Faces and sweet memories
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.
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
(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
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