1You can seed the dates or not, but seeding them before simmering makes the task less messy later. Place the dates and water in a medium large saucepan and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Skim off any film that settles on the surface of the water. The dates should be quite soft and mushy and the cooking water should be sweet to taste.
2Scoop the dates into a sieve and holding the sieve over the pot, press as much juice out of them with the back of a spoon as you can. (I reserve the cooked dates, puree them into a paste and save them for use as a sweetener in other recipes. They can be frozen too).
3Continue simmering the date water until you reach the desired consistency. The longer you simmer the water, the darker and more intense the flavour will become. I find that when I have about ¾ to 1 cup of liquid in the saucepan, the flavour and consistency is about right for me.
4In the photo below, the darker syrup on the left was simmered for about 45 minutes, and the lighter coloured syrup on the right was simmered for about 15-20 minutes.
5By the way, I make syrup from green grapes too. The process for making grape syrup is exactly the same. I simmer about a pound of green grapes in 4 cups of water, strain and reduce the cooking liquid to the desired consistency (just under 1 cup). The colour of grape syrup is lighter and a little less sweet than date syrup, depending on the ripeness of the grapes used to make the syrup. But it is delicious, and I find it preferable in some recipes.
6Both date and grape syrups keep for a week refrigerated but they also freeze, so make extra and store some for future use.
1To keep it raw, date syrup can be made by soaking 12 dates in 2 cups of water for two or three days at room temperature (you can soak them in the refrigerator if you prefer). The soaking water will sweeten after a few days at which time you can strain the liquid and use the syrup as a sweetener. The longer the dates soak, the sweeter the liquid becomes. I often leave the dates soaking for a week or more in the refrigerator. The photo below shows dates that have been soaking for about a day and a half in 2 cups of water.
2By this method, the date syrup doesn’t become as dark or thick as it would if you were boiling the dates but the soaking liquid does become very sweet, and can be used to sweeten iced tea or smoothies.
1To make the paste, soak the dates in water for a couple of hours to soften. Remove the dates to a cutting board and reserve the soaking water.
2Cut a slice down one side of each date, open it up and remove the pits. Coarsely chop the dates and place them in your blender with lemon juice, the seeds from the vanilla bean and about 1/4 cup of the soaking water to start. Blend everything together.
3If the paste is to thick for the blender, add more water, a tablespoon at a time and continue to blend until the mixture is smooth. The paste doesn’t have to be completely smooth though. Visually, I quite like seeing bits of unprocessed date throughout the paste, and I like the texture.