Of all the ritual foods that grace the Passover table, there is probably none that has as many variations as haroset. This sweet concoction, symbolizing the mortar the Jewish people used to build pyramids while enslaved in Egypt, takes on different forms depending on the cook’s heritage.
While the ingredients making up Ashkenazi haroset rarely varies from the basics (apples, nuts, spices, and sweet wine), haroset made by Jews from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origins tends to vary not only by country but sometimes even based on the cook’s town or family.
If one doubts that Jews are a wandering people, just look at the difference within the styles of this Passover superstar. Egyptian haroset is made by soaking dates and raisins overnight, then boiling them into thick syrup. Yemenite haroset features a pâté of dried fruit and piquant spices like cardamom, cloves or pepper. Persian haroset is made from dates, and sometimes bananas and pears as well. Venetians add chestnuts or pine nuts, while haroset from Milan is made with apples or pears, bananas, dates, almonds and oranges.
Even when sticking to traditional Ashkenazi ingredients, by including a variety of apples and nuts, the flavor becomes unbelievably complex.
To celebrate the rich heritage of our people and to add a nontraditional edge to a very traditional dish, make this Passover different by offering your guests a sampling of harosets from around the world.
Click here for haroset recipes to get you started.
Felisa Billet is a journalist whose commentaries on food and lifestyles have been featured in regional and national publications including USA Today, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and My Midwest Magazine.