It’s been said that it’s a wonder if stoners can manage to remember anything for more than two days. Therefore, remembering a weed recipe for over a thousand years must mean that it’s pretty damn delicious!
It is generally accepted that people had long eaten cannabis before the custom of smoking arrived from the New World to Eurasia in the 1500s. Our Stone Age ancestors most likely first encountered cannabis’ psychoactive effects accidentally while licking the sticky resin left behind on their hands and fingers after harvesting the eatable hemp seeds. Eventually it was discovered that instead of simply eating the resin raw, the cannabis’ potency could be multiplied if it was first combined with fat and heated before being consumed. Over time, two basic recipes emerged in India and the Middle East: the milk-based cannabis leaf beverage bhang, and the sweet, nutty, hashish-spiked morsel called majoun.
Majoun is the general name given to a number of similar Middle Eastern confections containing cannabis. It is, perhaps, the most legendary of all psychoactive confections — a potent blend of dried fruits, nuts, spices, honey and hashish. The word “majoun” originates from the Arabic ma’-jun, meaning ‘kneaded.’ In modern Arabic “majoun” is sometimes taken to mean “love potion.” Majoun is perhaps the oldest standard formula for cannabis-based dish. A significant body of literary evidence shows that majoun has existed for well over a millennium.
Perhaps the most famous reference to majoun in modern times was in the celebrated cookbook by Alice B. Toklas where she gives her recipe for “haschigh fudge.” Toklas describes its origins as Middle Eastern and writes that, “In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of hot mint tea.” As for its effects, Toklas describes them as, “Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected.” A quick glance at Toklas’ famous recipe for “haschigh fudge,” however, which is made by combining dates, figs, almonds, savory spices and of course cannabis; shows that it is clearly not fudge at all—but Majoun.
Long before Toklas published her recipe in 1954, majoun had been mentioned in Arab literature. Medieval Arabic poetry often speaks of nibbling on “honeyed” hashish and contrasting it with the imbibing of wine. Starting as early as the ninth century, Arab tales use the eating of hashish confections as a catalyst in a variety of humorous vignettes. Two of the most popular of these appear in “Tales of 1001 Nights” as “The Tale of Two Hashish Eaters” and “The Tale of The Hashish Eater” wherein the characters consume an unnamed hashish confection.
The earliest surviving Western reference to majoun dates to 1563 from “Conversations on the Simples, Drugs and Materia Medica of India” by the Portuguese physician Garcia de Orta. He writes in his brief description of majoun that, “they make up into an electuary, with sugar, and with the things above-mentioned, and this they call maju.” Orta makes no mention of majoun’s specific medical or recreational use however.
Writing almost 300 years later, a professor of chemistry at the Medical College of Calcutta, the Irish physician Sir William O’Shaughnessy, described majoun as a “…hemp confection, is a compound of sugar, butter, flour, milk and siddhi or bhang…” O’Shaughnessy unabashedly describes the recreational use of majoun writing that, “Almost invariably the inebriation is of the most cheerful kind, causing the person to sing and dance, to eat food with great relish, and to seek aphrodisiac enjoyments. In persons of a quarrelsome nature it occasions, as might be expected, an exasperation of their natural tendency. The intoxication lasts about three hours, when sleep intervenes. No nausea or sickness of the stomach succeeds, nor are the bowels at all affected; next day there is slight giddiness and vascularity of the eyes, but no other symptoms worth recording.”
Throughout the 19th century there came a flood of literary references to majoun. In 1846 Théophile Gautier in “Club des Haschischins” writes that he and some friends partook of Hashish in the form of a “paste or greenish jam about as large as the thumb” In an article published in a 1854 edition of Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, Bayard Taylor describes the hashish he eats in Egypt as blended into a, “paste of sugar and spices” to which the Turk resorts, as the food of his voluptuous evening, reveries.” Dr. John Bell, writing in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in April 1857 describes, “A specimen of [majoun] obtained from Damascus [composed of], a considerable quantity of camphor and spices, and nearly half was a mixture of rancid butter and extract of hemp.” In an 1888 article entitled “A Hashish-House in New York” H.H. Kane describing his own recreational use writes of receiving a, “…curious little box which contained some small black lozenges, consisting of the resin of hemp, henbane, crushed datura seeds, butter, and honey, and known in India as Majoon, among the Moors as El Mogen.”
During the 20th century majoun seems to have been forgotten in the West. Even the venerable Alice B. Toklas recipe for “haschigh fudge” was reinterpreted into “hash brownies,” and eventually became nothing more than a store-bought brownie mix made with canna-butter. This is unfortunate since this recipe, along with most others, aim to disguise or overpower the “unpleasant” taste of the cannabis. A poor batch of marijuana brownies is usually thought of as one where the “hashy” flavor can still be detected, while a well-made majoun celebrates the flavor of the hash or canna-butter it is made with. In majoun the spices act in concert with the cannabis flavor. The hash itself acts as a spice, imparting an interesting sweet and savory combination of flavors that characterizes so much of Middle Eastern cuisine. Once you learn the secret of majoun, no other cannabis dish will satisfy. Here’s a basic recipe.
• 1 cup pitted dates
• 1/2 cup golden resins
• 1/2 cup shelled almonds
• 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
• 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 3 teaspoon of orange water
• 1 cup of honey
• 2 tablespoons of super potent canna-butter
Grind the nuts in a food processor or blender as finely as possible.
In a large skillet or pot, toast the ground nuts, stirring frequently being careful not to burn them.
Stir together all ingredients except sesame seeds and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Cook, stirring frequently so mixture does not burn, 40 minutes more, or until very thick.
Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool slightly. Form tablespoons of warm mixture into 1-inch balls and roll in sesame seeds to coat. Candies may be made 1 week ahead and kept in an airtight coriander in a cool dark place.
Majoun is often mixed with green food coloring and used to fill pitted dates. It also can be used to fill the tender and buttery middle-easten cookies known as Ma’amoul.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
All of the ingredients (except for the cannabis) can be found on Amazon.com.
One of the most important ingredients is the Ras el Hanout which literally translates as ‘head’ or ‘top’ of the shop. It is a very old mixture of many spices, sometimes ten, sometimes nineteen, often over thirty. The intoxicating aroma is said to have been originally assembled by a nomadic warrior combining all the scents of the countries he had passed through. My favorite brand of Ras el Hanout is Mustapha’s, a 1.6 ounce jar of which costs around $14.00.
NOTES ON PREPARATION
Remember, activation of THC acids in cannabis (decarboxylation); this occurs at around 217º Fahrenheit, and vaporization begins at around 356º Fahrenheit. Therefore it is important that the cannabutter be prepared above 217º, but no higher than 356.