Instead of making a fancy cake for my 500th post, I decided I’m going to publish a recipe for an Iraqi pantry staple: date molasses, aka dibis tamur (دبس تمر عراقي).In my kitchen, date molasses easily substitutes American regular molasses and sometimes even honey.
Made using just dates and water, I do not need to encourage people to opt for this chemical- and preservative-free multipurpose and health-boosting molasses. The natural sugars on the dates are a natural preservative as is. I remember watching my mom (الله يرحم والدينا) when I was twelve making this in a huge pot. Time consuming it is, but it is almost meditative for the soul as well. In summary, the steps are: boil the dates in copious amounts of water, pour the entire mixture in a fine-mesh cloth bag (I used a clean empty bag of rice) and let drain for a couple of hours. Reduce the resulting juice over low heat for several hours until thickened and syrupy. The ratio is 3 cups dates to 6 cups water. I used ripe fresh dates I had on hand, which are the best to make molasses with.
Ingredients: makes about 4 cups
9 cups dates
18 cups water
Combine the dates (no need to pit) and the water in a huge pot.
Bring to a boil, and let simmer over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.
During this time, stir the pot to avoid any date sticking and burning at the bottom of the pot, and try at the same time to mash the dates. This will be easy because the dates will absorb water and swell and become really soft.
Place a clean cloth empty rice bag in a colander. Place the colander in a large pot to collect all the draining water.
Pour the date mash in the race bag. Twist the top of the bag to encourage the draining process.
Keep pressuring the bag to drain every once in a while over the span of a couple of hours.
The result is a clean “juice” the color of lightly-brewed tea. Inside the bag is all the date debris. Discard the debris.
Set the pot of date “juice” over medium heat until beginning to steam. Reduce heat to low and let the juice reduce for this many hours until syrupy.
Skim the froth from the top to make the syrup more presentable (I didn’t).
Pour in sterilized jars or bottles and store in a cool dark place.