Jaroset (Panamanian Halek)

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

​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 penpals 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.

4 ounces dried figs
4 ounces raisins
4 ounces prunes
4 ounces pitted dates
1 1/2 cups peanut butter or almond butter
2–3 cups brown sugar, according to taste
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine, as needed
Cinnamon, enough to cover the balls of charoset (approximately 1 1/2 ounces)
  1. Place the dried fruits in a processor work bowl and process until a relatively smooth paste is formed.
  2. 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.
  3. Remove the mixture to a bowl, and continue to combine the ingredients, kneading with your hands.
  4. 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.
  5. Wet your hands periodically with cold water and form small balls of charoset about the size of a small walnut.
  6. Place the balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until frozen.
  7. Once the balls are hard, you can remove them to a freezer bag until needed.
  8. Just before serving, defrost and roll each ball in cinnamon. Serve.
Additional Notes
  • 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.