Charoset (prounouned cHa-roset, with an almost silent “c” like cHa-nnuka) is the delicious chopped fruit, nut and wine mixture on the Passover seder table which symbolizes the mortar between the bricks that the Jews laid while slaves in Egypt 3000 years ago. Why the mortar we eat is sweet is not totally clear. Perhaps because we are no longer slaves? In any case, that is not what I intend to spiel about. I am sure there is a decent answer in any Passover haggadah, but quite frankly I am too lazy to get up and look at one.
MY question is: why would we Jews, a People who have overcome so much pain and strife, millennia of refugee status, genocide and horrible PR, a People who have risen to great success in financial, intellectual and creative realms, still continue to choose the cheapest of the cheap sweet wines, Manischewitz, to make charoset on one of the most important holidays of the year!?
Sure, every nice bar mitzvah kid loves a good taste of Manischewitz and I am no exception, but have we not grown up as a People? Has our collective culinary palate remained at adolescent status? Do we think we are still in the Great Depression, a time when we added sugar and a little vinegar to grape juice and called it wine?
I can hear a tirade of yentas lashing back, “it’s because Manischewitz is kosher, that’s why we use it for charoset. “ But if you are reading this, there is a 99% percent chance that you don’t even keep kosher. And if you do, there are many delicious, high quality kosher wines to celebrate our exodus from slavery.
My personal anthropological theory is that we have been using Manischewitz in our Passover charoset for so many years and generations that, as a People, we never thought to question it. Well People, QUESTION IT!
Here is a recipe that is Italian in inspiration. Chilled Moscato is one of my favorite dessert wines and the thought of drinking it with fruit and nuts transports me to the rolling vineyards of Piedmont where Moscato grapes are grown. I actually did quite an extensive research into traditional Italian Jewish charoset recipes from various regions and found that many Italian recipes call for the use of chestnuts, which, other than seeming difficult to use, remind me of Christmas. Many Italian recipes also call for the cooking of the charoset, which mine here does. But don’t worry, it cooks only long enough to meld the flavors together. You will still have a crunchy charoset and it won’t look like applesauce.