Anwar Sultan has been tending to his family vineyard on the outskirts of Hebron for over 40 years. When down amongst the vines with Anwar, otherwise known as Abu Wajdi (‘Father of Wajdi’), the bond he shares with the vines is palpable as he expertly prunes and cares for the source of his family’s livelihood. As you can see from the photos, we were able to capture the stunning evolution of the vines from winter through to summer. The Judean hills of the south West Bank are well known throughout the region for the unique quality of their grapes, whether their table grapes, grape juices and jams, or the star of them all, grape molasses.
What is it?
Grape molasses or ‘dibs aynab’ is essentially a concentrated sweet grape syrup, produced through boiling the natural grape juice on a low heat, without any chemical or food additives. It is produced from two local grape varieties, ‘Zainy’ and ‘Dabouqi’, that are specially harvested late in the season between September and November when they are at their ripest point with high sugars. Around 5kg of fresh grapes are needed to produce 1kg of grape molasses.
Anwar Sultan is a member of a cooperative of several hundred small farmers located around the towns of Hebron and Bethlehem. The founders set it up in 1984 to train members in best growing practices, to oversee marketing activities for growers, as well as to facilitate access to loans (direct lending from the cooperative itself).
The cooperative’s economic impact on the community has been substantial as the value of shares has increased 10 fold since their establishment. The cooperative provided active members with over 1000 paid working man days last year, which were spent on capacity building for younger members, quality control for all members, and community projects such as developing home gardens. Moon Valley is working closely with them to continually increase quality standards as well as creating new market linkages.
How do you eat it?
Although less well-known than its counterpart pomegranate molasses, grape molasses is beginning to gain attention among lovers of Middle Eastern food. Palestinians know it as a highly nutritious and rich source of energy, which has been a staple of their diet for centuries. It is such a versatile baking ingredient, try replacing other more processed sweeteners with this all natural alternative. Grape molasses is delicious on its own, try dipping your warm pitta bread in or drizzling over your favourite ice cream. We also highly recommend adding it to vinaigrettes or to sautéed vegetables for a hint of natural sweetness.
One of our favourite ways to enjoy grape molasses is to mix it with our Moon Valley Tahini. The marriage of flavours is quite simply astounding; makes an exquisite dipping sauce for biscuits or pieces of fruit – a nutritious and tasty snack to go along with your afternoon tea. Be warned, once you start dipping it is hard to stop!