Charoset, haroset, or charoses (Hebrew: חֲרֽוֹסֶת [ḥărōset]) is a sweet, dark-colored, chunky paste made of fruits and nuts served primarily during the Passover Seder. Its color and texture are meant to recall the mortar with which the Israelites bonded bricks when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt as mentioned in Tractate Pesahim of the Talmud. The word "charoset" comes from the Hebrew word cheres — חרס — "clay."
The charoset serves an ancillary function with maror on the Passover Seder Plate. Before eating the maror — in the present day generally horseradish or romaine lettuce — participants dip the maror into the charoset and then shake off the charoset before eating the maror. This action symbolises how hard the Israelites worked in Egypt, combining a food that brings tears to the eyes (the maror) with one that resembles the mortar used to build Egyptian cities and storehouses (the charoset).
Despite its symbolism, the charoset is a tasty concoction and is a favorite of children. During the Seder meal, it may be eaten liberally, often spread on matzah.
There are many recipes for charoset. A typical recipe from the Eastern European (or Ashkenazi) tradition would include nuts, apples, cinnamon, and sweet wine — ingredients mentioned by King Solomon in Song of Songs as recalling the attributes of the Jewish people themselves. Honey or sugar may be used as a sweetener and binder. The mixture is not cooked.
- In Egypt, it is made only of dates, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and sweet wine.
- In Greece and Turkey, it consists of apples, dates, chopped almonds, and wine.
- In Iraq and Central Asia, it sometimes consists of grape jelly
- In Italy, it can include chestnuts
- In Spanish and Portuguese communities of the New World, such as Suriname, it may include coconut.
Not all Jews use the term "charoset". Some of the Jews of the Middle East instead use the term "halegh". The origin of halegh is not clear. Rav Saadia Gaon uses the word and attributes it to a kind of walnut that was a mandatory ingredient in the preparation of the halegh.
Parts of the Jewish Diaspora in Persia have a tradition of including forty different ingredients in the halegh. The number forty signifies the forty years of wandering in the desert. Included are all the fruits mentioned in the Song of Songs: apples 2-3, figs 2-13, pomegranates 4-3, grapes 2-15, walnuts 6-11, dates 7-7 with the addition of wine 1-2, saffron 4-14 and cinnamon 4-14. To arrive at the magic number of forty, some recipes[dubious ] include the following ingredients:
- 1 to 5: Five different varieties of apples
- 6 to 7: Two different varieties of pears
- 8 to 10: Three different varieties of grapes
- 11 to 12: Two different varieties of dried figs
- 13: Fresh ginger, grated
- 14: Dates
- 15 to 18: Dried apricots, dried peaches, dried cherries and prunes
- 19 to 21: Red raisins, yellow raisins and currants
- 22 to 26: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios and filberts, all dry-roasted without any oils or salt
- 27: Pomegranate juice
- 28 to 35: Cinnamon as the dominant spice, along with cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, saffron, cloves and black peppers, all crushed
- 36 to 39: White wine, red wine, rose wine, vinegar
- 40: Starting with the late 1950s, bananas were added as well
All fruits are washed, dried, peeled and chopped and the shelled nuts are dry-roasted. All the ingredients are traditionally mixed in a mortar, but since the 1990s, the use of an electric mixer has become common.
- ^ Rabbi Arthur Waskow (2009-04-08). "Passover's R-Rated Condiment". The Washington Post. http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/arthur_waskow/2009/04/passovers_r-rated_condiment.html.
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