Last week, I got a call from my boyfriend’s mother as I was walking to my local co-op. “Yosh’s dad and I went to a shiur yesterday.” she told me. “It was about honey and how the honey referred to in “the land of milk and honey,” was actually made of dates, and not from bees. I thought about you the whole time.”
I was touched that she thought of me and more than willing to oblige when she asked if I would scout around New York to pick up some date honey for Rosh Hashanah, which I am spending with their family. Unfortunately, it turns out date honey is hard to find. I tried the co-op – lots of raw, fair trade honey, but the closest thing to date honey was a fancy jar of fig jam tied with twine. I popped into the fancy cheese shop near my apartment – no luck. I even tried the mother of all supermarkets, Fairway, whose aisles are crammed with jar after jar of exotic honey, preserves, and maple syrup….but no date honey. The floor manager told me they used to carry it, but had discontinued it several years ago.
Still, I was determined to produce some date honey for this important family gathering. So, after another trip to the co-op where I picked up some plump Medjool dates, and a few test rounds in my kitchen, I made my own date honey, darn-it! Turns out, it’s much easier to make than to find.
By the way, there is an interesting story in the Jerusalem Post last week, about archaeologists discovery of the oldest known apiary (bee hive colony) in the Beit She’an Valley. The discovery of these hives, which date back to the 10th and 9th century BCE, suggest that perhaps honey wasn’t the exclusive sweetener of the holy land. Even so, I enjoyed the journey and the opportunity to try something new (and also ancient) for Rosh Hashanah.
Yield: about 1 cup of gooey, fragrant date honey
•8 dates – make sure you buy the fat, sticky Medjool dates (The smaller, harder Delget dates won’t work)
•Juice of 1⁄2 a lemon, remove the seeds
•1⁄2 cup water
•4 pieces crystallized ginger, finely chopped
•1⁄4 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).