From Tree to Jar — The Date Molasses Journey

Date cultivation is one of Peace Wadi’s ongoing projects. Volunteers have the opportunity to help tend to the many trees, which require constant loving supervision. In the arid Jordan Valley, water is a precious resource; consequently, regularly mending irrigation canals along the roots of the date trees is of the utmost importance. Pollination, which is done by hand, is another vital step in producing the sweet dates.

This aromatic date fruit can be enjoyed in many ways, one of which is date molasses. Date molasses has a dark amber color and a richly sweet flavor. It can be eaten with yogurt, mixed with tahini and served with naan bread, or simply by the spoonful.

Peace Wadi volunteers also have the opportunity to help create this sweet treat!  Want to make some at home?  All you need is dates, water, and a little bit of spare time to create this sticky sweet dessert all by yourself!

img_1773.jpg
One of our favorite uses for date molasses – mixed with tahini to create a sweet dip for apples!

Date Molasses Recipe:

Prep time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Cook time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

-Dates

-Water

Materials:

-Two large pots

-Empty and clean flour bag with holes

-Large spoons

-Large shallow pan

-Potato masher or similar tool to mash dates

-Sanitized* glass jars and lids for storage

Instructions:

    1. Begin by collecting an ample amount of dates. One large stove pot filled halfway with pitted dates (about 5 lbs or 2.2 kg) will cook down to one large jar.
    2. Wash your dates and (optional step) remove the pits. Ensure all dates are free from little critters. Place all dates in a large pot.

      img_1742.jpg
      Removing the pits from our dates
    3. Fill up the pot with water. All the dates should be fully covered in the water with at least an inch above the top of the dates– more water is better at this stage so you can really cook the dates and extract as much juice as possible. 
    4. Bring the water to a boil and cook for a minimum of 30 minutes but if you want to get the best molasses, cook for an hour or more. While you are waiting, you can enjoy some more dates as a snack!

      IMG_1743
      Our date-water mixture cooking down
    5. After you have cooked your dates to the desired consistency, allow the pot to cool down a bit. Pour the mixture into a shallow pan and mash the dates to help them release their juice.  When the mixture is cool enough to handle (but not cold), you are ready to begin the straining process.

      img_1747.jpg
      Our mashed date mixture just before beginning to strain
    6. Place the flour bag in a clean pot. Scoop some of the date mixture into the flour bag.img_2060.jpg
    7. Close the bag. Twist and strain the mixture, allowing the juices to run into the clean pot.  This job is easier if you have two people twisting opposite ends of the bag!  If you have a large amount of dates it may be easier to do this in two shifts, removing the dry date pulp and setting it aside.
      img_2067.jpg img_2064.jpg
    8. Repeat the straining process until you have strained all the mixture. Your pot should be filled roughly ⅓ of the way with this new date juice.  You can either discard the dry date pulp or eat it (we suggest mixing it with granola or yogurt for a tasty snack!)
    9. Place the strained date juice back on the stove. Boil the juice, then simmer until the mixture thickens, about 40 minutes or more. Be sure to stir the mixture every 10 minutes to prevent sticking/burning. When the juice is almost done it will begin to bubble quite a lot and become increasingly sticky– you will need to stir it more at this stage to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan. After most of the water has cooked down, you can cook it down to a thicker molasses or leave it more liquid at this stage.
    10. Wait for the molasses to cool. Pour into a jar if desired.  Eat and enjoy!

      img_1765.jpg
      Our beautiful finished molasses!

*To sanitize the glass jars and lids, simply soak and rinse them in hot soapy water, then boil in clean water for 10 minutes to ensure you store your molasses safely.

Date molasses can be stored at room temperature for up to a year or longer.  Do you have a favorite use for your date molasses?  Let us know in the comments below!  Happy cooking!

