Autumn for us means figs and dried fruits, apple pies, carobs and homemade caroblates, hot chocolate and favorite books while sitting on the couch in the afternoons, listening to our favorite music and long walks in the countryside. This era is magical just like any other. In the afternoons me and Petra like to walk on the mountain and just before the sunset we reach that point from where we can see all the silver shades of the sea and the sky and the red and orange sunshines that pierce the clouds. We usually sit a bit and enjoy the wonders of nature until my little “bear” starts complaining – it’s time for her dinner – and so we return home.
Last week we found some carob trees and I picked a lot of mature carob pods on our way to the mountain. So I decided to make my own carob syrup, as I do every year. The resulting quantity is not great (this time from 3 kg carobs I made about 300 ml dense carob syrup although more juicy carobs may give more) but it is a process that I love! From the previous Saturday I made it, up to now, it’s been a few days that I wanted to write this post, but I didn’t manage it until now because of Moby! In fact, I spend most of my afternoons from Saturday to now, reading the autobiography of Moby, the well-known musician and animal rights activist. I really enjoy his narrative which includes moments from his life as a young and “insignificant” musician in New York, his ideas concerning animals, the life of a vegan in America in the late 80s, personal stories and views and of course the build-up of his career as a musician. When I don’ t read the book, I like to listen to his records. And with music and musical readings, hot cocoa and tea on the sofa, time passed!
So let’s return to our recipe! I have always loved carobs and usually, when in their season, whenever I find myself under a carob tree with large, chewy, soft pods I make a little stop to chew some. Besides very tasty and filling, carob pods can be used for the preparation of carob powder or flour and carob syrup. For the first time I tried carob syrup in Cyprus when I visited the island before, about thirteen years ago. At that time, we could not find carob products in Greece and of course when I saw how widespread they were there I was impressed. So I bought two bottles of carob syrup, which I wrapped up and carried carefully back home and I was consuming it sparingly. I had no idea then, although I lived in Crete that is full of carobs, how easy it would be to make this dark nectar by myself!
A few years later, in Greece, we recognized the value of carobs – rich in vitamins and minerals such as calcium – and their products became popular. You can find them in almost any shop selling organic or traditional products. But we learned also how to make the most out of them using our own carobs! I have never made carob powder (I will be very happy to know if one of you has) but I have been making carob syrup for the last seven or eight years, as I enjoy the process that starts from harvesting the ripe fruit. Practically, the carob syrup is produced by simmering the carobs in plenty of water, this way extracting the syrup that they naturally contain. Therefore the secret of the success of the carob syrup is choosing ripe and thick carob beans with a lot of sweet syrup inside them. To make sure that the beans are ripe enough I taste them first. When ready they leave a pleasant sweet taste in the mouth and they have a full and chewy flesh. If their taste is astringent it means that you may need to wait for few weeks till they become fully ripe. In the south of our country, where temperatures are higher, even at the end of August, but most commonly in September, one can find ripe carobs. However, in the northern regions and in the mountains, the ripening process may take a little more!
(for 300-350 ml carob syrup)
- 2,5 – 3 kg carob pods, whole
- a large pot
- cutting tool (I recommend a pruner although it is not a kitchen tool!)
1. Wash carobs and cut them into 1-2cm pieces. To make things easy, since carob pods are hard to cut, I use a pruner I bought the first time I made the recipe and it really is amazing for this job!
2. Put the carob pieces in a big pot and fill it with water to cover them completely. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let them sit them for at least 12 hours in order to let their juices flow in the water.
3. The next day bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes (not more or the syrup will become astringent) and as soon as they cool down, strain them and transfer the dark liquid to another pot.
4. Boil the liquid for about an hour without a lid, until dense bubbles begin to form on the surface and the liquid reduces. To make sure it’s ready I pour some drops of my syrup on a cold saucer and wait to cool down. When its consistency is like a syrup (eg maple syrup or agave nectar) then it’s ready.
5. Transfer to a bottle or jar and as soon as it cools down seal and keep in a cool place. It lasts for several months.