charoset pyramid
Charoset is meant to symbolize the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to build with. One clever host shapes charoset into a pyramid. (Photo by Ari Moore)

The food we make for Jewish holidays usually isn’t terribly healthy (i.e. fried potato latkes) and Passover food isn’t known for being especially tasty (i.e. matzah). But here is one notable exception. It’s healthy, yummy, easy to make and you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it.

I make charoset for our Seder every year: a delicious concoction of chopped apples, walnuts, sweet wine, cinnamon and honey. Its ceremonial significance is that it resembles the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used while building for the Egyptian Pharoh. Though it’s not much to look at, it tastes delicious and it’s really healthy, too.

When my keds were in elementary school I was the mom who came to the classroom to teach about the Jewish holidays. My Passover program always included a box of matzoh (unleavened bread) and a big bowl of charoset. As I told the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the kids always gobbled up the unattractive mush, and one of them even said, “Mrs. Browdy, you rock!”

I’m usually pretty tied to recipes, but charoset is one of those things that you can just eyeball, and it comes out great every time. Our Bubbies (grandmothers) chopped the fruits and nuts by hand, but I use the Cuisinart and it’s done in minutes.

Here’s how I do it:

3-4 apples (I use organic, since apples are on the Dirty Dozen list) washed and cored but unpeeled (most of the nutrients are in the skin).

3-4 handfuls of walnuts (rich in Omega-3s)

Put in food processor and pulse until some chunks of apple remain. Add a few shakes of cinnamon (a great antioxidant), a half cup or so of sweet red wine (or grape juice, especially for the classroom batch!), and a squeeze or two of honey and process until desired consistency. Add some raisins if that’s how you roll.

I get to attend a Seder led by my friend and Shrubtown cartoonist Marc Stopeck, who is an artist with his Passover foods as well. His charoset uses hand-chopped Granny Smith apples and some chopped dates as well. Part of charoset’s charm is that it is very adaptable to however you wish to make it. Another plus is that you can store covered it in the fridge for at least a week.

The traditional accompaniment to charoset is matzah, but if you don’t have that you can eat it plain or mixed into your oatmeal. I suppose it would be pretty tasty on vanilla ice cream, but that would cancel out some of the health benefits. Try mixing it into some plain yogurt instead.

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Lisa Browdy

We all know what to do, and many of us resolve to do it every year: eat better, exercise more, lose weight and reduce stress. We may have many demands on our time and energy, and not a lot of cash to spare...

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