Tag Archives: halech

The joys (and tribulations) of making homemade date honey.

Silan_DateSyrup_3_blog

Silan (also known as Ha’lek) is an an ancient Babylonian date honey or syrup that many Iraqi Jews today prepare as their form of charoset for the Passover Seder. Unlike other date charosetsSilan  requires a tedious process of boiling down, squeezing, mashing, and straining until you reach the proper consistency. I knew that the Iraqi chapter of my Passover cookbook would not be complete if I hadn’t tackled this recipe myself, and after speaking to various individuals about Silan, I was intrigued (and sufficiently warned): “It’s a lot of work and you need an enormous amount of dates to give you just a few cups of the syrup,” one Iraqi man told me. “Make sure that you enlist the help of a strong man to help you squeeze out all those dates,” replied one woman. And lastly, “I made it once and it was a disaster. I had to throw my shirt out afterwords — what a mess,” said a third younger woman. But the overwhelming response from those who grew up with Silan was simple: “There’s absolutely nothing like it. It’s divine. It’s pure liquid gold.” My challenge had been set.

One quiet morning (while both kids were at school) I set out to the task of making pure date honey for the first time (at this point I was basing my recipe upon the taste of the store-bought kind from Israel, and detailed descriptions from various Iraqi Jews I had spoken to). I combined several pounds of Medjool dates with water in the largest pot I could find, and brought it all to a boil over high heat. After cooking it down for an hour, I removed it from the heat to cool just long enough for me to handle squeezing the pulp in a sack of cheesecloth to extract the juice (I could see where it required a bit of strength!). This precious liquid was then returned to the same large pot and cooked down another full hour until it reduced to about half. The result was a rich, decadent syrup like a cross between honey and black strap molasses. It was divine, and I had to admit that the Baghdadi Jews had won the battle of the date charosets with this one. (Bravo!)

Note: For more on Silan, please see my August of 2013 post.

SILAN (Baghdadi Date Honey with Chopped Almonds, Hazelnuts, and Walnuts)
Yield: Serves 15 to 20 / Makes 2 1/2 CUPS

INGREDIENTS:
For Date Honey:
3 1/4 pounds Medjool or regular dates, pitted (or 3 pounds total without the pits)
18 cups cold water
4 to 8 large pieces of cheese cloth, for squeezing out liquid
Fine mesh strainer with mixing bowl underneath

For Serving:
2 cups toasted walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios (or blend), cooled and coarsely chopped

STEPS:
1. Place pitted dates in a very large 5- or 6-quart pot with the water and bring to a boil over very high heat. Reduce to medium-high heat and skim off and discard the foam with a large spoon.
Boil, uncovered, for 1 full hour.

2. Layer a large, fine mesh strainer with 3 large pieces of cheese cloth (it should hang over the sides by at least 6 inches so that you can gather them up and tie it into a sack). Place the strainer lined with the cheese cloth over a large bowl and pour the hot dates with all of its liquid over it. Gather the ends of the cheese cloth up and twist it into a large sack. Allow the dates to cool long enough for you to be able to squeeze the liquid out by hand, about X minutes.

3. When cool enough, squeeze the sack of date pulp as hard as you can to extract any further liquid that can come out. Discard the sack and all of the date pulp and return the pot with the date liquid to the stove. Bring to a second boil over high heat, reduce to a medium-low heat, and continue to boil, uncovered for 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Remove from from heat and cool completely before pouring into one or two jars. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dry place or at room temperature for up to 1 month.

5. To serve, pour into small glass or decorative bowls and allow individuals to serve themselves.
You may also mix in the chopped nuts or serve them on the side. Serve as you would any type
of charoset.

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Charoset of the Day: Persian Hallegh

Charoset_Halegh_4_blogPersians refer to their charoset as hallegh. Many of them use some combination of nuts with dates, often adding pomegranate juice and/or seeds to round out the flavors. Today my friend Simona stopped by to show me her family’s hallegh, and what intrigued me the most was its addition of fresh red grapes to the mixture of nuts, raisins and dates (which have been marinating overnight in apple cider vinegar and sweet Passover wine). The result was a tangy, fruity spread, the texture of a paté:

HalleghPersian Charoset with Nuts, Apples, Grapes & Marinated Raisins & Dates
(Yield: Makes 5 Cups)

For Hallegh:
1 cup black raisins (preferably larger ones, if available)Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_1_blog
6 medjool dates (about 1/2 cup), pitted
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
(such as Manischewitz)

1/4 pound (about 1 cup) of each of
the following:

    hazelnuts
    walnuts
    pistachios
    almonds
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper (optional)
1/2 red seedless grapes
1 large red apple (about 8 ounces),
cut into large chunks

For Serving:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced red grapes

Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_2_blog
1. Place raisins and dates in a small bowl and marinate with the cider vinegar and sweet wine overnight (do not refrigerate).

