Honey, Darling? Agave, Honey: Vegan Alternatives for a Sweet Rosh HaShanah

honeydarlingagavehoney.jpgThe various ethical, environmental, and cultural issues surrounding honey have been considered and discussed here on The Jew and the Carrot, both in posts and comments.  Leah has explored whether honey is “kosher” for vegans, and wondered if there’s “any ethics-based diet that *doesn’t* have a little bit of hypocrisy clouding up its ideals.”  Michael Croland from HeebnVegan explained that the issue does little to promote veganism, and pointed us in the direction of this Satya Mag article on the subject.  Meanwhile, Rabbi Shmuel has suggested that we should critically re-examine the Rosh HaShanah custom of dipping apples in honey, and explore alternatives such as maple syrup, while Rabbi Debbie Prinz joined the conversation with a lip smacking guest post on how we can integrate chocolate into our Rosh HaShanah celebrations.

Rather than continue the debate on whether honey is vegan, eco-kashrut, or even just kosher (Leah notes that she has always “puzzled over how eating a food created by a decidedly non-kosher creature could be considered okay for the Tribe”), I’m offering a number of delicious, vegan, kosher, and organic ideas and recipes for a sweet new year.

Agave Nectar: Derived from the succulent plant of the same name, agave is like honey’s sophisticated big sister. Satisfyingly sweet and sticky, it makes for a perfect apple dip, plus it has a low glycemic index, a long shelf-life, and it won’t crystallize.  Madhava Agave Nectar is available in different grades, is certified organic, and is kosher.  It’s available online and at many markets across the US.

Maple Syrup: As Rabbi Shmuel noted, maple syrup is an ideal choice for Rosh HaShanah thanks to its rich symbolism and earthy sweetness.  “Maples,” he explains, “represent the ultimate in chesed (lovingkindness) giving freely of not only their wood and shelter but their sap – their very essence.” Shady Maple Farm offers certified organic, kosher, pure maple syrup, as do Coombs Family Farms, Highland Sugarworks, and a host of others.

Brown Rice Syrup: Rich in rice protein concentrates, brown rice syrup has been said to have a healthy effect on cholesterol levels, and may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because it’s produced from a whole food source and is composed of simple sugars, brown rice syrup is considered to be one of the healthiest sweeteners in the natural food industry.  With a light, sweet flavor and the consistency of honey, this is another great option to experiment with on Rosh HaShanah.  Lundberg Family Farms offers brown rice syrup that’s organic, eco-farmed, vegan, kosher, and gluten free!

Date Honey: It’s interesting to note that references to honey in the Torah are said to have referred to honey made from dates. This is quite possibly the ultimate symbolic Rosh HaShanah food, and also the hardest to find.  Our own Leah offered a recipe on the Lilith blog last year, but you may still have time to track some down at a local Middle Eastern market, or order it online in time for the holiday.  Try here and here.

Chocolate: It’s incredibly easy to find vegan chocolate these days, and what’s more, you can often find vegan chocolate that’s also organic and fair-trade.  Simply melt some semisweet, vegan chocolate chips with a drop of soy milk or oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Allow it to cool a bit before dipping your apples, bread, and fingers!

Vegan Caramel Sauce: Little goes better with apples than sweet, sticky, mouth watering caramel.  Unfortunately for vegans, caramel often contains milk and butter.  Not to worry, though!  Try one of these recipes for vegan caramel sauce, which create a thick, sweet, pourable alternative.

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7 Responses to “Honey, Darling? Agave, Honey: Vegan Alternatives for a Sweet Rosh HaShanah”

  1. Michael Croland Says:

    A half-dozen vegan alternatives? Thanks, Helen!

    I’ve been using (and happy with!) agave nectar the last few years, but maybe it’s time I switched things up a little. :-)

  2. Sheina Lilith Says:

    Since I’m allergic to bees, I’m also allergic to honey and beeswax, so I’ve been struggling with this issue for years. I did without honey for the most part, but I love honey cake for Rosh Hashanah, so I’m usually resigned to taking a Benadryl before dinner, and hoping that I don’t have a bad reaction.

    Last year I found brown rice syrup, but the rice aftertaste made me not want to use it alone [in tea, as a dip, etc.], only as an ingredient in cooking/baking.

    This year I found an “imitation honey” [malitol syrup] at the grocery store, and while it tastes fine in tea, it has a rather strong “fake” aftertaste when used as a dip.

  3. deva Says:

    agave enjoys a low glycemic index because it is fructose. if it was called fructose syrup, nobody would want to buy it. but in moderation, it shouldn’t be a problem, and it is organic. and fun in a prickly cactus kind of way.

  4. Laura Says:

    I made a mock honey cake: http://pragmaticattic.wordpres.....oney-cake/

    Instead of honey, I used caramelized sugar. With chai tea and some extra spice, the flavor is uncannily just like honey cake. I added applesauce and sliced apples. So good!

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