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Pekmez: A Traditional Turkish Sweetener

Pekmez is a type of molasses made by reducing large amounts of fruit over heat until it thickens into a syrup like consistency. Pekmez was originally used to sweeten foods before sugar was widely available. Fruit molasses is widely used in Turkey and other syrups similar to pekmez can be seen in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. While grape is the most popular fruit choice for making pekmez, other options include carob, fig, date, pomegranate, apricot, and apple. Unlike honey, most pekmez brands don’t contain any animal products, making this a smart sweetener substitution for vegans. Try searching for pekmez at gourmet food stores and higher end grocery chains in the international food aisle or buy it online.

Flavor and Texture of Pekmez

As this syrup can be made out of almost any type of fruit, the flavor can vary slightly. However, since pekmez is a reduction, the flavor is highly concentrated. In traditional recipes, calcium carbonate is used to decrease the overall acidity of the syrup and enhance the sweetness. Typically, pekmez sold in stores is sweet and of a liquid consistency, but it is possible to find more sour versions or those with a more solidified structure. 

Storage and Usage of Pekmez

Store opened pekmez in an airtight container or glass jar for up to six months in a cool dry spot such as the pantry to maintain freshness. If you’d like your pekmez to have a thicker consistency, store it in the refrigerator.  

Give pekmez a shot and add some Turkish flair to your next batch of Hermit Cookies or Gingerbread in place of the called for molasses. Or take the savory approach and sneak some into the Baked Beans at your next summer cookout. Try pekmez in our Jerk Chicken for a slight hint of fruit as well as a source of sweetness.  

Feature Image: Martin Henke – Own work, (CC0 1.0)

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