Meeting Lebanon's makers of molasses
Since the dawn of time, the Mediterranean has been abundant with the sweetest fruits and its people are skilled at preserving them. The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey researches the tradition of making molasses and meets Lebanese producers continuing this seasonal ritual
Internationally, the word molasses often refers to sugarcane molasses, a by-product of sugar extraction by heating sugarcane juice, which became famous in the early 20th century in the sugarcane plantations of southern USA and the Caribbean. Around the Mediterranean, molasses – an ancient Roman tradition, were made from grape juice and used as the main sweetener, along with honey, and were prepared as part of the year’s food provisions. Though the memory of molasses has almost faded in Europe, it lives on in the Middle East. Traditional variations include date, grape, carob, fig and mulberry molasses. Known as debs in Arabic, this dense liquid is high in natural sugars and rich in minerals. In Lebanon, grape and carob molasses are widely consumed. Happily, we discovered that apple, cactus fruit and sweet orange molasses are also being made, at times out of necessity, sometimes out of creativity.