Pomegranate molasses is pomegranate juice that has been boiled down to an intensely flavored syrup. It is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Armenian, and Turkish cuisines.
Pomegranate molasses initially tastes sweet on the tongue, but is quickly followed by a burst of rich, tangy flavors. The sourness is similar to lemons, but more complex; pomegranate molasses includes floral flavors that most citrus fruits don’t have.
In Anchorage, Sagaya carries pomegranate molasses. It is widely available from internet sellers, and may be purchased at Middle Eastern and many Asian groceries. It goes well with most foods that pair with lemon: chicken, meat, fish, vegetables, salads, dressings, dips, and spreads.
My good memories of pomegranates are associated with Christmas. When I was small, we had them for holiday treats, and savored each jewel-like seed. The Christmas we spent in Greece, I missed the snow but reveled in pomegranate trees hanging thickly with fruit; red ornaments on bare branches.
This year, when the holidays came around, I bought a flat of pomegranates, some of which I juiced to make Chicken with Pomegranate-Wine Sauce. I had leftover juice, and used it to make Pomegranate Aperitif spiked with pomegranate molasses for extra flavor. On Christmas Day, we combined the Pomegranate Aperitif with champagne for festive, rosy-tinted Pomegranate Champagne Cocktails.
When I pulled out the pomegranate molasses for the aperitif, I remembered a recipe Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook posted for Olive Pomegranate Relish. Susan’s relish was made with green olives, sugar, and pomegranate molasses. Although green olives aren’t my favorite, combining olives and pomegranate molasses was an intriguing concept that sounded amazingly good.
I decided to try Susan’s recipe, and substituted Kalamata olives for green ones. For my palate, this was not a successful substitution. I started playing with various combinations of the two ingredients. I split the recipe in thirds and added sugar to one bowl, chopped olives to the second, and pomegranate molasses to the third. Nothing worked; the flavors of Kalamatas and pomegranate molasses kept clashing.
I tossed out the relish and started over. This time I added Aleppo pepper, hoping the pepper’s fruitiness would bridge the flavor gap between Kalamatas and pomegranates. The pepper helped, but not enough.
I went back to the pantry and scanned the shelves, hoping for inspiration. I pulled out a bottle of thyme honey from Greece. Once again I split the recipe into thirds. I added a little bit of honey to one bowl and knew right away I was on the right track. I kept adding honey until I was satisfied with the flavor.
The final result is a dark, full-flavored jam, lush with the flavors of pomegranate and honey; olives and peppers add welcome savory elements. I paired the jam with Garlicky Goat Cheese Spread and Garlic Toasts and brought it to Christmas dinner at Penny’s house.
The Pomegranate-Olive Jam was a surprising hit. It cured Moira’s persistent morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness, at least temporarily, as she repeatedly downed little toasts spread with cheese and jam. She requested I make it again for New Year’s Day. I did, and more than one person asked for the recipe.
Makes about 3 cups
Although it may be tempting to buy pitted olives, their flavor pales in comparison to that of olives with pits. To easily pit Kalamata olives, spread them out on a cutting board and smash each olive with a meat pounder or other heavy object. After being pounded, the pits slip right out of the olives.
2 1/2 cups Kalamata olives
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup thyme honey or other full-flavored honey
Pit the olives and finely chop them; do not puree the olives. In a pan large enough to hold the chopped olives, cook the sugar, pomegranate molasses, and Aleppo pepper over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped olives and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey. Place in a glass container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.
Serve with Garlicky Goat Cheese Spread and Garlic Toasts. Smear a toast with goat cheese spread, and top with Pomegranate-Olive Jam.
Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail
Use good quality low-end champagne for this drink as the flavor of expensive champagne is masked by Pomegranate Aperitif.
1/3 champagne glass Pomegranate Aperitif
2/3 champagne glass champagne
Pour the Pomegranate Aperitif into the bottom of the champagne glass. Top with the champagne and serve.
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vodka
1 bottle dry white wine
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
Mix the pomegranate juice, sugar, vodka, and dry white wine in a large, wide-mouth jar. Store in a cool place for one to two weeks, shaking the jar every few days. The day you serve the aperitif, stir in the pomegranate molasses. Pour into sterilized bottles and chill. Serve straight up, over ice, or with soda.