Pomegranate molasses is, in essence, reduced pomegranate juice. Like when you reduce balsamic vinegar, cooking down pomegranate juice creates a thickened syrup with a much more potent flavor. This syrup can be used as a condiment, or added to various dishes to enhance their flavor. Simply reducing pomegranate juice creates a very sour syrup with a powerful, almost overpowering flavor. Reducing pomegranate juice together with a little sugar helps it thicken to a syrup faster, and makes the resulting sauce more palatable. Adding a little lemon juice helps to increase the sauce’s shelf life. This post will walk you through both methods of making pomegranate molasses, and explain my preference between the two.
What is pomegranate molasses?
Pomegranate molasses (also known as pomegranate syrup) is made throughout the Middle East in countries like Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. Traditionally the molasses is made by simply reducing pomegranate juice into a thickened syrup, relying on natural fruit sugars to thicken the sauce. In some areas, sugar is added as a preservative and to counteract the natural tartness of the pomegranate fruit; sugar also helps the syrup to reduce and thicken more quickly. Lemon juice is often added as an acidic preservative to increase shelf life. The amount of sugar varies by region; for example, Iranian (Persian) pomegranate syrup tends to be sweeter than the Lebanese variety.
I add both sugar and lemon to my pomegranate molasses. This is because it is a concentrated, powerful syrup that I only use sparingly, so when I do make it I count on having a bottle in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 weeks. Adding the sugar and lemon juice keeps the molasses fresh longer and gives it a nice sweet/tart balance. I like my molasses on the sweeter side.
How do you make pomegranate molasses?
I hesitate to even call this a recipe, because it’s so simple. Once you’ve whipped up a batch of pomegranate molasses, the possibilities are endless!
To start with, you’ll need pomegranate juice. If making from scratch, you’ll need to seed and juice some pomegranates. Store-bought pomegranate juice will work just fine, too, provided it is pure pomegranate juice with no additives.
For a tarter pomegranate molasses with a shorter shelf life, you can simply reduce pomegranate juice on its own with no added ingredients. It will take longer to reduce, and you’ll need to watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t start to burn. There’s a thin line between thickened and burned… and if you thicken it too much, you’ll end up with a solid piece of syrup when it cools.
How do you use pomegranate molasses?
Pomegranate molasses can be used in a variety of ways to add a pop of flavor to your food. Think of the ways you might use a reduced balsamic vinegar; often, pomegranate molasses can be used as a substitute. I like it as a topping for desserts like ice cream, as a meat marinade, in sauces, and in salad dressings. The sweetened version works nicely as a glaze on roasted vegetables or fish. You can get creative with it; the flavor is really potent and unique.
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- 4 cups pure pomegranate juice (bottled or fresh)
- 2/3 cup sugar (optional - recommended)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional - recommended)
- You can make pomegranate molasses with added sugar and lemon juice, or without. I prefer making it with, as it will reduce to a syrup much faster, and the end result will be more tasty. However, you can simply reduce plain pomegranate juice if you prefer, which will take longer and produce a much tarter syrup. Pour pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice (or just the pomegranate juice) into a small saucepan.
- Heat up over medium until the sauce begins to simmer lightly. Stir to dissolve sugar. Allow the liquid to simmer very lightly for 60-80 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the liquid reduces by 75% to about 1 cup of molasses. If reducing just the juice without sugar, it will take longer to reduce (up to 2 hours), and you will end up with less liquid in the end to reach the syrupy consistency - roughly 3/4 cup syrup.
- The liquid is ready when it has a light syrupy consistency and coats the back of a spoon. Don't let it thicken too much, or it will harden when it cools.Remove from heat. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. If you are unsure about the consistency, measure the reduced liquid-- it should be roughly 1 cup of syrup (or 3/4 cup for juice alone). If it's a lot more liquid than that, continue reducing.
- After the syrup cools completely, store it in an airtight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
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