I like to think of haroses as Jewish cranberry sauce. If you've ever been to a seder (a traditional Passover meal) I know you've had haroses the same way I know that you had cranberry sauce if you've been to a Thanksgiving dinner. Haroses is actually required at a seder -- it's even got its own blessing.
If you like apples and nuts you'll probably like haroses, which is most often a blend of chopped apples, cinnamon, sugar, and sugary red wine from Mogen David or Manishewitz. This basic haroses has its roots in Eastern Europe and ranks as passably nondescript, much like cranberry sauce from a can.
For the past several years, I've found inspiration in the haroses of Sephardic Jews, who hail from Spain, Northern Africa, and the Mideast. Dried fruit and nuts figure into those recipes and give them depth, and a longer shelf life. My haroses is akin to a sticky chunky chutney or fruit compote.
I use a blend of nuts, which changes at my whim. The number of different kinds of nuts I use is generally determined by how much haroses I'm making. The more I make, the more kinds of nuts I use. My favorites are almonds, pistachios, and pecans.
I stopped using fresh apples a couple of years ago. Now I use dried apples chopped in a food processor. Using fresh apples means that the haroses is weepy and sad the day after it's made. By using only dry fruit, my haroses actually has the lasagna-like quality of tasting better the next day.
In addition to apples I use a variety of other dried fruit, including dried cranberries, apricots, dates, figs, and raisins. Each is chopped as small as possible in the food processor, and I stop before I have a paste.
I don't use sweet concord grape wine. I take a bottle or red wine (kosher for Passover, if you prefer) and place it in pot over high heat. I add the zest and juice from an orange, whole cloves and peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, and occasionally a bay leaf. I also add a cup and a half of sugar and a teaspoon of kosher salt. I stir until the sugar has dissolved and then I boil like crazy until I have just a cup and a half of spiced wine syrup.
All the ingredients go into a big bowl and I stir until the mix is uniform. I press this into plastic lined bowls, bread pans, ramekins, etc . . . It will keep for several weeks, so I have it on hand as a snack or for breakfast or dessert.
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If you're feeling ambitious, you can make mini-haroses molds, one for each guest. If you're a little crazy (like me), you might even make a paste out of kumquats and sugar to spread on the top like frosting, or make a Star of David out of sliced apricots. If you're Jewish, Happy Passover; if you're not, enjoy the recipe.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.