One of the best ways to pass on your family heritage to your grandchildren is to cook with them. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandma when I was growing up, but surprisingly, we never cooked together. She was a great cook and did pass down all her recipes to me, handwritten on 3 x 5 index cards.
I’ve made a point of being “the grandma we cook with” when I get together with my granddaughters. My six-year old granddaughter, Juliet, came to visit a few days before Passover. We made charoset together. There are more varieties of charoset recipes than any other Jewish recipe. Charoset is my favorite symbolic Passover food on the Seder plate. A mixture of apples, nuts, wine, cinnamon, and honey, charoset symbolizes the mortar that the Hebrew slaves used to make bricks in ancient Egypt.
I showed Juliet the recipe card in my grandma Amelia’s careful handwriting—a bit yellowed and stained from all the years I’ve used it—but still legible. It brought back memories of the delicious, sweet, jam-like mixture my grandma Amelia prepared for our large family seders. We could hardly wait to get to the part of the Passover story when we spread a large dollop of charoset on matzo and savored the sweet crunchiness of the two symbolic foods.
I thought it would be fun to make charoset because it’s such a tactile way to pass on both family and Jewish traditions. I got out my grandma’s vintage meat grinder and rigged it onto the kitchen counter. Juliet started turning the crank before we’d even gotten out the ingredients. As we poured handfuls of raisins, almonds, and apple slices into the bowl of the grinder, the crank became harder to turn. We could have made the whole thing in the Cuisinart, but doing it the way my grandma did made me feel like she was right there in the kitchen watching us work together. Of course, we had to snitch a bite every few minutes to make sure it tasted good. I could just hear my grandma saying: “You’re a nibbler from Nibblerville!”
This year at our family seder Juliet had a proud look on her face as she served her great-great grandma’s charoset. I thought it tasted just like my grandma’s.
Do you have a family recipe to pass on to your grandchildren that would share your family heritage?
My Grandma’s Recipe for Charoset
2 lbs seedless raisins
¼ lb shelled almonds
handful of hazel nuts
4 large tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs wine, grape juice, or lemon juice
Grind the mixture together using small grinder holes.
Serves 20 people