In the interest of those who are in charge of a “Make Your Own Edible Sukkah” project, I offer this record. Learn from my experience, and add to it, if you can.
If your project is not conducted in a kosher building, you needn’t pay so much attention. For you awaits a world of candy, a universe of sugary confection in endless variety.
For the rest of us, alas, a ghetto of fruit gums. And it is for the rest of us that I type my notes; for the folks creating edible sukkahs in a kosher building and, even more restrictive, in a kosher building during the first two days of Sukkot, when “work” is not permitted.
Building a kosher sukkah on a holiday is easy and not so easy.
Finding kosher graham crackers is easy. Just keep in mind that some still come in perforated rectangles (which give two squares, but never break just right), and some are already in wax columns of squares. The latter is preferable.
Finding the mini rod pretzels to roof the 3 sided graham cracker sukkah is easy. Snyder’s rods are the perfect length to span the gap and they are O-U kosher.
Finding kosher frosting for the “glue” is easy, but the frosting should be thick. Ignore the labels that say whipped or extra creamy and go for sturdy. Supposedly you can add meringue powder to thicken any frosting (Wilton’s is O-U), but this did not work for me. Neither did Cream of Tartar, which just made the frosting taste all weird and wangy. Adding more confectioner’s sugar helped a bit, as did adding corn or potato starch, but it was hardly worth the trouble. Make it from scratch, you may say, but at my synagogue, this would mean reserving the dairy kitchen weeks in advance. Honestly, ordinary thick, tubbed frosting will work just fine, and you’ll need far less than you’d imagine if you apply it with piping bags. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you just give little kids a plastic knife and a tub of frosting, the frosting will be gone in moments. If, instead, you give each kid a snack-size ziploc bag with a glob of frosting down at one corner, and with the very tip of that corner snipped off, the one glob will be sufficient and far, far less messy. The kids can just squeeze the bag and out oozes the frosting in a manageable pipe. (Note that the corner snipping must be done before the holiday. Snipping is work.)
I shall stop with the materials list for the moment, and dive straight in to the instructions:
1. Glue one square down to the paper plate with a blob of frosting. This is the floor.
2. Pipe frosting around 3 sides of that square. This will anchor the walls.
3. Stand a square atop each of these sides.
4. Pipe extra frosting between these crackers if wobbly.
5. Pipe frosting along the top edge of the 3 walls.
6. Place pretzel rods atop these, to span the gap and create a roof.
7. Decorate by anchoring fake fruit with blobs of frostings. See below. This step is the one I obsessed over, and the one from which I learned the most.
8. Add schach. I used curly parsley, which was adorable, but some people like to stay with the all-candy theme and use green fruit-by-the-foot-type pressed sheets. (I did no research on candy schach, so I don’t know which pressed fruit sheet is or isn’t kosher.)
Now, about the decor. The idea is to decorate an edible sukkah with edible bits that look like fruit. Sounds simple, and it is, if you don’t keep kosher. If you don’t keep kosher, you have the fabulous Runts candy: hard, wee little bananas and oranges and apples. Perfection! You can also have your pick of fruit-shaped chewies in the snack aisle of any grocery store. You can arrange eentsy candy pumpkins at the entrance of your sukkah. You can add Sour Patch Kids as tiny people-shaped guests inside your sukkah, or even Teddy Grahams as anthropomorphic ushpizin, perhaps grouped around a table made from a Rollo. (The Rollos are kosher, but nothing else is.)
For the rest of us, we have to work a bit harder. After several shopping excursions, online searches (including OU.org) and phone calls to manufacturers, here is the short list of decor:
Trix cereal (the original kind, not the swirly. Perfectly fine spheres of one color each.)
Jelly Belly brand fruit-shaped gums
Jelly Belly brand raspberry and blackberry shapes (life-size)
Mike and Ikes, but only the yellow ones (to look like bananas)
This is enough to make cute little kosher, edible sukkahs. I say it’s enough now, but when I was planning this project and assembling the kits, I was obsessed with finding the perfect fake mini fruits. Having heard that Runts were kosher, I called every party store, grocery chain and discount store in town looking for Runts. Runts became the holy grail, the holy kiddush cup of fake fruit decor. Even so close to Halloween, only one store had Runts at all, and only as part of a giant assorted bag of trick or treat packets. But nowhere online could I find kashrut info, not even on the elaborate Wonka website. I finally talked to a Wonka representative who, after checking the database found out that no, Runts are not kosher certified. I was crushed. And this is my low point, the point at which I find myself back at the grocery store, fingering bags of Laffy Taffy (kosher) to get a sense of how pliable the yellow taffy might be…if, in fact the yellow taffy might be pulled apart, rolled into balls and manipulated into tiny banana shapes…..
But thankfully, another glance down the same aisle revealed Jelly Belly’s kosher answer: the fruit slices and the little berries. Fine, just fine. And really, it was.
And now, for the obsessively organized portion of these notes:
On each paper-covered worktable I placed a basket of alphabet stickers (to put each child’s initials on each plate rim, since we cannot write during a holiday); a box of wipes, a stack of paper towels, a basket of knives/spreaders.
To minimize greed, grabbing and frustration, I created individual kits.
Each kid got an autumnal-themed dessert-size paper plate (Target, $1 for 12) and a paper work bowl full of the following:
4 graham cracker squares
6 rod pretzels
1 ziploc snack bag with frosting in corner, snipped, to use a piping bag
8 Trix cereal balls in assorted colors (with each color respresented at least once)
4 Jelly Belly fruit slices
4 Jelly Belly raspberry/blackberries
4 Mike and Ike yellow candies
The parsley schach was piled on one paper plate in the center of the table, for communal use.
All kosher. All good. All done.
Oh, and for the crowning kosher touch, to make up for the lack of Runts and Sour Patch Kids, do these two things:
1. Make a table out of 3 Snyder’s Butter Snap pretzels. They’re kosher dairy and shaped like little square waffles. You can see the table I made at the top picture. But not pictured….
2. On the table, place a Bugles snack horn filled with bits of the Jelly candy anchored with a touch of frosting. Voila: a cornucopia, a horn of plenty to tie in with themes of harvest and happiness.