2. Rinse nuts and spread out on a large kitchen towel to dry about 15 minutes.

3. Place nuts, salt, and red pepper (if desired)
in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.

4. Add grapes, apple, and marinated raisin-date mixture (with soaking liquid) to the processor and pulse until fairly smooth and well-blended. 

5. Serve immediately garnished with sliced red grapes, or refrigerate in container for up to 2 days.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

You Say Haroset, I Say Harose. (Charoset, Jarose…)

Syrup_BlogWe all know haroset. We all love haroset. And, come on, we all think that OUR family’s haroset is the best, no? The Ashkenazim (at least here in the USA) tend to make theirs with chopped apple as its base, adding walnuts, cinnamon, a little sugar, and sweet wine, while the Sephardim generally use dates as their base, with cinnamon, wine or even vinegar, and perhaps apples or dried apricots depending upon the region. But what is most interesting to me right now is how many names exist in the Sephardic and Mizrahic (Middle Eastern) world for this sweet Seder treat. In Israel the spelling and pronunciation is charoset with a more guttural “ch” sound in place of the softer Ashkenazic “h” sound. In speaking with several individuals with Turkish roots the Ladino spelling “harósi” or “haróse” has been most common (although in a recipe by Elsie Menasce from South Africa, she spells it “jaróse” with a “j”, which I have been told is more Castillian). Yemenites and Persians refer to it with a different name all together: “dukah” or “dukeh” (which supposedly means “pounded” or “ground” in the Yemeni Arabic dialect). But when the consistency or style of the haroset changes from that of a thick purée or paste to that of a syrup (made of dates to the texture of honey or molasses) the names become the following: silan for those originally from Baghdad, or mysteriously changes to halech,” “hallaq,” or halékfor those Baghdadis who later settled in parts of Asia, such as Singapore, China, or India. While looking through a Bukharian cookbook I noted that the charoset recipe was called “haleko” which makes me think that the word comes from an Asian/Central Asian root of some sort. In Curacao, the Sephardim (who have Dutch roots via Portugal) call their haroset “garosa.” My latest discovery was the word, “aropi” from a community cookbook by the Sephardi Ladies of Zimbabwe. In old Greek the word is “sirópi” which sounds pretty close but with the initial letter “s”. I can see the relationship between this spelling and the word, but have yet to really pinpoint the language.

QUESTIONS:
Has anyone else heard of this spelling “aropi” to refer to any kind of syrup?
How do YOU say charoset in your family or community?

Silan Date Honey: A charoset for all year-round?

Charoset_Silan3_blogYesterday I was reviewing my Passover food interviews from Iraqi Jews, and found it interesting that in all of them the individuals described their charoset as not so much of a date purée, but of one resembling molasses. This thick syrup (called silan) was sometimes mixed with chopped walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. At their Seder, they would either drizzle it on the matzah or dip the matzah (as well as bitter herbs) directly into it. In my interviews with Iraqi Jews that had at some point moved on to other countries in Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia (such as India, Bornea, Singapore, or Iran), the description was the same, but instead of silan they called it halék/halech. I have been trying to find out the origin of both of these words and see if there is any specific meaning (such as “honey,” “syrup,” “molasses,” or “jam”), but I have not been so far successful. It sounds very much like an Arabic word but perhaps from an ancient dialect?

What is also interesting is how timely my research is on this particular subject. While speaking with a Yemenite Israeli yesterday (the same day I had been researching silan), the first thing that she asked me was, “Jennifer, have you ever heard of something called ‘silan’? I just returned from Israel and it is such a craze over there now. They are doing everything with it!” She went on to tell me how one friend mixed it in with tahini to make some kind of nutty sweet, and how chefs in restaurants were putting it in and on everything. I too had found that the trend was hitting over here in the U.S. In my searches online for “silan”, all kinds of recipes were popping up, including a cauliflower dish that called for it drizzled on top. In fact during this recent Passover I was able to find a jar of it in my local kosher market, which I bought right away and still have.

So my questions still remain:
What is SILAN and how is it different from and/or related to HALEK?
Does anyone out there (who is NOT from the Iraqi community) also call their charoset
by one of these names, and if so, where are you from?

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