Wednesday, December 1, 2010

halvah...

Though many may never have heard of it...halvah is a little piece of my past that crops up every so often.  Especially at this time of the year.


We always had halvah in our home during the Christmas season...along with bowls of nuts that needed cracking...and mandarin oranges galore...and traditional Christmas candies.  Halvah is hard to explain...a sweet confection made of sesame paste...rather rich and greasy.  And good...if you grew up with it!  I believe it is a middle eastern and Russian thing. 

When I was a kid...my parents purchased halvah in a metal pan.  And when the halvah was gone...the pan became a baking sheet.  We used halvah tins in place of  a 9" x 12" pan...though they were a wee bit smaller. Eventually, the corners opened up...and the pans were not quite as useful for baking cake.  Many decades ago, Camel Brand switched their halvah packaging to plastic pans.  Though those pans found many uses...putting them in the oven was no longer an option.  My mother-in-law gave me a few halvah tins when we were first married...and I still have one among my baking sheets.

 
It was the perfect size for the gingerbread cake I baked last week...and so it got used once again.  Though it is definitely an antique...and looks a little worse for the wear...it did the trick! 

I don't see halvah in the stores I frequent...but the last time I visited my dad, he sent halvah home with us.  It brought back many memories...and tasted just like the halvah of old.  'Tis the season...for halvah! 



34 comments:

  1. Wow, I like your new blog look - especially the photos of your family on the sidebar. Now I can figure out who belongs with whom.

    I remember halvah at my grandparents' place at Christmas. I believe it originated in Turkey and the Balkans and I wonder if some of our ancestors who traveled from Russia through Turkey tried it there and liked it.

    When I first used tahini in making hummus I was taken aback by its similarity to halvah - turns out halvah is basically tahini with sugar.

    Great post, Judy. It took me back to Christmases at my grandparents' house on Old Yale Road (now a subdivision).

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  2. You are right, I have never heard of halvah.....but we always had the bowl of mixed nuts to crack! I love old things, so it is really great that you still have the pan. Maybe you should take it to "Antiques Roadshow"(do you have that on TV in Canada?)....it might be valuable!! :-)

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  3. If you really want halvah... try Hofstede's - I do believe they still carry it :) xo

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  4. Thank you for something new to learn about Christmas traditions! Our memories are so special. Thanks for sharing. I might have to look for some here in south Texas!

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  5. oh yes ...we always had those tins of halvah too. You are so lucky to still have an original tin ..oh boy ..if we had only known what we might one day hold dear .. things rich with memories.
    I never liked halvah. My brother though .. packed that stuff away. I stayed with the mandarins.. .and chocolates and nuts if anyone shelled them for me.

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  6. We always had halvah at Christmas, and in the same big metal tin that then became a cake or cookie tin. My sister was an expert at 'shaving' bits off the cut edge - she never got caught! The only way I find halvah nowadays is in a small plastic round. I can't imagine how much the big tin would cost now!

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  7. I always thought Halvah came from Turkey, though we have seen it in Australia!

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  8. We had halvah in our home growing up. I seem to remember it around New Years. Probably because Christmas is celebrated later in Russia then in the U.S. The Russian delis I go to here always have some on display to buy. There are marbled ones and other types. I'll have to ask my parents if they enjoyed halvah in Persia first or if they had it in Russia, too. Seems very Middle Eastern. Love the tin!

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  9. Halvah was a real tradition at our house when I was growing up and I remember my mom having the tin pans as well. The last time I had halvah was just this past summer at a barbeque.

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  10. Something new every time I visit...halvah? Never heard of it, but want to try some desperately. It looks wonderful.

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    1. Until seeing my comment here today, I would have said that I had never heard of it, but that should be translated to I didn't remember hearing of it and I still want to taste it. Wonder if it is available in the foreign foods section of the grocery. I will check!

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  11. LOVE the stuff! Our deli carries several flavors (chocolate, pistachio for instance) and my Jewish friends always seemed to include a chunk of it when putting out a buffet. I've never thought about making it myself. Maybe I'll give it a try after I finally get around to making home made marshmallows. That's been on my bucket list for three years now!

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  12. Halvah will always remind me of my Omi (grandmother) who grew up in Russia... so it is also a Russian thing. She loved bringing it to family gatherings. It's one of those things .. like olives .. I tried to enjoy it ... it looked good, but I'm not craving it.

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  13. Superstore carries the Camel Brand Halvah in the big plastic containers (that are perfect for storing cookies in the freezer afterwards) but it costs around $26!!! I am a huge fan of the marble, because it incorporates a teeny bit of real chocolate! And just so you know...I did buy a small package (only a couple dollars) at Lepp Farm Market this past weekend because I was craaaaaaving the marble halvah! They carry all the variations of Camel Brand halvah in the smaller packages!!!! Get them before they're gone!!!! Such a fabulous treat!