 

 

-The Date Molasses Trio (Rae, Kat, & Megan)

 

To Jerash and back

Jordan offers a variety of places that are worth a visit. The location of the ‘Peace Wadi’ farm enables volunteers who are working at the farm to explore the surroundings in their free time. We took this opportunity, did a little research and decided to go on a daytrip to the ruined city of Jerash.

It must be stated that Jordan is a country full of hospitable people and that is what makes hitchhiking a good option. So we decided to hitchhike to Jerash. It is 70-80 km to Jerash from the farm, depending on which route you choose. And so we embarked on our ‘journey’. We took 2 hours and 5 cars to get to Jerash from the farm. On our way to Jerash and removing from one car to another we were lucky enough to interact with locals as well. This interaction with ‘new’ cultures is what we find so alluring about hitchhiking. On the way to Jerash we were invited for a coffee with the most stunning view over one of the towns we passed through. We were also invited to a bakery to witness the process of bread baking. We tasted some of the freshly baked bread straight out of the wooden oven. After filling our stomachs with bread and coffee we were able to continue in the direction of Jerash.

thumbnail_IMG_20190315_140708_458.jpg‘Kidnapped’ by the locals to drink an arabic coffee with a view over the valley.

Once we arrived in Jerash we were immediately captivated by a stunning scenery over the town and particularly over all the Roman ruins that can be found on the archeological site in Jerash. Jerash is considered one of the best preserved Roman towns in the world. There are several theatres, temples, plazas and baths that can be visited on the site. We even witnessed some horse racing in one part of this ruined city.

thumbnail_IMG_20190312_123448

thumbnail_IMG_20190312_202409_600

thumbnail_IMG_20190312_122311.jpg

thumbnail_IMG_20190312_120254.jpgTemple of Artemis, South theatre, Oval plaza and some horse racing in the ruined city of Jerash.

Tourists coming to Jerash mostly do so with the purpose of visiting the archeological site. However, we decided to see the ‘authentic’ town as well. We walked through some streets while observing a simple daily life. We didn’t meet any other tourists while browsing the streets and the locals seemed to be very interested in our presence there. We were greeted by most of the vendors and were offered to taste some goodies such as freshly roasted nuts, some fruits and some sweets.

IMG_20190312_133223.jpgVegetable stalls placed on one of the streets we passed through.

In our experience time flies very fast in Jordan and so we tried not to stick around too long in Jerash. In the afternoon we started hitchhiking again. This time we tried to look for someone who would be willing to take us to Salt. Salt is a town that lies between the farm and Jerash and so it seemed very appropriate for us to stop by on our way back to the farm and have a quick look at it. Even though hitchhiking in Jordan is quite easy, there still is a tiny problem one can come across and it has to do with the language barrier. Locals mostly speak very limited English and since we speak very limited Arabic this causes some challenges that need to be overcome. But in the end a car with a man driving to Amman stopped and offered us a ride. What is amazing about Jordanians is that they truly want you to feel welcome and for this reason they go out of their way to help you as much as they can which in this case ended up with the man driving us directly to Salt. Such experiences make our hitchhiking adventures even more pleasant and memorable.

IMG-20190312-WA0014.jpgChilling and sipping some chai in Salt.

We enjoyed our walk in Salt – city of fog – tasted some more freshly baked bread, browsed the vegetable market, bought some tasty nuts and enjoyed some chai at the end. Once we felt satisfied with all the experiences we had made that day we headed to the traffic lights and started approaching cars driving in the direction of the farm, or rather to Shuna. After a couple of minutes we stopped a car with two guys who offered us a lift. We had a nice conversation with them and in the end they also went out of their way and brought us directly to the farm. We even got some flowers from them as a gift. How kind of them! As already mentioned, locals can be very hospitable and welcoming and that is what makes Jordan a special place to be.

thumbnail_IMG-20190317-WA0018.jpgSelfie taken on the rooftop of the ‘Peace Wadi’ farm – facing Jericho and Jerusalem – with Mohammad, owner of the farm.