If you are looking for more nutritional bang for your buck with sugars, date syrup is a great choice. It boasts almost 3.5 x more Potassium, 4 x more Iron, 2 x more Magnesium and a whopping 25 x more Phosphorus than maple syrup. Without even mentioning the amino acids and vitamins it contains, this makes date syrup a good replacement for more traditional sweeteners. (For more information Date Syrup Nutrition Facts – Earth’s Eats )
Growing up in the UK, the only exposure I had to dates was at Christmas time. My mother would buy a small package of the tightly packed, glossy fruits, complete with a fake “stem” for spearing as a festive treat. At the time, I found the texture and flavour troubling, too fibrous and extremely sweet for my young palette.
Fast forward 20 years, I now live in a perfect region for date growing, and I am fortunate enough to have eight fruiting palms in my garden! The thing with date palms is that each female tree can produce an enormous amount of fruit. During summer, I must confess that my kitchen was literally overrun with buckets of dates and the birds still had a feast from what remained unpicked.
Fresh dates are delicious; they aren’t as sweet as the dried or soaked-in-syrup kind that I grew up with, the only trouble is eating them before they turn bad. Besides drying them in the hot sun, a great way to turn them into a shelf-stable product is to make date syrup or date molasses. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for months and is used to sweeten everything from yoghurt and coffee to salad dressings.
Dark and sticky date syrup has a complex, caramelised flavour that blends well with rich fatty foods. Not only delicious, but it is also a powerhouse of minerals, amino acids and vitamins, making it more nutritious per calorie than traditional sugar syrups.
- 1kg dates (fresh or dried)
- 2L water
- 2 Muslin cloths
Wash the dates by submerging them in water. Leave to soak for ten minutes and then drain and rinse with fresh water.
Remove the stones from the dates and roughly chop the flesh.
Add the chopped dates to a large wide bottomed pan with a heavy base to prevent scorching. Add 2 litres of water and bring to a gentle boil.
Boil the dates and water gently for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours to extract all the sweetness from the date pulp (A longer boiling time at this stage will extract more sweetness from the fruits.) Be sure to skim any foam that appears on the surface during the boiling stage.
After boiling, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to a temperature that will not scald you as you follow the next step.
Line a sieve or colander with two layers of muslin cloth and place over a clean bowl. Ladle the date/water mixture into the muslin. Squeeze the date pulp inside the muslin cloth to extract as much moisture as you can from the pulp.
Continue this process until you have squeezed all of the pulp.
Pour the sweet date water into a clean, heavy-based pan and heat gently. The process of reducing the water to syrup has begun.
Reduce the date water by at least half of its volume to create a syrup.
To test the syrup's thickness, dip a clean spoon into the syrup and allow it to cool. The syrup should easily coat the spoon, and if you draw your finger through it, a line should remain.
Whilst still hot pour the syrup into clean sterilised jars and seal. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature before you store them in the fridge.
- You can make the syrup from dried dates, but the yield may be slightly less than stated in the recipe, due to less water in the dates to start with.
- The finished syrup will taste better if you reduce it slowly without boiling vigorously. This takes longer but will eliminate the chance of scorching, which will make the syrup bitter.
- The pulp can be reserved and used to bake high fibre treats, such as brownies and banana bread.
- The nutritional information is based on a serving size of 1 Tbsp.