January 16, 2019

Jews (Columbus?) Discover Chocolate: Celebrate with Truffles

If “>cocoa beans in the New World. Certainly many of his crew members were Jewish (conversos meaning Jews converted to Christianity and/or descendants of converted Jews). Among them on the first voyage of 1492 were Alfonso de la Calle, a sailor, and Rodrigo Sánchez of Segovia, comptroller. Luis de Torres was baptized just in time to act as Columbus’s interpreter on that trip. Their journey was supported by the vastly wealthy converso, “>Bay of Honduras, as reported by Columbus’s son, Ferdinand. Cacao beans were first encountered:

“Many of the almonds [cacao beans] which the Indians of New Spain use as currency; and these the Indians in the canoe valued greatly, for I noticed that when they were brought aboard with the other goods, and some fell to the floor, all the Indians stooped to pick them up as if they had lost something of great value.”

With time Columbus and his compatriots learned that the mysterious-looking “almonds” were used by the indigenous people of the Americas as coinage.

The trailhead for this chocolate passion lies at the crossroads of the age of exploration and the discovery of the New World at the end of the fifteenth century. Jews of the time inherited the then radical concept of a round world from the fourth- century text, “The earth is made as a ball” (Jerusalem Talmud, “>Sukkot with Columbus Day with these Fall Harvest Chocolate Truffles.

Harvest Chocolate Truffles

(This recipe was also posted at the Jew and the Carrot)

Yields 24 truffles


¼ cup pistachios
¼ cup pecans
1⁄8 cup almonds
1⁄8 cup pine nuts
½ tart apple
¼ navel orange, with rind
A few drops of sweet white wine
A few drops of honey
Pinch of fresh or ground ginger (or to taste)
Pinch of ground cinnamon (or to taste)
3 pounds quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces


1) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. Grind the nuts, apples and orange separately in a food processor. The nuts should be as close to a powder as possible without becoming “butter.” Combine the nuts, apple, orange, wine, honey, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well. The fruit filling should have a smooth, thick texture. Roll the filling into 1-inch balls.

2) Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; remove from the heat.

3) Using two forks, dip the balls into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz lectures about chocolate and Jews around the world. Her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, was published in 2013 by Jewish Lights and is in its second printing. The book is used in adult study, classroom settings, book clubs and chocolate tastings. Prinz blogs at “>On the Chocolate Trail, “>Free download: Materials and discussion guides for book groups.