Passover is celebrated to commemorate of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. The story is told during the sedar meal on the first and second nights of the eight day Passover holiday. The haroset on the sedar plate symbolizes the mortar used by Hebrew slaves in Egypt to build the pyramids. The plate has several symbolic foods that aid in the telling of the story of the Jews’ escape to freedom as told in the Torah (and the Christian Old Testament of the Bible).
Haroset is a fruit paste which usually includes fruits, nuts and sweet kosher wine. American Jews are most familiar with the mixture of apples, almonds, cinnamon, wine, and ginger—sort of an uncooked applesauce. But there are infinite variations: including walnuts, pine nuts, dates, raisins, figs, oranges, coriander, chili pepper, chestnut paste, apricots, bananas, coconut—fruits and nuts native to all the places of the Diaspora.
In Egypt, the haroset is supposed to be the color of the Nile silt, which was used to make the mortar for pyramids, and using a mixture of dates and raisins gave the right approximation of the color. The recipe I made did not specify the color of raisins to use, so I used the more common black raisins. Another cookbook of mine (The Book of Jewish Food, by Claudia Roden, which I did not check before planning the menu for our sedar) specifies golden raisins or sultanas so my version is quite a bit darker than an authentic recipe would be.
Haroset is very good eaten with the bitter herbs and matzo during the sedar, but it’s good for breakfast, lunch, and snacks throughout Passover. I like this version with cheese. We always wonder why we don’t eat haroset at other times of the year, but the only time I make it is for Passover.
- 1 pound raisins
- 1/2 pound pitted dates
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts
Soak the raisins and dates with enough water to cover for 1 hour.
Add the sugar and stir. Divide the mixture into thirds, and process in batches in a food processor.
Transfer the chopped fruits to a heavy saucepan and simmer over very low heat until the fruits are cooked and the liquid is absorbed. It should take 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and place in a jar. When cool, sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Note to regular readers: I’m not abandoning my Japanese cooking, but it is Passover.
I grew up in the UP (Upper Pennisula of Michigan) where most of the world beyond our shores was exotic. I’ve spent the 30 years since, learning about the variety and possibilities beyond those narrow constraints. In my life this interest in Jewish food is even more significant than my interest in things Japanese, because my significant-other grew up with these customs. As a Finnish-American, I “married out” …
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