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Persian Charoset

April 21, 2011

This is my mom’s recipe, originally from the LA Times some time in the ’70s. Over the past 40 years, the ingredients and proportions have morphed and adapted, to a point where she has no idea how much of anything she puts in every year. It’s a matter of adding and tasting, getting second and third opinions, and ultimately giving up and pronouncing “now it tastes like my charoset… or it will tomorrow, after it marinates.”

I did slow my mother down long enough to measure everything that went in, but I would encourage anyone making this to play with proportions to your liking. For example, looking at my notes today, I’m amazed that there are 2 teaspoons of nutmeg (that’s just silly), but apparently my mom likes to live on the nutmeg edge.

I love this kind of “recipe,” because it’s a reflection of the cook, the time and place. It’s a little different every time, and impossible to recreate in exactly the same way. My aunt started adding rose water to hers, I tend to go heavy on the ginger; you never know exactly what you’re going to get.

I’m baffled that my mom doesn’t add salt to the recipe. It’s not always possible to get unsalted nuts, so a little salt sneaks in that way.

I should probably explain charoset to the uninitiated: it is a traditional passover dish which is meant to look like mortar the Israelite slaves used to build pyramids and monuments in Egypt. According to various untrustworthy websites, Gilbraltan Jews mix brick dust into their charoset in a misguided attempt at authenticity.

In less literal Jewish households, however, it’s just a spicy fruit-and-nut salad, eaten on matzah and used to mask the pungent flavor of horseradish, which is eaten in tribute to ancient suffering. Basically, if you have to remember generations of oppression, why not do so with a sweet, boozy condiment?

It’s only fair to warn you that charoset has wine in it, uncooked wine at that. For me, the Manischewitz is the tastiest option, but you can always substitute grape juice.

Persian Charoset

Makes enough for an army, a couple of gallons.
All amounts are approximate; adjust to taste, especially with the spices.

12 oz raw unsalted pistachios, minced
6 oz raw unsalted cashews, minced
5 oz raw unsalted almonds, thinly sliced or minced
Optional: 4-6 oz raw unsalted pecans, minced

8 oz golden raisins
8 oz dark raisins
22 oz dried dates, minced

2 crisp red apples (we used Jonagold), finely diced
2 crisp green apples (Granny Smith), finely diced
2 sweet pears (Anjou), finely diced
zest of one orange

½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Optional: cardamom, salt
¼ cup sweet red wine (Manischewitz) or grape juice
Optional: 2-4 Tablespoons rose water

1. A food processor makes the mincing go faster. When I make this on my own, I tend to hand-chop the fruit to get it into a slightly larger dice than the nuts/raisins.
2. Combine everything in a very large bowl or tupperware container, adjusting seasonings to taste. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight for the best flavor.

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