Jaroset (Panamanian Halek)
This Passover recipe comes from Rita Sasso, a Panamanian whose roots go back to Spain via Amsterdam and Curaçao, which had a significant Jewish population in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Rita and I became pen pals when I published a recipe in my Reform Judaism magazine column that was given to me by a friend in Mexico... and she recognized the recipe as her own! We have shared recipes ever since, and here is one she gave me with her permission to publish.
- Place the dried fruits in a processor work bowl and process until a relatively smooth paste is formed.
- Add the peanut butter and brown sugar to the processor work bowl and pulse on and off a few times to begin to combine the ingredients. The machine will only begin the process, as the mixture will be thick.
- Remove the mixture to a bowl, and continue to combine the ingredients, kneading with your hands.
- Little by little add the wine to the mixture until you obtain a firm ball of fruit. This mixture will be quite sticky. If necessary, refrigerate for 1/2 hour until the mixture firms up a little.
- Wet your hands periodically with cold water and form small balls of charoset about the size of a small walnut.
- Place the balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until frozen.
- Once the balls are hard, you can remove them to a freezer bag until needed.
- Just before serving, defrost and roll each ball in cinnamon. Serve.
- Do not double this recipe unless you have a very large food processor or the mixture will be too difficult to combine thoroughly.
- Because of the strong Sephardic influence in Central America, peanuts are often found in foods for Passover. Observant Ashkenazic Jews will not eat peanuts during Passover so almond butter makes a good substitute in this recipe.