Please note that this is a seasonal product we bring in only for Christmas.
Char, what the heck is halva?
It comes in a rectangular box with a picture of a camel on it. It used to be metal, but now it’s a white plastic box. And the only brand to buy is called Camel Brand.
Does it have anything to do with camels?
No, but as children, our older siblings loved tormenting us with the story that it was made from camel’s milk.
What is it made of?
“Basically sesame seeds, ground up and pressed into a cake”
Oh, like tahini?
So….how do you use it?
You just eat it. Only at Christmas time. You break it up into small pieces and snack on it.
Because as a German Mennonite, somehow our ancestors adopted this Middle Eastern food staple as their special Christmas treat. Maybe because it was made in Winnipeg. Where lots of Mennonites live!
That’s basically the conversation I’ve had with most of our team over the last 11 Christmases, as they try to figure out why we get so many phone calls asking for this unusual product.
I still have no idea why this sandy textured, very sweet and oily product became a Christmas tradition for Mennonites. But isn’t that how traditions are born? You repeat the things your family did when you were a child, often to the puzzlement of outsiders.
The smell and taste of halvah will take me right back to my red velvet Christmas dress, waiting impatiently for my older siblings to STOP VISITING with all their friends at our church’s Christmas Eve program so we could hurry home to open our gifts and enjoy candies, treats and halvah.
When the Winnipeg company that produced Camel Brand shuttered two years ago, a cry of despair went up among the Mennonite circles, and I set out to find a suitable substitute. Let me tell you, there are a lot of really bad-tasting halvahs out there. But then this summer, Halvana flashed on my computer screen and I requested a sample. One bite and I knew we had found a winner. While not precisely the same, it’s very close to the halva of my childhood.
Now the challenge is to persuade people who aren’t familiar with it, to give it a try. As charcuterie boards have become a much loved tradition, this can be placed on the board as a sweet to go along with all the salty. But I really love adding it as a topping for brownies.
Recipe: Try this brownie recipe with halva on top!