Two pounds of dates yields about 2 cups of this DIY silan (aka date honey, date syrup, and date molasses). The results will vary depending on how dry the dates are and the variety used. (Unfortunately, Deglet Noor dates, the most commonly available variety, produce beet-red silan, and honey dates turn purple when cooked.) You can halve the amount of dates (and cut your prep time), but I don’t recommend multiplying the amount for this DIY silan unless you’ve got extra hands to help. Use it in Spicy-Sweet Grilled Vegetables with Silan and Toasted Nut and Silan Squares.
Makes about 2 cups
2 pounds dried dates, such as barhi, medjool, or khadrawy
Special equipment recommended: Large nut-milk or jelly bag
Soak. Place dates in a large bowl. Add water to the bowl to cover dates by one inch, about 6 cups for 2 pounds dates. Cover bowl and set aside away from direct sunlight to soak at least 4 hours or overnight.
Cook. Lift dates out of soaking liquid and shred them with your fingers and place them, along with the pits, into a wide pot. Stir in 4 cups fresh water. Bring to gentle boil, uncovered, over medium heat, about 10 minutes. At this point, the tan-colored mixture will start to thicken and some scummy bits may appear, which you can ignore. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the date mixture has reduced by about 1/3, is shiny, thick and jamlike, and its color has deepened to a medium brown, about 50 minutes longer. (As the mixture thickens, after about 40 minutes, stir more frequently to prevent sticking.) Remove date mixture from heat and cool.
Extract. Place a strainer over a large bowl and place a nut-milk or jelly bag in the strainer. Transfer some of the cooked date mixture into the bag. Drain date “juice” into the bowl, wringing the bag to extract all liquids from the date solids. Discard solids and repeat with remaining dates, working in batches. You’ll have about 4 cups bland “date juice.”
Reduce. Place date juice and ½ cup fresh water in a medium pot. Starting over medium heat, bring to a good simmer; reduce heat as needed to keep liquid at a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by more than half to a deep brown rich-tasting syrup the consistency of honey, about 1 hour, stirring more frequently to prevent scorching as the syrup thickens. The silan is ready if it stays parted briefly when you run a spatula through the pot. (If it has thickened too much, turning almost taffy-like, stir in ¼ cup water, and cook briefly.) Turn off the heat. The silan will continue to thicken as it cools.
Pour into clean jars, cover tightly, and store at room temperature away from sunlight. The silan will keep 4 to 6 weeks, although complex flavors may flatten over time and sugars crystalize. Heat silan briefly to dissolve crystals.
© 2017 Amelia Saltsman