After the chaggim, I tend to have leftover pomegranate molasses or pomegranate juice (which can easily be converted into its syrupy form) kicking around that I bought for holiday recipes. Incidentally, this is how I learned that pomegranate gelato can be a thing, a really good thing in fact, but that's a story for another day. Today we're here to slather our meat with sticky, sweet-tart pomegranate molasses. If you're a fan of mashing up savory and sweet, this one's definitely for you. If you're not a fan, ahem, like some of my otherwise favorite people (people who, I could annoyingly point out, love General Tso's chicken), it has been my non-empirical finding that absolutely everyone likes this flavor combination and you should glaze anything and everything with pomegranate molasses. But especially meatballs.
About pomegranate molasses
Making pomegranate molasses consists of cooking down pomegranate juice with a bit of sugar and lemon juice. I can't figure out the lemon juice, since poms are plenty tart all on their own, but every single recipe I've looked it says to add lemon. And I play along, reluctantly but dutifully, when it comes to jammy or canning-adjacent matters. You reduce the juice down to a quarter of the starting volume, so for every 1 cup of pom juice you'll get ¼ cup of pom molasses. Per cup of pom juice, you want to add 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Then, bring it to a gentle boil and simmer until it's reduced by three quarters and is nice and thick. You can also juice pomegranates to make pom molasses totally from scratch: it'll take about 2 large or 3 medium poms to make one cup of juice. They're so beautiful, I've never had the heart, plus I can get good quality pom juice where I am.
Okay, so here's the bad news: pom molasses is a fickle creature that has a tendency to go from watery to burnt in the one second you're not watching it. It also thickens considerably as it cools, so that what looks like a perfect syrupy consistency when you take it off the stove might turn into a rock-hard mass nary an hour later. On the one hand, done right, homemade pom molasses made from pom juice tastes better than any of the bottled brands I've tried. On the other hand, I've botched more batches of pom molasses than I've nailed, and pom juice ain't cheap. Certainly if you can't get pom molasses locally, it's worth trying to make, because this stuff is good eats.
About the meatballs
Like my master meatball recipe, this variation uses spiced bread crumbs for flavor and to bind the ground meat together. With fresh lemon zest and thyme as well as harissa a quick-mix baharat blend (instructions included), the flavor profile wraps inclusively around the Mediterranean basin. I realize the list of dry spices might seem intimidatingly long, but at minimum, drag out the paprika, cinnamon, and cloves (plus salt and pepper) and call it a day. The harissa isn't mandatory here, but it's a worthy addition if you have it.
In a pinch, you can roll these meatballs without chilling, but they're much more pleasant to work with, and will be a notch more flavorful, if you've got the time to let the mix hang out in the fridge for a half hour or more, up to a day ahead.
The pom molasses go on last, just warmed enough to thin out a bit and glaze the meatballs.
Pomegranate Molasses-Glazed Turkey Meatballs (meat)
- 1 lb ground turkey (breast, thigh, or a combination) - 500g
- ¼ cup plain bread crumbs - 25-30g
- 1 shallot, finely minced
- 2 tsp fresh lemon zest
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, stemmed - you can substitute ¼ tsp dried
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- 2-3 Tbsp olive oil, for frying
- To a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the bread crumbs, shallot, lemon zest, thyme, and dry spices: harissa, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamom, cardamom, and cloves, plus salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add the turkey to the mixing bowl. Using your hands, knead the spiced bread crumb mixture into the ground meat. Cover the bowl tightly and place in thre refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes or up to a day ahead.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium to large skillet over a low flame. Working directly from the mixing bowl, form the meat mixture into meatballs about 1 ½" / 4cm in diameter. Drop into the hot oil, placing the meatballs around the perimeter of the pan and working from the outer edge to the center (where the pan is hottest). When all of the meatballs have been shaped, raise the flame to medium.
- Cook the meatballs for 5-6 minutes more on the first side, until a medium-brown crust has formed on. Gently turn the meatballs to brown them on the second side, another 4-5 minutes.
- When browned on the second side, gently loosen the meatballs using a silicone spatula and toss in the hot pan. Reduce the heat to low and pour the pomegranate molasses over the meatballs. It will be thick and a bit difficult to work with, but will loosen up after about 30 seconds in the hot pan, so stand by.
- Once the pomegranate molasses become runny, quickly toss the meatballs in it to coat them. Remove from the heat immediately, to keep the molasses from burning, and serve.