books, Charoset, Cook, Jews, Matzah ball, Passover, Passover Seder Plate, Pesach
PASSOVER (Pesach) is still one week away, and I’m delighted to present a few holiday recipes from several wonderful readers to help make cooking “Kosher for Passover” not only delicious, but a shared experience.
In GOLANSKI’S TREASURES, Max’s mementoes trigger fond recollections of his life in Poland before WWII. Here’s a short clip from a story he shares during his flight home with a student who carried two items he purchased in a curio shop in Warsaw . . . an old wooden chopping bowl and a distinctive three-bladed chopper (called a “hackmesser” in Yiddish).
When I was a young and curious boy, Mama (of blessed memory), allowed my sitting quietly in a corner of our kitchen to watch the women work. She was quite the expert on Seder preparations, and by the time I was ten she felt I could do simple tasks. That’s how I became the only boy around who knew how to make charoses, a delicious chopped spread symbolizing the mortar Hebrew slaves used to cement together bricks for the great pyramids.
I somehow became convinced that the quality of my charoses contributed to the ongoing architectural integrity of the pyramids, so I worked extra hard to perfect the dish. I can still remember the ‘chop, chop, chopping’ sound as the multi-bladed hackmesser struck the wooden bowl. Mama taught me how to create a charoses worthy of the Seder plate. I could even remove the thin red, green and yellow glossy skins from each apple in long, continuous spirals with one of Papa’s sharpest knives.
Crisp and tart, the clear juices from the apples coated the hackmesser’s blades as I worked. Chopping the walnuts into the apples, I’d add crushed cinnamon and a dollop of honey, then dribble sweet, red wine into the mix. Chopping and blending, the fragrance of apples meeting walnuts, honey, cinnamon and wine was intoxicating. Learning to reach the proper consistency took years to perfect. As I grew older, I enjoyed embellishing upon the original recipe Mama had taught me, and must confess I became quite well known for my charoses!
Check out the new page just added to the blog called “GOLANSKI’S KITCHEN.” I’ve started the ball rolling with Max’s description of the ingredients and process of creating an easy, thick and chunky, yet spreadable charoses — the traditional Ashkenazi (Eastern European) recipe:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon (or to taste)
- 5 cups fuji apples – peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- In a bowl, mix the honey, cinnamon, apples, wine, and walnuts thoroughly and let sit several hours.
While I no longer cook that much (I’m blessed with Charles’ fabulous creativity in the kitchen), I still look forward to preparing my annual Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls for Pesach. I confess that I generally use box mixes for the matzo balls, but please take note of the technique employed in shaping and introducing the mixture into the boiling water (a trick learned from my own “Yiddisha Mama”).
You’ll also find other Passover dishes from two contributing cooks who answered my call for recipes. More have come in, but preparing recipe posts for the blog are somewhat labor intense for me, so please be patient and keep a lookout for other Jewish dishes that will be posted periodically. All reflect the ongoing love affair between Jewish people and food.
(Please feel free to send your favorite recipes for future postings.)
marianne schenker said:
Many years ago we hosted two young women to a seder – neither was Jewish and they had no idea of what it all meant. We carefully explained the lamb and the bitter herbs and the charoses and the motzas…and then, when the “real” dinner was served, I put out asparagus, as many people do at that time of year, when they asked what was the meaning of the thin lean stalks , my husband quickly replied “those represent the spears with which the Pharoh’s soldiers held us in bondage”…..
so ever since we have called asparagus “the Pharoh’s spears”..feel free to pass this on!
Hi Marianne – I LOVED it! Isn’t it true that whenever a story is being told, whether onstage in NYC, within the confines of a movie theatre, through television, or even at the Seder Table – we all become childlike? Visions of other times, places, characters and circumstances grab our imaginations as stories unfold. As a consummate storyteller, I’ve always appreciated how everyone attending a Seder participates in retelling the ancient tale. Adding new imagery to an old story enhances the experience, which is after all, about remembering and teaching. PRICELESS RESPONSE! Asparagus has always been served during our Passover meals, but from now on I will personally see asparagus in a new light! Spears for Yul Brenner! (Sorry – I doubt I’ll ever be able to shake the figure of Yul Brenner as Pharaoh from my mind!) Thanks for sharing.