Haroset Article by Gil Marks

Posted by : Ruth Heiges

This is from an article by Gil Marks in the archives of the Jewish
Communications Network, .

Ruth

The Rabbis devised a chopped fruit mixture called charoset -- derived from
cheres, the Hebrew word for clay -- as a way to blunt the taste of the
bitter herbs at the Passover Seder. Arguably this tasty mixture into which
the bitter herbs are dipped is everyone's favorite part of the Seder plate.
The leftovers, if any actually remain, are enjoyed throughout the week.

The ingredients used to make charoset vary among communities depending on
its symbolic meaning and availability. According to authorities such as
Maimonides, charoset "is meant as a reminder of the mortar which the
Israelites worked with in Egypt. Dates, dried figs, raisins, or the like
are taken and pounded, wine vinegar is added, and the mixture is seasoned
with condiments in the same way that mortar is seasoned with straw
(Maimonides, The Book of Seasons 7:11)." In this vein, most Sephardim
prepare charoset following Maimonides instructions using dried fruits --
often those mentioned in Song of Songs -- to make a thick paste resembling
mortar.

Ashkenazim, on the other hand, add a secondary symbolic meaning to charoset
in remembrance of the verse "Under the apple tree I aroused you (Song of
Songs 8:5)." Thus chopped fresh apples are the primary component of
Ashkenazic charoset. In this vein, some Sephardim apply both verses and use
both dried fruits and fresh apples. In addition to apples, Ashkenazim mix
in ground nuts to thicken the mixture and red wine, in remembrance of the
plague of blood, to loosen it. A little honey is often added for extra
sweetness.

The final touch to charoset is the addition of long-shaped spices,
primarily cinnamon and ginger, symbolizing the straw with which the
Israelites made bricks in Egypt. In Temple times, street peddlers could be
heard throughout Jerusalem calling out, "Come and get your spices for the
commandment (of charoset) (Pesachim 116a)." These spices were often freshly
chopped. However, with the decline in international trade during the Middle
Ages, the ground forms of spices were generally the only ones available.
Although today cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger are once again widely
available, the ground forms are still almost universally used.

Charoset was traditionally made in a wooden bowl using a hackmesser,
mezzaluna, or another type of chopper. Since most modern kitchens lack
these utensils, the fruit and nuts can be chopped separately on a cutting
board, then mixed together or they can be chopped in a food processor, but
do not puree as it is meant to have texture.

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