Made with a generous array of fruit and nuts, plus old-school vinegar, this historical Provençal charoset recipe hails from the Jewish community of Provence.
Though I have to admit being partial to my mom's Israeli fusion charoset, my goal is basically to try (and post!) as many as I can of the wonderful, diverse charosets out there in the Jewish world. At the top of my list was this Provençal charoset, since the Jews of Provence have a special place in my heart—that was the community I studied for my dissertation. In the Middle Ages, the Jews of what is today southern France lived at the crossroads of Ashkenaz and Sepharad, absorbing influences from both of these great cultural spheres. I find the community endlessly fascinating and am wont to refer to medieval Provençal rabbis as, say, "my friend ha-Meiri" and "my friend Raavad" (let's chalk it up to professorial eccentricity, shall we?).
This recipe, which is adapted from Joan Nathan, comes from the remnants of the medieval Jewish community, who, following the general orders of expulsion of Jews by the French Crown in the fourteenth century, made their way to the Comptat Venaissin in eastern Provence, which was ruled then by the Avignon papacy and which permitted Jewish settlement.
So what makes this Provençal? Like many forms of European charoset, it contains walnuts, almonds, apple, raisins, wine, and cinnamon. However, it also includes dried figs and apricots, as well as pine nuts and chestnuts, and ground ginger, too. It's nuanced and complex and especially lovely after a day melding in the fridge. Like many older charoset recipes , this charoset calls for vinegar—it's mentioned as a charoset ingredient in Tosafot Pesachim and by Rambam in Mishneh Torah! I tried this charoset both with (for historicity) and without (because I just wasn't sure I'd like it with vinegar). I'm happy to report that the vinegar adds an earthy, complex note and that I don't dislike it...though I'm not quite sure I like it, either. So it's up to you: I made the vinegar an optional ingredient.
Making the charoset is just a matter of measuring everything out and blitzing it in a food processor to your desired consistency.
Provençal Charoset (parve)
- Food processor
- 1 green apple - peeled, cored and chopped
- 3 oz chestnuts - vacuum-packed; usually one package - 85 g
- 1 /2 cup almonds
- ¼ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup dried apricots
- ½ cup dried figs
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2-3 Tbsp sweet red wine
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar - optional
- Measure out all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until mostly smooth, or to desired consistency, adding more wine as needed.