Grape molasses is most commonly made with grapes but can also be made with mulberries, carob, apples, plums, pears or any other juicy fruit of which you have a glut. In villages around Rashaya, as the grapes are harvested, they are gathered in large sacks, which are thoroughly stomped on to squeeze out all the juice. Once every last drop has been collected, it is poured into a giant wide saucepan and placed over wood fire. Some mix it with marl (a type of white How It’s soil made predominantly from clay and calcium carbonate), to neutralize the acidity and also to clarify the final product. The grape molasses is then brought to the boil for sterilization, before being cooked down. After this first stage, it is left to rest to permit the sediment to sink to the bottom. Then, the syrupy liquid is poured into another saucepan and placed back on the fire, which continues to be stoked while grape molasses simmers on a low heat, concentrating the flavor and caramelizing the sugars, which darkens the color. It is then left to rest before being strained and jarred.
Many locals keep a jar of grape molasses in the store cupboard just for use at the breakfast table. Mixed with tahini (sesame paste), the two liquids are swirled together to create a temporary marbled effect before mixing completely to create a sweet, nutty spread, perfect for dipping hunks of crusty white bread into. It is also delicious drizzled over a bowl of yoghurt and fresh fruit. You can experiment with using grape molasses in place of sugar in baking recipes, for a natural sweetness and greater flavor complexity. It is also used to make a type of helva and for the jelly-like dessert. For this it is first mixed with cornstarch and water, then left in a mold to set before being topped with chopped nuts.
Known by some as the original ‘energy drink,’ grape molasses is especially valued during long cold winter days because it contains several vitamins and minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium) that are claimed to be beneficial for everyone but especially growing children, pregnant women, workers, athletes, and nursing mothers. It contains simple sugar that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream without having to be digested, and as a result is good for boosting energy levels (however, for this same reason, it is not suitable for diabetics). It is also given to people feeling ill or weak, mixed with water to be drunk as a tonic. Different grape molasses are prescribed for different ailments, and some are even said to work as an aphrodisiac. Food engineers have said that two tablespoons of grape molasses contains 2 mg of iron, 80 mg of calcium and 58 kcal of energy.