A lot of people complain that there’s nothing to eat on Pesach, but the truth is that it’s a great opportunity to eat healthy. You can’t eat most carbs, and no cake or candy is good enough to make you break a serious diet. You’re just eating four-course meals of nutritious foods for eight days straight. What could be healthier?
But if what you want is candy, you might be in a bind. On most Shabbosos, for example, I give my kids candy for answering questions. What do I do on Pesach?
Well, technically, on Pesach, they’re supposed to be asking the questions and I’m supposed to be answering. But I want my candy.
Plus, the halachah recommends that you give your kids some kind of treat to get them to ask questions in the first place.
(The Gemara actually recommends nuts, but not with today’s allergies. My household doesn’t really eat nuts. There are no nuts in our charoses. It’s basically just applesauce and wine. It doubles as a great baby food for a baby, if you want the baby to go right to sleep.)
So most years, I give out grapes. And this is great, because kids love grapes. But occasionally, one of them says, “Wait … Why am I working so hard to earn grapes? Grapes are a fruit, and I can take fruit any time I want!”
I give him a grape for asking.
And the situation isn’t helped by the fact that our minhag is not to buy things like candy. Not that the candy is that great. The jelly candies you can buy on Pesach, for example, are the same basic consistency as the jelly you smear on matzah. I know this because, sometimes, when it’s not Pesach, I buy Pesach candy just to see what I’m missing, and it’s never worth it.
And you’re going to say, “Pesach food isn’t supposed to be good after Pesach, obviously.”
To which I say, “Candy isn’t supposed to have an expiration date.” If I wanted something with an expiration date, I would eat grapes.
So what do we give them?
We can get creative. Like I saw something in the store the other day called “meat lollipops.” It was a strip of meat, swirled into the shape of a cinnamon bun, stuck on a skewer. Totally kosher l’Pesach. And I said, “We can give those to the kids! Who wouldn’t eat meat lollipops?” I know they’d probably be my favorite kind of lollipop.
There’s also something you can make called “candied orange peel,” which is when you fish orange peels out of the garbage, cover them in sugar, and then your kids suck off the sugar and throw them back in the garbage. You can probably also do this with lemon peels, apple peels, or whatever other peels you have lying around.
Unless you don’t eat peels.
Baruch Hashem, though, I have some candy recipes that everyone should be able to use:
Fruit leather is pretty simple to make. First, you make applesauce or some other fruit-based sauce. Just take the fruits, cook them if necessary, and puree.
Come to think of it, you could probably also make this out of charoses. This would be a good way to get rid of your leftover charoses, because, frankly, one apple makes enough of it to build a pyramid. And then you’re supposed to dip a huge spoon of marror into a little bit of charoses, and then shake most of the charoses back off. So by the time both Sedarim are over, you should end up with all of it left — more, in fact, because you have all that you started with plus little gross flecks of marror. Why not use that to make fruit leather?
Besides for the marror, I mean.
Once you have whatever mixture you’re using, spread it out on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet about 1/8-inch deep.
If you don’t have a way of measuring 1/8 of an inch because all your rulers are chametzdik, an 1/8 of an inch is about how much snow it takes for your kids’ school to cancel. By that logic, you don’t even need the eighth of an inch of fruit to be in there. You can call it 1/8 of an inch when there’s not even anything in the pan yet, but you know the fruit’s coming.
At that point, you can slide the pan into the oven at 140°F for about eight hours. And when you take it out, it should have a leathery consistency that would scare you if you’d never heard of fruit leather. At that point, you can cut it up with a pizza slicer, assuming you have a Pesachdik pizza slicer. Why would you not?
This is a great recipe because it’s healthy and it’s fruit but the kids don’t know it’s fruit, and what better time of the year to tie up your oven for eight hours at a time?
If you want to have even more fun with it, you can take cookie cutters and make fun shapes.
What do you mean you don’t have Pesachdik cookie cutters?
If fruit leather doesn’t take long enough for you, you can always make…
Rock candy doesn’t have a complicated recipe either. You basically just start by boiling up really thick sugar water. Like salt water, but thicker. Like Yam HaMelach thick. Then you pour this mixture into individual cups or jars — one for each stick — and you put a chopstick into the center of each one and figure out how to get it not to keep popping back up.
Wait, you don’t have Pesachdik chopsticks? What’s going on with you?
Me neither. I have never paid for chopsticks in my life, but I don’t feel like the ones from the chametz restaurant should be used for Pesach food. Who knows whose hands went into the chopstick bin at the restaurant? Probably people who were eating with their hands until someone said, “You’re not an animal! Use chopsticks!”
Alternatively, you can use the skewer that came with your meat lollipop.
Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of time until the rock candy forms around your sticks! Set your oven timer for two weeks.
Yes, two weeks. If you think two weeks is a long time, bear in mind that according to scientists, actual rocks take way longer than that to grow. Just be happy it’s not tying up your oven for all that time.
But let’s put it this way: If you can manage to kasher your kitchen about a week before Pesach, then your rock candy will be ready … approximately the last day of Pesach. Which is awesome! That way, you don’t have to wait until the very next day to have actual candy!
And every day counts. My wife and I tried making this once, and our idea was to bring it to my parents’ house for the last days of Pesach, but we didn’t want to take the sticks out of the solution two days before we had to, so we had to figure out how to transport 15 cups of incredibly sticky syrup in our minivan. Luckily, our minivan comes with 16 cup-holders! (And you wondered what use that could be in a van built for eight people.)
We just had to line them all for Pesach.
You need to make sure to buy enough sugar. The recipe I saw calls for 3 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of water. This means that if you want to make rock candy for ten people, for example, you’ll need 240 ounces of sugar, which is 15 pounds. For ten lollies. If sugar is 50 cents a pound, let’s say, then that’s $7.50. (I think the meat lollies were cheaper.) Though I guess that for the $7.50, you also get a fun science experiment, plus a lifetime of stickiness all over your limited Pesach food prep space.
“Um, why don’t we just keep them in the van all week?”
“You better enjoy this lollipop,” you should tell your family as they attempt to suck jagged rocks off a meat skewer. “It took us two weeks to make it.”
You can ask your kids to help you make it, but I’d suggest you don’t. No one who helps you make the rock candy is going to want any.
It happens to be that it’s not bad, if you’re into rock candy. And it definitely gives you a good idea of what people mean when they tell you that candy is pure sugar. My mother-in-law says this all the time: “That candy you’re eating is pure sugar.” Is that supposed to deter me? Pure is a good thing, right? If I saw a candy in the store that had a little label on it that said “Pure sugar!” I’d be more likely to buy it. I don’t want adulterated sugar.
So what have we learned today? I learned that you can actually make candy from the comfort of your own home, if you’re willing to be a little uncomfortable. And also that candy isn’t something that involves a lot of ingredients — it’s mostly just sugar and kishuf. (Or applesauce and kishuf.) And time. Which is why the thing about these recipes is that I still can’t give out the candy willy-nilly. So basically, the plan is that my kids can earn them every certain number of questions. And we keep track of how many questions they’re up to by using grapes.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of six books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.