Raisin syrup is a sweet, rich syrup made from raisins. A related version can be made with dates and other dried fruits if a slightly different flavor is desired. There are a number of uses for raisin syrup, ranging from traditional desserts to an alternative sweetener for baked goods. Some markets and health food stores stock the syrup, and it is also possible to make it at home; by making it at home, cooks can add regional variants such as cardamom and lemon juice.
The process for making raisin syrup is relatively simple. A 1:2 ratio of raisins and liquids is created, and the raisins are allowed to soak overnight. Water is a classic choice of liquid, although the syrup can also be made with alcohols to create drunken raisin syrup. As the raisins soak, they plump up, absorbing the water. The plumped raisins are run through a food processor to create an even liquid which takes the form of a dense syrup.
It might seem odd to rehydrate raisins to make raisin syrup, as raisins are simply dried grapes. However, pureed grapes will not turn into syrup. This is because raisins undergo chemical changes as they dry. The drying process intensifies their natural sugars, making them much sweeter than fresh grapes. The flavor profile of raisins is also different from that of grapes, as anyone who has done a side by side taste comparison probably knows.
In the Middle East, raisin syrup is often drizzled over desserts. It may be spiced with cardamom or lent a distinctive flavor with orange or lemon extracts. The Greeks enjoy the addition of alcohols such as ouzo to their syrup, giving it an extra kick. Typically, the syrup is drizzled onto the dessert when it is served. The syrup can also be served with ice cream, cakes, and pies; it goes especially well with spice cake, which is naturally more savory.
It is also possible to use raisin syrup as a replacement for sugar, although some caution is required. The extra liquid can change the way a baked good behaves in the oven, and the syrup is also sweeter than sugar, so cooks cannot use a one to one replacement. A major advantage of raisin syrup is that it can be made with minimally refined raisins and it does not have to be cooked, making it popular with people who like raw, minimally processed foods.