While Ashkenazi charoset recipes can vary, most resemble this one:
Charoset can be made with a wide variety of fruit and nut combinations. The apricots and pistachios in this charoset recipe complement each other beautifully.