Try this recipe for bourbon-soaked Sephardic-Ashkenazic haroset

Not your grandmother’s haroset, or mine either.
Not your grandmother’s haroset, or mine either.
Image: AP Photo/Dan Goodman
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This evening Jews around the world are celebrating the first night of Passover. One of the staples of the seder, the festive meal, is haroset (also spelled haroseth, charoseth, kharoset, jaroset if you’re Spanish-speaking, and any number of other variations). It’s a sweet, apple-based mush that is supposed to represent the mud or mortar with which Israelite laborers built bricks during their enslavement in Egypt.

There are countless recipes. The traditional Ashkenazi (European Jewish) variety is typically plainer, with apples, nuts and some spices, while Sephardim (Middle Eastern Jews) usually add dried fruit. This is not that haroset.

My family is pure Ashkenaz, and my grandmother, who was born in Palestine to Polish-Jewish parents but spent some of her formative years in Germany, was as Ashkenazi as it gets. But her haroset was something of a cultural melange, filled with dates and figs in Middle Eastern style, with a touch of very European—but, for haroset, somewhat unorthodox—cognac to give it a kick. Since moving to the US, I’ve continued her tradition, but using rye or bourbon instead of the cognac, in a nod to my new home. All of which makes it feel like an appropriately international recipe for an international news publication.

So here, without further ado, is a recipe for the Quartz Ashkenazi-Sephardi bourbon-soaked haroset. (Note: All quantities are strictly approximate.) This should provide enough mortar to build one large brick, or serve a seder of at least 20 people. Give it sparingly to the kids.

  • Five apples (sweet and not too tart; Fuji is a good variety)
  • Half a pound (225g) of dates
  • Half a pound of dried figs
  • Half a pound of walnuts
  • 1-1.5 teaspoons of ground cardamom
  • A twist of fresh-ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • About 3 fl. oz (100 ml) of rye or bourbon (you can also do half whiskey and half cognac).

(Update: A reader points out that using whiskey made from corn or rye renders this non-kosher for Passover, at least for Ashkenazim, so the grape-based cognac is a better option if you’re observant.)

Grate the apples. Chop up the dates, figs and walnuts coarsely in a food processor—leave some chunks for texture. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Chag sameach.