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A Seder staple

Haroset variations, traditional and new.

By Adam Ried
April 17, 2011

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On the Passover Seder plate, the sweet mixture of chopped fruit, often dried, with nuts, spices, wine (kosher, if preferred), and honey called haroset symbolizes the mortar used for building by Jews enslaved in Egypt. The heavy symbolism aside, my sister likens it to Jewish salsa. It makes a terrific snack during Passover, and I sometimes even make it at other times of the year.

Haroset is found wherever there are Jews, so countless regional and ethnic variations exist. It takes well to customization, as you can see here – I vary the basic ingredients, the ratio of fruit and nuts, the spices, and the level of sweetness. Though haroset can certainly be made chunky, I like it on the smooth side (it’s meant to resemble mortar, after all), so I often specify chopping the ingredients finely. During Passover, haroset is generally eaten spread on a piece of matzo.

Italian-Style Fig and Chestnut Haroset With Brandy

Makes about 3 cups

If this haroset sits for a few hours, the brandy will lose its bite, so you may wish to stir in another teaspoon or 2 before serving.

1 medium crisp, sweet-tart eating apple, such as Empire, Gala, Braeburn, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, or Jazz (about 8 ounces), peeled if desired, cored, and finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)

2/3 cup finely chopped dried figs, packed (about 4 ounces)

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 cup finely chopped roasted, peeled chestnuts (about 8 ounces)

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt

2 tablespoons apple or orange juice

3 tablespoons brandy, or more, to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons honey, or to taste

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the apple, figs, raisins, chestnuts, and orange zest to blend, working apart clumps of chopped figs with your fingers or a spoon. Add the cinnamon, a tiny pinch of salt, apple or orange juice, brandy, and honey, stir to blend, and let rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional brandy or honey, if desired, and serve.

Ashkenazi-Style Apple, Nut, and Cinnamon Haroset

Makes about 2 1/2½cups

You can hand-chop one of the apples (finely) to add texture.

1/2 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

2 medium crisp, sweet-tart eating apples, such as Empire, Gala, Braeburn, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, or Jazz (about 1 pound), peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

1 1/2½teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, optional

Salt

1/3 cup sweet red wine, or to taste

2 tablespoons honey, or to taste

In a food processor, pulse the almonds 4 or 5 times. Add the walnuts and pulse 4 or 5 times. Add the apples, lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, if using, a tiny pinch of salt, wine, and honey, and pulse, frequently scraping down the sides of the work bowl, to the desired consistency. Scrape the mixture into a serving bowl and let rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with wine or honey, if desired, and serve.

Freestyle Orange, Apricot, and Pistachio Haroset

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

This haroset is best served soon after mixing, before the pistachios soften too much. You can make interesting variations by substituting about 1 cup of either chopped mango or grapes for the orange.

1 large navel orange, peeled and very finely chopped (about 1 cup) plus 1 teaspoon finely grated zest

1 1/4 packed cups very finely chopped dried apricots (about 1 pound 2 ounces)

1 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Salt

1/3 cup sweet white wine, such as late-harvest Riesling, or more, to taste

1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the orange and orange zest, apricots, and pistachios to blend, working apart clumps of chopped apricots with your fingers or a spoon. Add the mint, a tiny pinch of salt, wine, and honey, stir to blend, and let rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with wine or honey, if desired, and serve.

Yemenite-Style Spiced Pomegranate and Sesame Haroset

Makes about 3 cups

Many Yemenite haroset recipes use only dried fruit, but some include fresh pomegranate as well. Whole pomegranates are rarely available at this time of year, but Trader Joe’s often sells fresh pomegranate seeds. If you can’t find them, try substituting pomegranate juice for the wine.

1 cup very finely chopped pitted dates (about 6 ounces)

1 cup very finely chopped dried figs (about 6 ounces)

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

3/4 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted and very finely chopped

3 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger, or more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Pinch cayenne pepper

Salt

2/3 cup sweet red wine, or more, to taste

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the dates, figs, pomegranate seeds, and almonds, working apart clumps of chopped dates and figs with your fingers or a spoon. Add the sesame seeds, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, a tiny pinch of salt, and wine, stir to blend well, and let rest for at least 30 minutes for fruit to hydrate and flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with ginger or wine, if desired, and serve.

Freestyle Pear, Cranberry, and Almond Haroset

Makes about 3 cups

I like to use pears that are just shy of ripe, so that they’re a little bit crisp.

3 medium Bosc pears (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled if desired, cored, and finely chopped (about a scant 3 cups)

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

1/2 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

Salt

1/3 cup sweet red wine, or more, to taste

1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

In a large nonreactive bowl, mix the pears, cranberries, almonds, and lemon zest to blend. Add the cardamom, a tiny pinch of salt, wine, and honey, stir to blend, and let rest for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning with wine or honey, if desired, and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

TASTES TO RELISH Apples, walnuts, and wine are expected. Why not try citrus, dates, and different kinds of nuts? (Photograph by Jim Scherer; Styling by Catrine Kelty) TASTES TO RELISH Apples, walnuts, and wine are expected. Why not try citrus, dates, and different kinds of nuts?