Sunday, February 6, 2011

Have you ever seriously thought about molasses? I mean, what is molasses? You’ve heard of it, you probably have a bottle with Brer Rabbit on the label, shoved way back in the cabinet, but what is inside that bottle? We know we use it more often in the fall and winter; it is an ingredient in many of our Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. What would gingerbread be without molasses? What in the world is this stuff called molasses?
Molasses is what’s left over after sugar cane has been crushed, its juices boiled down to a syrup, and sugar crystallized out. In the parlance of the eighteenth century, first molasses was what was left after the sugar had been crystallized out once. When this was re-boiled and more sugar crystallized out, the remaining syrup was second molasses. After a third time, the molasses was blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap is still the result of the final boiling, which is why it’s less sweet and more strongly flavored and has a higher concentration of nutrients (such as iron and calcium) than other molasses.
Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking, often used in baked goods such as gingerbread. There are a number of substitutions that can be made for molasses. For a given volume of molasses, one of the following may be used (with varying degrees of success): an equal volume of honey, dark corn syrup, or maple syrup, or ¾ that volume firmly packed brown sugar

So, now we ask what is the difference between sulfured and unsulfured molasses….you were asking yourself that question, weren’t you? Well, let me tell you….

Sulfured molasses is made from young sugar cane. Sulfur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, is added during the sugar extraction process. Unsulfured molasses is made from mature sugar cane, which does not require such treatment. All grades of molasses may be sulfured or unsulfured. Got that? Okay, let’s move on.

My mom has spoken of sorghum molasses many times. She would talk about her mom, Grandmother Ogg, making biscuits 3 times a day and eating them warm from the oven, slathered with home churned butter and Granddad’s sorghum molasses. Now we are talking!

Grandmother’s biscuits with her butter were the closest thing to heaven that I can think of! As for Granddad’s sorghum molasses, all I know is according to Mom, he would go somewhere and return to the farm with a gallon bucket full of the rich dark syrup. So, I did a little more research.

I went to to find out all about sorghum. It seems it is more commonly called Sweet Sorghum, which is a syrup made from the juice of Sorghum Cane. In years past it was an important source of sweetener. It came into prominence during the 1850's in the United States. By 1888 total US production was 20,000,000 gallons. An 1896 encyclopedia listed the main states that produced sorghum were Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. It was something that many farms grew to some extent. Many just planted enough for their own use while others grew it as a cash crop. Most neighborhoods had at least one farmer that had a mill and evaporating pan. (That's where Granddad Ogg went!) The farmers in the area would bring their cane to them to be squeezed and cooked into syrup. With the decline of the family farm and the easy access to other sweeteners most of these operations have ceased to exist and only a few die-hards still produce this delicious syrup. Another tradition down the drain!

Here is a spice cookie recipe straight off of the farm using Sorghum Molasses

3/4 c. shortening
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. flour

Melt shortening and let cool. Add sugar, egg and molasses; beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Chill and form into balls. They will flatten out as they cook. Bake 10-12 minutes at 325 degrees. I like to drizzle cooled cookies with a simple glaze made from powdered sugar and a little warm water….pretty good!

As for Grandmother Ogg’s biscuits, how many times have I blogged about my darling Grandmother Ogg, the Ogg Family Farm and Biscuits? did you know you can scan down my blog and on the right side, just under the logo for Molly's Table, there is a Search box. Type in Ogg Family Farm, click onSearch, then scroll back up to top of blog... and there it is, a list of all the blogs where the farm is mentioned. Scroll down to the blog for Mar 10, 2009, and there it is...biscuits by Minnie Florence Ogg. Gee, it might have been easier to just type in the recipe, I want you to know how to search my blog!

Looking for a great new muffin recipe? Actually, this is a very old muffin recipe. It comes from my studio mate's mother and grandmother.

David Gross' Gingerbread Muffins      

1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup mild molasses (use Brer Rabbit Mild)
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup raisins 

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each. Blend in the molasses.

Sift the flour and dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately. Dredge raisins and pecans in a little flour, stir into batter. Turn into a clean bowl with cover. Store in refrigerator until ready to bake.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put batter into greased muffin tin, or use paper liners, filling about 2/3 full.
Bake for 20 minutes, cool until just barely warm before glazing with a simple glaze of powdered sugar and warm milk. Actually, taking one right out of the oven, splitting it open and adding a pat of butter is heavenly!

So, now you know all about molasses....almost. I won't bore you with the details, you can Google for those!

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