Spiced Pomegranate Molasses Applesauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yield: About

    2 cups

Appears in

I didn’t want to fall in love. I resisted the total embrace. After all, what food writer who lived through sun-dried tomatoes would not see it as a fling?

Nevertheless, pomegranate molasses (also known as grenadine molasses and pomegranate syrup, the pomegranate essence created by slowly simmering the juice, usually with sugar and lemon, until it forms a luscious, tangy syrup) shows up in several recipes in this book, making as regular appearances as wine. Which it resembles, only fruitier. Or raspberry liqueur, only tarter, and nonalcoholic.

But in the end, it has a taste all its own, a heavenly, perfectly balanced act of sweet and sour, floral and berry—a flavor combination particularly prized by Jews.

That is why I was not surprised when a grocer in Brooklyn’s Syrian-Jewish neighborhood suggested it as a substitute for the rather difficult-to-find temerhindi, or ourt, a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce made from tamarind pulp, that I needed to prepare the Syrian meat rolls, Kibbe Gheraz. “Syrian Jews from Aleppo use ourt, and the ones from Damascus cook the same dishes with pomegranate molasses.”

Whether he was right or not (it is slightly tarter and more berry-tasting than ourt), it worked well in the kibbe, and I have been adding it ever since—to meat and chicken marinades, hummus, and even applesauce. Today it is stocked by many specialty stores, as well as Middle Eastern markets. (for more on pomegranate molasses.)

Cardamom and cinnamon play up the spicy notes in the pomegranate molasses here, making this a delicious complement to poultry and meats, especially briskets and pot roasts (see Aromatic Marinated Brisket with Chestnuts). It’s also tempting plain, or just topped with a touch of yogurt cream or labneh.

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Ingredients

  • About cups pure, unsweetened apple juice 1–2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the side of a knife or a kitchen mallet (use the larger amount for a more pronounced aromatic spiciness—1 pod will make a difference)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Salt
  • About 2 pounds flavorful apples, unpeeled, cored, and cut into chunks (6 cups)—if you are going to puree the sauce in a food processor instead of using a food mill or strainer, peel the apples (zhoose a mixture of apples with sweet but complex flavors to echo the character of the sauce, such as Braeburn, Gala, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Northern Spy, and Stayman Winesap, rather than tart varieties; look for fresh, local apples if possible)
  • About 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or ourt, or to taste

Method

  1. In a 6-quart Dutch oven or wide, heavy saucepan large enough to accommodate all of the apples, combine the juice, cardamom, cinnamon, and a generous pinch of salt. Boil uncovered, over high heat, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add the apples, mix well to coat with juice, and simmer, covered, until very tender, about 25 minutes or so, depending on the variety of apples. Stir them from time to time and, if necessary, add a bit more juice to prevent sticking.
  2. The sauce should be thick and pulpy with little liquid visible. If necessary, boil it down for a few minutes, uncovered. Pick out and discard the cardamom and cinnamon. Put the sauce through a food mill or force it through a colander or strainer to remove the skins. Or, if you used peeled apples, process in a food processor until smooth or leave somewhat chunky, according to preference.
  3. Transfer the sauce to a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or ourt and taste. Add a little more if you want the sauce tarter. (If this is your first time using pomegranate molasses or ourt, you may want to start with less.)
  4. You can serve the sauce chilled, but it is also excellent at room temperature or warm from the pot with briskets, pot roasts, or latkes.

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