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  14. Hi,
    I'm a mennonite girl from Brazil, and I always had halvah at my grandparents house. My Opa would go around giving us little bites with a spoon. My mom carried on with the tradition. A funny fact is that after I grew up, every time I didn't know what to give to my dad for Father's Day or his birthday, my mom would suggest a can of halvah, saying: He loves that!
    What I found out some time ago, is that it's not so much that my dad likes it - my mom is actually crazy about it. LOL
    Our brand of halvah is still sold in tin cans, but they are round, and vintage - the design is still the same as when I was a girl. It's a good idea to recycle them - I might use them for little pies.

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  15. I first tasted halvah in the mid 1980's and I fell in love with it. I used to purchase little bars of it at the Health Food Store. (Health food???) I haven't seen any for a few years now; but my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

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  16. Judy I have always loved halvah! My maternal grandmother was Ukrainian, as you know, but I leaned about halvah from my Jewish friends as it is very popular in Brooklyn, and I always thought of it as a special kosher Jewish holiday treat.
    I like both the plain and the marbled. I never thought to make my own halvah out of tahini--something I will have to try someday.

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  17. I learn so much from you via this blog. Until a few minutes ago, I never heard of "halvah". Thanks to you I will now recognize the word if I ever come across it...the word or the product itself. I do like the old pan and I think it is so special that you still have some of them and use them once in a while. Just think if pans could talk...the stories it could tell. So interesting!

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  18. My Grandpa would buy halvah at Funk's Supermarket in Clearbrook for us at Christmas - it was Camel Brand, but came in plastic containers!
    I found some here in Agassiz in the deli area of the SuperValu - so happy to let my children try this treat!

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  19. I agree it is good! I used to see it in certain stores. I'll have to look for it..

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  20. Oh yes, I know what HALVAH is. As a child we would always have it when visiting my grandparents at Christmas. I always thought it was German, but my grandmother is Russian...so hmmm...there you go.
    ...............YUM.................
    thank you for this "sweet" little memory....smile on Rosie

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  21. Halvah, yes! Some of my Israeli relatives love it. I've always associated it with the Middle East, so it's nice that your post gives a new perspective on it.

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  22. What a perfect post and how much fun to know that so many of us recognize this pan. It was a well known tradition in my grandparents family, and handed down to my parents, and yes, they always had to shop at Funks to get their annual fill of Halvah. Now I know why we always had those oil stained marks on our Monopoly Board.

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  23. Wow your blog has changed since I was here last! I miss your photos.

    I've never heard of this "halvah", what a great tradition though. Love to remember our family foods especially around the Holidays!

    Thanks for your visit, stop by the shop anytime... ;)

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  24. Ohh Judy ! I could have writen this post !! I smiled all the way through!
    Halvah that tastes like I remember is hard to get now, but we found that the little Halvah bars sold at Fraser Valley Meats does taste like the stuff that came out of that tin box!

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  25. Halvah yes that brings back memories. My parents still buy Halvah at Christmas time.
    My mom still stores her baking in Halvah containers, though hers are plastic in brown and creme.
    Though we share the tradition as Russian Mennonites, I do think it originates from Turkey or the Mideast as some already mentioned.

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  26. Thanks for the reminder! I must stop at the Lebanese specialty store in town and get some halvah - only place I've seen it in my adulthood.

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  27. I remember halvah from the 1970's....loved it. I haven't thought of it in years, but now you've reminded me. I wonder if I can find some in my neck of the woods these days....perhaps Trader Joe's carries it!

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  28. Janine -
    My mom is from a big German family and had Halvah at Christmas every year. She ate all the time when she was pregnant and my siblings and I love the stuff. As do my own children (I ate a lot of it during my pregnancies too) Thanks to other posters who have listed locations where it can be purchased, since Funk's closed we haven't been able to get the big trays. Blessing of Christmas to all.

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  29. I enjoyed your blog entry on Halvah. I have deep childhood memories of sneaking the confection from the pantry where my mother had "hidden" it. Then (1950's) I lived in Edgemont, South Dakota and Halvah was hard to come upon. Now I can bike over to the Phoenicia store in the downtown section of Houston and get as much as I want.
    I have stolen your image of the Halvah tin for my blog on Tahini and Proust at davidjwebb.net. If you want I can remove it and/or my link to your blog.

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  30. I was looking for Camel brand halvah that my grandparents used to buy when I was a kid. I haven't seen the Camel brand for about 35 years but the last I remember, it came in small round tins or large white plastic boxes. The white boxes were used afterwards to hold our pencil crayons, crayons and my grandma's buttons.
    My grandparents came from Russia to Canada and halvah was a necessity at Christmas along with Russian candy. I always thought halvah was just a Mennonite thing when I was a kid. I really enjoyed reading this blog, it brought alot of memories back.
    thanks,
    Linda Fast

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    1. I grew up eating it at Christmas at my nana's. She was a Russian Mennonite also. By the time I was around it was in the plastic boxes. I used to wish we could take it home, but she only bought enough for our family gathering at Christmas time.

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  31. German/ Israeli/Russian and other ethnic groups seem to want to claim it!I buy mine in West Indies store. We have eaten it since childhood-and have the hips to prove it!!!yummy.

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  32. My family are Mennonites from Paraguay, who came to live in Canada, and i remember just as you described bowls of nuts that needed to be cracked (but that was all year round) and Halva. also dont forget the mate tea.

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