Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”. For as long as I can remember, my family’s tradition was dipping not only apples but challah too in honey. For this holiday the challah, which is an egg-bread, is baked as a round.
Most vegans do not eat honey. I did not until after I stayed with indigenous Indians in their village, or what left of their village, in the rainforest of Brazil. These people were tenderly caring for bees. The honey from these bees was an important cash crop for the tribe, who were trying, with the help of the Rainforest Foundation, to repopulate and recover from having been taken off their lands.
Feeling I needed to educate myself about beeskeeping and honey, I did some research and found two movies that I highly recommend you watch: Queen of the Sun and Vanishing of The Bees. Bees are vitally important to our food system and, as you likely have heard, they are dying off in large numbers. While I still rarely use honey, when I do it is from bees that are tended to compassionately. I suggest you educate yourself and make a decision that is right for you. Regardless, remember that honey should never be fed to children under the age of 2 years, as it may be contaminated with botulism.
I still happily serve and eating my “bee-less honey”. It makes a sweet and authentic dip for Rosh Hashanah, or anytime. To all my friends who celebrate the Jewish New Year, I wish you a Shanah Tovah, a good year.
The recipe for my Vegan Orange Blossom Honey is made in 10 minutes, and stores in the refrigerator for months, so I often make a double batch. You can leave out the orange or add some lemon or other flavorings if you like.
If you don’t eat honey for ethical reasons or because you find it congesting, as I do, this orange-scented honey substitute is a superb alternative. I make a double recipe in a large saucepan so I have plenty for drizzling on nondairy yogurt, over puddings, on bread, and for dipping apples during the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
Note: It is very important to choose a saucepan with high sides when cooking sweet syrups, since they climb the sides quickly and furiously during cooking. A hot syrup boil-over will result in a messy cleanup or a serious burn, since the syrup sticks to skin. Be careful!
Note: The cooked orange zest will have become deliciously candied.
Makes About 2 /3 Cup / 160 Ml
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml brown rice syrup, warmed in the jar until pourable
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml agave syrup
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml pure maple syrup, Grade B or dark amber
- 1 teaspoon / 4 grams organic granulated sugar
- Strips of zest from 1/2 of a medium organic orange
- Combine the rice, agave, and maple syrups and the sugar in a medium saucepan with high sides and add the orange zest. Cook over medium heat to a boil.
- Lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring a few times and adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a low boil.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Test the final consistency: Spoon a scant tablespoon into a small dish and refrigerate for 10 minutes. If the honey is thick enough, cool to room temperature in the saucepan. If not, cook it another few minutes.
- Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Refrigerate in a tightly closed jar for up to a couple of months. The honey thickens when cold. Stir a few times until it returns to room temperature, if you like
Recipe reprinted with permission from Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, by Fran Costigan, (Running Press 2013).
If you like the idea of dipping challah in honey, here are links to three recipes for vegan challah. I have not made any of these yet, but have seen rave reviews. This will be the year I try. There is a gluten-free challah at ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com.