Pomegranate molasses has a special place in our business. On our last visit to Lebanon, in 2018, we bought a bottle from Souk el Tayyeb, Beirut’s famous farmers’ market, made by a one-woman producer from the south. Her stall was small, but in pride of place stood her homemade molasses. We already had far too much stuffed into our suitcases: zaa’tar, pine nuts, fine bulgur wheat (for tabbouleh), sumac, pistachio nougat sweets covered in sundried apricot, and wine. She wasn’t pushy, but we knew that buying it would make a difference to her – and to us. So yet another bottle would have to be stealthily hidden and swaddled in badly packed clothes… It was worth it. Just a teaspoon or two made all the difference to so many of our dishes. Until it was dropped on an unforgiving kitchen floor during lockdown. We didn’t know when we could go back to Beirut, and nothing we found in the UK was the real thing: pomegranate juice slowly thickened to a dark sweet-sour treacle, no added anything else. So it was one of the first things we looked for when launching our business – and found, in Zejd’s pomegranate molasses.
Full of goodness – how to capture it in a bottle? The tradition of bottling to preserve the abundance of the harvest has a word all of its own in Lebanon, “mouneh”.Reducing the juice of pomegranates to make molasses, provides households with a sharp yet sweet addition to foods and salads, when lemons aren’t available.
We, in the west, are discovering the taste of pomegranate molasses with delight.
The beautiful red skin of the pomegranate here denotes its sweet character.Did you know that Zejd’s pomegranate molasses is made from reducing a sour variety, with a yellow skin colour? Pomegranates in Lebanon are identified as sweet, medium or sour. The juice of a sweeter variety is all that is needed to balance out the acidity in the molasses – no sugar or flavourings are used which only adds to its health benefits.
It’s the high antioxidant content which has caused interest over the years. According to dietician Nicole Maftoum, studies have shown that its antioxidant content is “two or three times higher than that of red wine”. More wisdom from the eastern Mediterranean kitchen.
One of the oldest edible fruits to be cultivated in Lebanon, requiring little water, tolerant of heavy and saline soils, so can grow near the coast and up to an altitude of 1100m. Not expensive to farm, relatively problem free, a crop which offers promise to Lebanon.
So, next time you see a bottle in the supermarket, consider buying yours at shorkk. Zejd’s pomegranate molasses comes from Chekka, on the coast of north Lebanon, sourced by our supplier of olive oil. Our products are ethically traded, with vital income going to the community of food producers whose hard work and years of experience deserve to be rewarded.
For a classic taste of Lebanon, try adding a little of it to a mix of spiced minced lamb spread on a flat bread to make a simple yet irresistibly savoury toasted sandwich called areyass. Or use it to give a tangy depth of flavour to roasted vegetables, and if your tomato salad is somewhat lacking, add a teaspoon and mix well. Let loose your culinary creativity with a few magic drops – we’d love to hear what you come up with!
Have a look at the recipe section for more ideas.