Tonight was of course פֶּסַח and so I went over to Berkeley for my cousin’s סֵדֶר, which is a large enough affair that he does it as a pot luck. Since I didn’t have any ideas for what to bring, he assigned me to do the חֲרֽוֹסֶת, which is one of the vital staple symbolic foods (it represents the mortar the slaves used
to assemble the pyramids, never mind that the pyramids probably didn’t use mortar).
2020 update: Also it turns out that enslaved Jews didn’t build the pyramids, and the people who did build the pyramids probably weren’t slaves. It’s important to correct this misconception and decouple those two facts. Apparently חֲרֽוֹסֶת originally only symbolized mortar and adobe in general, as the connection with the pyramids was apparently only made in the 1970s. But do note that the Jews who did construction for the Egyptians were slaves, and פֶּסַח remains an important celebration of their liberation.
Growing up, eating חֲרֽוֹסֶת always seemed like something of a chore, so I decided to kick it up a bit and make it something people would actually want to eat. Since I didn’t know how many people were coming to dinner I made a whole bunch (which turned out to be about twice as much as needed). On the plus side, it was the hit of the dinner and people were commenting about it non-stop.
I ended up leaving all the leftovers with my cousin, since I don’t have any מַצָּה to put it on and no inclination to eat it on its own.
The base: 6 red delicious apples, 1 fuji apple, and half a pound of jicama, peeled and grated, and tossed with lime juice. (Somehow I was worried this would not be enough.)
Add-ins: about a cup and a half of dried figs and dates, chopped and soaked for an hour or so in half a bottle of Kosher wine (I used Manischevitz blackberry, because that was all that was available at Safeway last night), added along with the soak wine. Also half a cup or so of raisins, and half a cup or so of coarsely chopped walnuts.
Spices: a few tablespoons of cinnamon powder and freshly grated ginger, all to taste. (The cinnamon should be a very strong but not overpowering note, and the ginger should be a subtle background flavor.)
Thickener/texture: a loosely-ground paste of walnuts (maybe ¼ cup or so after grinding).
No offense to my mom, but I am sure this is the most delicious חֲרֽוֹסֶת I’d ever had, and certainly high up on the list for everyone else at this סֵדֶר.
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