It’s time for a haroset “bar” to become part of my Passover tradition.
For several years now, I’ve had two or three haroset on my seder table. There’s always the classic Ashkenazic, a nod to my mother and her Russian parents.
The Haroset Balls are more Sephardic and full of flavors my father and his Turkish parents would have loved. I’ve been serving these (often with slight variations) for over 15 years, and now they are probably the most requested item at my seder.
And then there’s usually one other version that brings home yet another corner of the world.
That’s one of the best things about haroset—besides the flavors, of course. The infinite variety and combinations of fruits, nuts and spices are like a travelogue of Jewish wanderings, revealing the amazing diversity of history, culture and foods of Jews who have lived in nearly every corner of the world.
Each family has its favorite haroset, the one that must be on the seder table every year. Haroset recipes are often passed down in families from generation to generation, but it is safe to say that these recipes are not strict formulas. Each cook is free to add, diminish, change and chop according to personal tastes and traditions.
The word “haroset” comes from the Hebrew word “cheres” meaning “clay,” and the one thing that nearly every haroset recipe has in common is using ingredients that will make the color of the mixture closely resemble the color of mortar. That’s not such a lovely color, you say, so why is this important? Because it symbolizes, the mortar the Israelite slaves used to build cities, store-houses and pyramids for Pharoahs in ancient Egypt.
The Persian tradition of serving haroset molded into a pyramid shape takes this idea a fun step further (and is a great way to keep kids busy while you are dropping those matzah balls in boiling water). Speaking of authenticity, for centuries Jews in Salonika, Greece, made their haroset even more authentic by traditionally adding a pinch of actual ground brick!
I think I’ll pass on the ground brick, but with all the varieties of haroset, I’ve decided this is the year to break out and serve six, seven or even eight different haroset. Around the world in eight haroset? I think I’ll ask people coming to seder to bring their favorite kinds also, and then line them all up and let people taste test as many as they like. Maybe I’ll even come up with a rating chart that allows people to rank the nutty entries.
No matter how many haroset are served, the tradition and flavors are a wonderful way to share your Passover gathering with Jews around the world and throughout the centuries.