Faces and sweet mem­o­ries

Lebanon Traveler - - GASTRONOMY -

Shibli Abi Assi’s

mo­lasses Shibli Abi Assi, an agri­cul­tural en­gi­neer from Maasser el Chouf, de­cided to in­vest in his fam­ily’s lands by prac­tic­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture, mainly pro­duc­ing grapes. Mak­ing mo­lasses has al­ways been a fam­ily event that lasts for three full days. On day one, grapes are col­lected, juiced and soaked with a type of white soil named houwara in Ara­bic. Shibli ex­plains that houwara, is high in cal­cium and neu­tral­izes the grape juice acid­ity. The mix­ture is then boiled and left to rest for 12 hours. The fol­low­ing day, the clar­i­fied juice called mous­tar is col­lected for a sec­ond phase of boil­ing. Mous­tar nights are fes­tive oc­ca­sions where friends and fam­ily drink the liq­uid mixed with wal­nuts. The mous­tar is then boiled un­til it reaches a third of its orig­i­nal vol­ume. At this stage the mo­lasses are beaten to so­lid­ify, which usu­ally re­quires an­other day to reach the right con­sis­tency. Abi Assi pro­duces around 100kg of grape mo­lasses ev­ery sea­son.

grape

Abi Assi's sweet mem­ory

As kids, Abi Assi and his brother were re­spon­si­ble for feed­ing the fire un­der the mo­lasses pot while fam­ily mem­bers took turns in stir­ring. One day the kids saw many birds fly­ing over. They stacked a pile of wood un­der the pot and left for their fa­vorite hobby, hunt­ing. The heat sud­denly in­creased un­der the mix­ture, caus­ing it to burn slightly. Alarmed by the smell, the fam­ily rushed to sal­vage what was left. Abi Assi laughs as he re­mem­bers; “Our joy over the onebird catch quickly faded when see­ing dad’s anger. I will leave the rest to your imag­i­na­tion!” To pur­chase grape mo­lasses, con­tact Abi Assi on 03 915313

Iman Sab­bagh’s

(prickly pear) and sweet or­ange mo­lasses Sab­bagh started work­ing with food 13 years ago, af­ter tak­ing cour­ses in mac­ro­bi­otic diet. She be­lieves that a diet should re­volve around lo­cally grown, whole­some foods with no preser­va­tives or added sugar. This cre­ative lady has never stopped in­no­vat­ing: af­ter de­vel­op­ing her line of hazelnut, peanut and almond but­ters she

cac­tus fruit

started ex­per­i­ment­ing with mak­ing new types of mo­lasses. Her pur­pose? To have nat­u­ral sweet­en­ers for her jams, desserts and choco­late. She makes cac­tus fruit mo­lasses and sweet or­ange mo­lasses.

Sab­bagh's sweet mem­ory

Sab­bagh re­calls when she first made mo­lasses. A Saudi cus­tomer asked for sweet pomegranate mo­lasses and so she made her first three bot­tles. Hes­i­tant at first she then re­al­ized it was a sen­sa­tion. She per­son­ally loves to di­lute it with wa­ter and serve it as a re­fresh­ing late sum­mer drink.

To pur­chase cac­tus fruit and sweet or­ange mo­lasses, con­tact Sab­bagh on 03 891483. Sab­bagh sells at Souk el Tayeb (Down­town, ev­ery Sat) and Earth Mar­ket (Hamra, ev­ery Tue)

Photo cour­tesy of Food Her­itage Foun­da­tion

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