Sticky and Sweet for the New Year

(Cross-posted to Jewcy’s new blog, Pickled)

dates.jpgWhen you picture the “land flowing with milk and honey” what do you see?  Chances are, like me, you envision a tall glass overflowing with whole-fat milk and a sticky, golden honey bear.  For years, scholars and Torah enthusiasts have bashed this idea, claiming that honey in biblical times actually refers to a sweet dates, and not bee honey.

Last week’s Jerusalem Post, took the sting out of their argument when it revealed that a Hebrew University archaeologist uncovered the oldest known apiary in the Beit She’an Valley.  The discovered hives “date” back to the 10th to early 9th century BCE and beekeepers estimate that they could produce up to a half ton of honey/year in their heyday.  (More and a recipe below the jump)

Okay, so maybe the gig is up on date honey being the exclusive sweetener of the holy land.  Still, I revelled in the opportunity to try something new (and also ancient) for my Rosh Hashanah apple dipping.  A few thwarted trips to Fairway and other speciality stores convinced me that date honey isn’t easy to come by.  Luckily, it turns out that it’s easy to make.

(I’ve only tested the recipe below twice, so I’m definitely open for suggestions on how to improve it.)

Date Honey
Yield: about 1 cup of gooey, fragrant date honey

  • 8 dates – make sure you buy the fat, sticky Medjool dates (Delget won’t work)
  • Juice of ½ a lemon, remove the seeds
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 pieces crystallized ginger, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup Agave syrup (don’t worry, this is easy to find at Whole Foods or health food stores)

Remove the pit from the dates and quarter them.  Mash the dates with a fork into a paste-like consistency.  Add the date mash to a small sauce pan.  Add the lemon juice and ¼ cup of water and heat over a low flame, stirring frequently with a whisk or wooden spoon (about 3 minutes).  After the water is absorbed, add the remaining water, agave syrup and crystallized ginger.  The mash should take on a slightly more liquid quality, like apple butter.  Continue stirring, adding small amounts of additional water and Agave syrup as necessary until you reach the taste and consistency you like.

Let cool and serve with slices of Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp apples (or any apple you like).

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4 Responses to “Sticky and Sweet for the New Year”

  1. Shelley Says:

    A great recipe, thank you! Silan / date honey is not all that easy to find in the UK either. For those less concerned with kosher ceritfication, a company called Meridian does supply a non-kosher date syrup to health-food stores around the UK and it can also be ordered online through goodnessdirect.co.uk. But kosher silan from Israel is harder to find.

    Since I run a kosher, vegetarian & vegan gift basket business, I have made it my mission to get hold of some kosher silan so I can make a kosher & vegan version of our Apple & Honey gift box for Rosh Hashanah this year. We should have stock within the next 10 days, so take a look at our website (http://www.mannagifts.co.uk) just before Rosh Hashanah if you are looking for the ideal gift to send to UK & European-based Jewish vegan friends.

  2. Stephen Says:

    Shelley, the problem with Silan from Israel (at least the bottles I have seen) is that it contains sugar.

    We are converting our small Israeli boutique apiary to an organic apiary. It is quite a challenge but it is actually happening. You can read about our efforts at http://www.blackbear.co.il. We are starting to grow small cell bees and do not use organophosphates.

  3. Gem Says:

    I enjoyed reading this, I was reading last night about devash being from dates and made my own today but trying to tweak it as it is just dates and water boiled down and I’m wondering if the sugar content is high enough to store it as is. I am a Christian, I am fascinated with the amazing foods of ancient Israel. Very cool.

  4. Yishai Says:

    Silan is the Charosset for Jews of Babylon, where all “Israeli” date palms are really from. Living in the golah at the moment, this is my only way of getting charosset for the sedder. Thanks for the recipe.

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