Passing Down the Passover 4-1-1

Hello again, my little Jew Stuff students…it’s time to talk a little bit about the Jewish holiday that begins at sundown this evening: Passover. If you would like to read more detail than I will post here, go to this place and you can learn all about it. I am more interested today in writing about one of our favorite Passover foods than the historical significance of the holiday.

But since I’m here and you are all usually pretty receptive about learning, I’ll summarize. To make a long story short, Passover celebrates the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, led by Moses. The name of the holiday comes from the part of the story where the Jews escaped the fate of the Tenth Plague, the death of each firstborn child, by putting some lamb’s blood on their doorway: the Angel of Death then PASSED OVER their homes, leaving their firstborn children free to live another day.

How does my family celebrate? Every year we go to the home of one of the families in our Havurah (“group”) from the temple for a seder. We have been getting together for most Jewish holidays with these five other families for about 11 years now. It’s been really cool to watch all of our kids grow up! Last year at Passover we were amazed at how we “suddenly” had all of these young adults sitting at the table, and Where The Heck Were All of The Four-year-olds??? Out of the 13 “kids” in the six families, there is only one left who has yet to become a Bat Mitzvah. One of the husbands remarked recently that once Julia becomes a Bat Mitzvah, we will start attending the weddings of the older kids. If that’s not enough to make a person feel ancient, then I don’t know what is!

Anyway, we are headed over there tonight where, for some reason this year, there will only be 10 of us instead of 25. (It’s rare that all of the people come, but we usually have at least 20…) Very bizarre. A couple of the families are headed out of town to be with Grandparents and other relatives.

My contribution to the seder is the same each and every year. I make the charoset. Charoset is an important part of the seder. It is one of the items that sits on the seder plate and symbolizes the mortar that the Jewish slaves used to put in between the bricks as they built the pyramids.

I can safely pronounce to the world that I make an excellent charoset. Ask my family, ask the people in our Havurah, ask my Religious School students…I’m sayin’ it loud and proud.

I SORT OF use a recipe from a book called Mama Leah’s Jewish Kitchen. I really take her recipe and run with it; first of all, I make a HUGE batch. Secondly, I don’t really measure the ingredients. I’ll put the recipe here if you’d like to try it. Honestly, it can be made and enjoyed any time, by people of any religion…I highly recommend it!

I will give you Mama Leah’s Recipe, and I will tell you what I do differently afterwards:

Ashkenazi Haroset

4 large apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
4 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sweet Passover wine

First I spend about 40 minutes chopping clean, UNPEELED apples into really small pieces. I use at least three different varieties of apples, because I love the color and the taste. I think today, my thirteen-year-old gourmet chef-wannabe helper and I used about 12 apples. I lost count:


Add the lemon juice. Since I figured I used about 12 apples, we SORT OF tripled most of the ingredients:


Don’t forget to give the four-year-old gourmet beagle some apples. She loves them.


I cheated and just bought a 2 1/2 cup bag of diced walnuts.


We added about 4 teaspoons of cinnamon:


Okay, here’s where it gets crazy. Instead of choosing brown sugar OR honey, I add both! We threw in AT LEAST 6 tablespoons of brown sugar…


…and AT LEAST 6 tablespoons of honey. After the taste test I know we added more!


The next step is the wine. Wait, don’t drink it…


We used about 3/4 cup of Manischewitz. But you can just use grape juice too; it’s almost as tasty!


Mix that sucker up really good, and try it. It’s usually better after it sits in the fridge for a while so the flavors can blend (like salsa!). Add what you think it’s missing, and be prepared for people to want you to make it annually!


Have a great Saturday!


  • Melissa

    We used to celebrate the seder with close family friends. I was little so I don’t remember to much but I do remember a lot of food and a lot of talking.

    Enjoy your dinner the apple stuff looks yummy! I’m going to have to give that a try.

    My doctors appointment, 2 minutes. I could have smacked the doc upside the head.

  • Huckdoll

    Thanks for the peek into your family’s traditions and religion – it was fascinating to read about.

    Also, I loved the fact that you added photos and personal touches to your recipe. It looks and sounds delicious!

  • Melisa

    Joodie: Don’t you mean “NO Challah!” (for this week, anyway)

    Melissa: TWO MINUTES??? I could have gone with you and kept you company before our lunch! Eeek!

    Huckdoll: Thanks; although lots of people say that their blog is causing them to feel badly about making up odd occasions on which to take photos and post them for the world to see, I’m actually happy about that. I probably never would have taken photos of things like this charoset-making process otherwise!

  • Michelle

    Mmmm, that looks good. I especially like how the apples are unpeeled. I make a lot of apple dishes (pies, sorta cobblers, etc) but they ALWAYS need to be peeled. My husband *broke* my peeler (his job frequently) just before Christmas errr in December and I have yet to find one I like to replace it (I’m a lefty, so I have issues). I think I have a new thing to try!

    Oh, and my friend who’s getting married in two weeks is marrying a Jewish guy. She had her first Seder last night and listening to her tell about it cracked me up. It sounds like the people (including multiple rabbis) were very irreverant, which confused her. At least she passed that test before the wedding!

    Nice pics, and thanks for the approximate recipe (you sound like you cook the same way I do!).

  • Sue

    Happy Passover!
    I spoke to my Jewish neighbors today and asked them what they did last night. Justin said he ate so much he thought he was going to die. However, he was psyched for leftovers tonight!

  • Kat

    Happy Passover my jewish friend and ‘evil’ twin ROFL. You totally had me again at ‘Hello again, my little Jew Stuff students…’ 🙂

    I love the pics with your son goofing around just for our viewing pleasure.

  • Mom24

    Happy Passover! This is the first Seder in 24 years that we have missed. It makes me sad. I even pulled one off when my 16 year old was 2 weeks old, and all of my in-laws went shopping for the day and left me to do it all. But this year, I was just way too sick to do it, and Mark would have been way too sick to enjoy it. I hope you have a good Passover. We might try and do Seder for the last night–not the same, but maybe as good as we can do.

  • SpAzzGiRL

    Happy Passover!
    How strict are you and the fam about Passover? Do you make your house passover ready and eat only matza for a week? I only ask because I work with all Jewish people and I hear nothing but “passover talk” for like weeks and it sounds like a whole heck of a lotta work!

  • Melisa

    Michelle: Wow, going to a seder with multiple Rabbis present? Now THAT’S brave. And she passed! Woo hoo!

    Sue: Thanks! Yeah, leftovers are always good. Unfortunately when you go to someone else’s house for a seder, you usually don’t come home with much (in our case)…I left her the charoset, which only means one thing…I have to make more! (“Darn”)

    Kat: Ha! The wine photo was my idea but the exact pose was all him.

    Stacey: Still sick! I hope you feel better. And a seder on the last night? Better late than never…if you miss it, then just do it. The night doesn’t matter!

    Simone: Thanks! We are not as observant as many: I don’t scour the house with Q-tips or anything and we freeze any bread that we have in the house. But we stay away from the stuff we’re supposed to, food-wise. It’s tough to come up with school lunches, but we do okay. (The husband and I treat this week like Phase 1 of South Beach!)

  • Ri, the Music Savvy Mom

    So it's sort of like a booze-marinated crustless raw apple pie? Nice! I'm gonna have to try this.

  • Mrs4444

    This is really cool. Thanks for the lesson and the recipe.

    Question: Is the date of Passover different every year?