Wednesday, April 4, 2007

best thing i've eaten this week - charoset

even before i got a jewish best friend and a jewish husband, i had been to my fair share of passover seders. when i was little, my stepmom's friend judy kesselman would throw these enormous seders every year and we'd go and eat all the good food and ignore all the god talk (not that there was much; these were, after all, my stepmom's hippie jewish friends). so since my youth, i've loved me a good seder. and the best part of seder is the charoset (alternately spelled haroset, charoses, charoseth, haroses, and probably a dozen other ways).

i love it so much that in the last few years i have volunteered to make it for our seders with stephen's family so that a) i can make extra to hoard all to myself, and b) i can guarantee that it's going to be good.

so what the hell is (c)haroset(h)(ses)? ritual-wise, it's supposed to represent the mortar that the enslaved jews used to make the bricks that they built the pyramids with back when they were enslaved by the pharoah in egypt, before moses came and did his thing with the plagues and the parting of the sea and all that jazz. culinary-wise, it's a pitch-perfect mixture of grated apples, nuts, honey, wine, lemon juice, and cinnamon.

you can tweak the proportions to your taste, but the formula i follow is: about 6 cups grated apples, 1-1/2 cups finely chopped nuts, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup wine, juice of two lemons, 1/2 t cinnamon. i use granny smith apples or a mix of grannies and another tart red apple like a winesap. for the wine, you want a light red, a little spicy is nice. this year i used a tinto roble. for the love of all that is holy do not use manischewitz.

i used to grate the apples by hand, but went for the food processor this year because i was making a double batch, and, well....i prefer the texture that you get when it's grated by hand, but if you're making a lot—and are looking for a way to involve a 2-yr. old—the f.p. does just fine. and if you've already got the f.p. in use, you can chop the nuts in it. then just throw all the ingredients together, and mix it all up with your hands. microwave the honey for a minute on low before mixing it in, makes it easier to disperse. then throw it in the fridge and wait.... it's better the next day, and will keep for a good long time (2 weeks? who knows. it doesn't last long in my fridge).

i've already bought more apples to make another batch....

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