Pomegranate molasses, which is made by reducing freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice into a thick, sour and sticky syrup, isn’t really molasses. It is simply reduced pomegranate juice. And if you’re adding sugar, you can even call it an extremely sour pomegranate jam. Pomegranate jam – one that is prepared by just pomegranate juice and sugar – doesn’t thicken that much, so you may as well call it a pomegranate syrup. So, why, oh why, is it called pomegranate molasses? Probably because the supermarket variety is quite dark and thick, just like molasses. But I’m not here to talk about the supermarket variety.
Here in Turkey, we call it “nar ekşisi” (gnar eck-she-c), which translates into “pomegranate sour”. The real deal doesn’t have any added sugar and isn’t as thick as molasses. An almost-inedible pomegranate variety called “cin narı” is used and the resulting liquid is a bit cloudy, extremely sour and dark-pink juice. I use pomegranate molasses frequently in salads and prefer a sticky texture so that it clings to leafy ingredients. The added sugar and the fact that I didn’t use the extremely-sour variety of pomegranates makes this by no means an authentic pomegranate molasses by Turkish standards, but I’m not here to talk about authenticity either.
What I’m here to talk about is a different way to prepare homemade pomegranate molasses. A way that traps more of the flavorful aromatic compounds in the pomegranate juice than reducing it on the stove top: Baking it!
Over the past three and half years, I must have juiced at least two hundred pounds of pomegranates for the recipes that’ll go into my book. 200! And all by hand, I must add. After I wrapped up the last of the pomegranate recipes, I had about 2 cups of juice left, so I wanted to try something that I haven’t done with pomegranate juice before.
I added some sugar, whisked until dissolved, poured it in a half-sheet pan and baked it! Well, actually the right word is “overbaked” it. Once at room temperature, it was impossible to pour the thickened syrup, but it was more flavorful than I imagined pomegranate molasses could be. So yes, I bought another 15 pounds of pomegranates, juiced them by hand, baked half of it and cooked the other half on the stove top to see the difference.
The cooking/baking time was more or less the same, but the baked version tasted far more like freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice.
The recipe is pretty straightforward, but one thing to keep an eye on is the consistency. Pomegranate molasses will thicken further in the refrigerator (in fact, it will take quite a while for it to reach the tip of the bottle when you try to pour), so what you should be looking for is a thickness that resembles a simple sugar syrup rather than a thick, lava-like molasses consistency. To make sure you’ve got it right, you can chill a small plate in the freezer and check the consistency close to the end. The size of the pan will affect baking time. I’ve used a half-sheet pan. If you use a larger pan, it will reduce more quickly and reach the desired consistency earlier.
I’ll be posting a beloved Turkish salad recipe, which is the first thing that comes to mind the instant you say pomegranate molasses. Before then, put your homemade pomegranate molasses into good use with these great recipes:
- Burnt Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Duck Breast with Pomegranate Citrus Glaze by The Kitchn
- Fesenjan Persian Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce by Simply Recipes
- Grilled Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken With Sungold Tomato-Basil Salad by Melissa Clark for The New York Times
- Muhammara-Slathered Kabobs by 101 Cookbooks
- Pomegranate Roasted Carrots by Melissa Clark for Food52
- Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Tomatoes and Chickpeas by Martha Rose Shulman for The New York Times
HOMEMADE POMEGRANATE MOLASSES RECIPE
Makes approximately 11 tablespoons (215 g)
- 4 cups (960 g) pomegranate juice, preferably freshly-squeezed*
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
* It really depends on how juicy your pomegranates are, but you’ll need about 7 pounds of pomegranates to obtain 4 cups of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice. I prefer to juice the pomegranates by hand instead of using a juice press as the liquid from the seeds and membrane adds bitterness. Here’s how I do it: Place a large bowl under the sink (for easy wash up), cut the pomegranates in half (into quarters if you have small hands) and while squeezing the pomegranate with one hand, press with your fingers inside the pomegranate with the other hand (the cut side will face the bowl) and extract as much juice as possible. Most of the seeds will fall into the juice. Pass it through a sieve into another bowl and squeeze the seeds in the sieve with your hands.
- Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Chill a small plate to test the consistency later on.
- Pour pomegranate juice into a jug, add sugar and whisk until dissolved.
- Place a half-sheet pan in the middle rack of your preheated oven, pour the juice in and bake until it’s as thick as simple syrup, about 75-80 minutes. It will thicken further as it cools, so do not let it get as thick as molasses. To check the consistency, pour a teaspoon of it on the chilled plate and let cool in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it runs very slowly when you tilt the plate, it’s done. If not, bake for another 5 minutes and repeat the test.
- Pour it into a sterilized bottle (or jar), close the lid and keep in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 months.