Ok, all you Whole30 and Paleo eaters out there this is how you cheat… if you’re the cheating kind that is. Whole30 does not encourage desserts or added sweeteners, even if they are 100% natural whole foods. Now, if you’re like me, “does not encourage” leaves a lot of room for interpretation and I interpret it to mean, “this is not best practice but it is not forbidden.” So, if you just need to have a glass of sweet tea without dumping ½ of a cup of refined white sugar into it, or you want a way to make a plan-approved apple crisp that doesn’t leave you disappointed and wishing for the real thing, this recipe is a trick you might want to try.
Medjool dates were one of the foods that really helped me get through the Whole30 food challenge. I am one of those people that really needs something sweet after a meal. It doesn’t have to be a huge, indulgent dessert, but instead just a small sweet bite of something is all I need to really feel satisfied after a meal. Whereas Medjool dates are certainly not a piece of sweet and earthy dark chocolate, but they are sweet and earthy and when kept in the freezer, become almost like eating a caramel chew candy.
I think I was craving sweet tea at the time this idea occurred to me. “Why not chop up some dates, add some water, and cook them down to make a date simple syrup of sorts,” I thought. I was really looking for a date-sweetened liquid to mix into a glass of tea. Then it occurred to me, when I was making the syrup, that there was another useful and tasty sweetening product here: date puree.
Now, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the many uses for these two sweeteners but I can say that when we have used them, they have worked perfectly and tasted delicious. So far, we have used the date puree to make a Whole30 apple crisp but I can also see it working quite well as a sweetener in most any baked good (brownies, cakes, cupcakes, muffins, etc.). As for the syrup, ironically, I have yet to make sweet tea with it but I did use it to make this Bourbon Old Fashioned and wow, was it good. Keep a look out for this pantry essential to make its way in to many recipes to come!
LET’S GET STARTED
Here are the dates… just ignore that parsley stem. As you can see, I have removed the pit from the date on the bottom by making a slice from one tip to the other, lengthwise, opening it up and plucking out the pit. It’s sticky work but really quite easy and made even easier if you start with frozen dates.
After removing the pits from all of the dates, diced them and add them to a small saucepan.
Add water to the saucepan, enough to cover the dates plus one inch.
Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Slowly simmer until enough water has evaporated that the dates are breaking the surface of the remaining water. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
At this point you have a choice. You can either 1) simply strain the date pieces out of the remaining liquid, leaving you with a mild date simple syrup and no date puree, or 2) you can puree the contents of the pot and work from there. If you decide to put a little more work in by pureeing the mixture, you will be rewarded with a syrup that has a much stronger date flavor. I opted for the latter and here are the results…
After blending thoroughly, I divided the puree in half. One half was to stand alone as date puree (I added spices to the puree and bathed apples in it for the filling of the Whole30 Apple Crisp)
…and the other half I strained through a fine mesh strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth.
Initially, a small amount of syrup will strain through on its own, but the puree is very dense and will need some help to fully render from the puree. To do this, simply fold up the edges of the cheesecloth into a little puree satchel and very gently squeeze out the syrup from the puree. Take your time, change hand positions often, and use slow, gentle pressure or the puree will come shooting out from between the strands of cloth (this is why using two layers is important… an old dish towel might work well for this too).
After all that gentle squeezing you will be left with this delicious amber nectar, your date syrup…
I neglected to snap any shots of it, but left over in that cheesecloth will be a dry-ish puck of date pulp. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away so I mixed it into some homemade applesauce we had lying around. It was delicious but I’m sure we could find some even better uses for it. Let us know if you come up with some!
- 8-12 Medjool dates, pitted, and diced
- water, to cover dates, plus one inch
- Add diced dates to a small saucepan. Add water, enough to cover, plus one inch.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer slowly until enough water has evaporated for the pieces of dates to be breaking the surface of the water.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- For an easy, mild date syrup, simply strain the liquid from the date pulp. If you want a puree or a stronger flavored syrup, proceed to the next steps.
- In a high-powered blender, blend to a smooth pureed consistency. For puree you are done. For syrup, proceed to next step.
- Strain puree through a fine mesh strainer that has been lined with two layers of cheesecloth. At first, let the puree strain by agitating against the strainer wall. Then close the edges of the cheesecloth to form a satchel and very gently squeeze out the syrup being careful to not let pulp through.
- Save the puree for up to a week in the refrigerator and either discard the pulp or use it creatively for many other purposes.
So clearly we are still creating and trying recipes after we completed our first Whole30 experience. This recipe was not one that we used while doing Whole30 in August, but it has been a great little discovery and I can see us trying using it from time to time in the future to naturally sweeten treats and also the next time we take the Whole30 Challenge. Do you ever find ways to “cheat” or reward yourself when you are in the midst of a tough diet or challenge? I know that we are all for the letter of the law, but at times, it is nice to continue to follow the spirit of the law and reward yourself and this is a great option! What are your ideas on how to use this date syrup and date puree?