Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Yes, you heard that right. But first, some background.

For Passover, She Who Must Be Obeyed always prepares a boatload of charoset.

Those of you who are not of the Hebraic Persuasion may well ask, “What the hell is charoset?” And I will tell you: Charoset is a mixture of chopped or grated apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon that is eaten at the Passover meal. It’s intended to recall the mortar with which the ancient Israelites constructed the Egyptian cities during the days of enslavement. You can read all about that in the Book of Exodus.

We, being of Eastern European extraction, make our charoset in the Ashkenazic (i.e., Eastern European) style. Sephardic Jews use a very different sort of recipe, one involving dates and raisins. Last year, we made some of each, and the Ashkenazic type beat the Sephardic hands-down in the Elisson Taste Test.

Charoset is actually pretty tasty. It’s the sort of homey preparation that does not lend itself to commercialization, probably because it’s so inexpensive and easy to make. Here’s a good, workable recipe:

Ashkenazic Charoset, in the style of She Who Must Be Obeyed

1 pound Granny Smith apples
¾ tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
¾ cup golden raisins
½ cup kosher wine (Manischewitz Concord Grape works well)

Peel and grate the apples. Some people prefer to chop the apples, but SWMBO grates ’em, and since her version kicks the ass of all the others, do not argue.

Mix well with the chopped nuts and cinnamon. Add the raisins: this is SWMBO’s unique touch. Now, moisten well with the wine. You may think that heavy, sweet Concord grape wine is vile for drinking purposes – and I’ll agree. But it’s just the ticket for charoset. SWMBO uses a heavy hand with the wine – most recipes just call for a few tablespoons – but she gets great results.

Let the whole mess marinate for at least half a day. Serve cold or at room temperature. Feel free to tinker with the proportions - this is home cookin’, and everyone’s grandmother had her own recipe.

But I lured you in here with the promise of pie. (Thought I’d forgotten? No.)

This year, we found ourselves with a pile of leftover charoset – SWMBO always makes plenty more than we need for the two Seders – and it was thus that I was struck with a Perverse Brainstorm: Why not make a Charoset Pie?

After all, what’s in it? Apples. Nuts. Cinnamon. What could be better pie fixin’s?

Now, I’ll admit that it’s a tad perverse to bake a pie using a foodstuff that is intended to be eaten during a holiday when leavened products are forbidden. But, hey, the holiday is over now! It’s Pie Time!

I decided, in the interest of being lazy, to forgo rolling out a pie crust. Instead, I fixed up a quick crumb topping, viz.:

Crumb Topping

½ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and diced up into little cubes

Blend the sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Using a pastry blender or a pair of knives, cut the butter into the dry stuff until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

All I did to make the pie was to fill a greased deep-dish pie plate with charoset (to which I had added a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch). Then I sprinkled the crumb topping over the pie and stuck it in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes. The result? An Elisson Original, for sure.

Charoset Pie. Not Kosher for Passover!

Was it good? Surprisingly, yes. With a pronounced cinnamon-wine pong and a texture that benefits from the crunch of the nuts, it actually works! So: Consider this an ethnically inspired variation on the humble Apple Pie...and for observant Jews, definitely not to be eaten during Passover.

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