A few of my readers suggested that I try making my own pomegranate molasses. So I did. I got the recipe from Simply Recipes, got myself a bottle of pomegranate juice, and gave it a shot.
First of all, let me point out that I might have screwed up. The sauce thickens when it cools, but you have to judge when to stop reducing it while it's still hot. The instructions of "until the juice has a syrupy consistency, and has reduced to 1 to 1 1/4 cups" was a bit hard to follow. Just how syrupy? I guess that's what 1 cup measurement is for, but unless you pour the syrup into a measuring cup and then back in the pan, you won't really know how much you have. Normally, such exact measurements are not that important in cooking. But this is not cooking. This is more like working with sugar, which falls into the category of kitchen tasks requiring precision. My first attempt resulted in an over reduced sauce. I tried adding some water to thin it out, which got it too thin, and I had to cook the sauce some more. By this time, my stove was completely covered in tiny pink dots of splattered juice. "Why oh why am I doing this?" I thought. I kept trying to cool little spoonfuls and compare their consistency to the store bought molasses. I am still not sure if I got it quite right as my home-made version is still cooling.
Now about the flavor. The home made version is less complex tasting. The addition of sugar and lemon juice mask the pomegranate flavor some. The only ingredient in the store bought version is pomegranate juice. Of course, I could try just reducing the pomegranate juice. But it seems a little funny to me to take pomegranate juice from concentrate (that's what's in those POM bottles) and turn it back into concentrate. My store bought bottle says it's from Lebanon. I wouldn't be surprised if they have some pretty awesome pomegrantes there and it would be hard for me to compete with my POM bottle.
The US has gone through a culinary revolution in the past 3 decades. We went from Holandaise sauce in a packet and cake mix in a box to let's-make-your-own-butter (Gourmet had an article on that not too long ago). When should you make a condiment vs. buy it? Here is my take on it. If it's a pantry item that lasts indefinitely, you should buy it. Chances are someone figured out how to make it way better than you and freshness is of no concern here. Do you make your own mustard, or how about wine? If you do, that's wonderful. But let's get real. People do those things because they get a kick out of them, not because their mustards, wines, or blue cheeses are better than what they can buy.
I think I'll stick with the store bought version of pomegrante molasses from now on.