Shopping recently, I came across a lonely bottle of Iranian Date Syrup on a shelf with Iranian and medjool dates, at a halal butchery my family frequents – this piqued my curiosity instantly! I walked around the bottle, at first afraid to pick it up, then mustered up the courage to read the ingredient listing….all it had listed was dates. I struggled to break free from the bottle as I was enchanted by my thoughts of the uses for it. Sadly, I decided not to buy it and lamented for days thereafter, as it would take pride position on my non-refined sugar products shelf…so I decided the next best thing was to try making my own, again, wanting to push my own culinary boundries and having an alternative to the agave and maple syrup additions that many Paleo recipes call for. While date paste most certainly works well, having a liquid that can be easily decanted is so much easier! The method is similar for date paste, going a step further in cooking the dates till soft, then straining, yields a perfect maple syrup consistency. While blending the dates with the flesh also creates the same effect, I found that straining off the pulp gives it the bottled syrup look and it’s easier to use.
The basic process is to soak and boil dates and water until the dates begin to break up and the water volume reduces. Then you strain the mixture, preferably through cheesecloth or a nut bag or wire baking sieve, so you can wring every bit of syrupy sweet goodness out of the dates. Then depending on how much liquid you have left and its taste and consistency, you can then reduce that liquid, usually by about half to either a maple syrup consistency or even thicker consistency. Then just use the liquid as you might use syrup. This has the similar amount of sweetness and can be substituted one-for-one in any recipe or creation where you might use maple syrup. The ratio of dates to water is also important in this recipe. For every 150g of dates, I used 3 cups of water. This recipe uses 350g of dates which produces syrup that stores well in the refrigerator.
300g dried dates
6 cups water
- Add the dates and water in a medium non stick pot on medium high stove-top heat to bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down to med low and allow the mixture to simmer. If you see foam appearing on the top, skim it off . Using a wooden spoon, mix occasionally and smash the dates with the back of the spoon. After about 45 minutes of simmering, take it off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
- Line a wire sieve or strainer with cheesecloth or use a nutbag, on a deep bowl and pour the mixture through. Use the wooden spoon to coax much of the liquid out of the dates. Then wrap the cheesecloth around the date mixture and wring it out as you might a wet rag. If your are using a nutbag, pull tightly on the drawstring. The liquid will continue to drip through, ensure you allow all to pass through. You will need to squeeze out the excess liquid by using your hands.
- You should have about 3 1/2 cups of the liquid after wringing out the cooked dates. Give it a taste to get an idea of the sweetness. Pour the liquid back into a clean pot and bring it back up to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a low boil and reduced it down to about 1¾ cup of liquid. This takes about 25 minutes. When the liquid begins to coat the back of a spoon, it’s getting thicker. As it reduces, it thickens and tastes much sweeter. Remove from the heat when a maple syrup consistency is reached. Allow the syrup to cool, and bottle and store in the refrigerator. Note that the consistency is between a thin and thick syrup.