Treacle and Golden Syrup feature so heavily in British baking, especially at times of celebration such as Easter & Christmas, that a brief definition may well be in order before I go any further.
Golden syrup is a thick, amber-coloured form of inverted sugar syrup, made in the process of refining sugar cane juice into sugar, or by treatment of a sugar solution with acid. It is used in a variety of baking recipes and desserts.
It has a consistency and appearance similar to honey, and is often used as a substitute for people who do not eat honey and can also be used as a substitute for corn syrup.
The darker syrup that is usually referred to as dark or black treacle has a distinctively strong flavour, slightly bitter, and a richer colour than golden syrup, yet not as dark as molasses, while molasses has a richer, darker colour than either golden syrup or black treacle and has a stronger, more bitter flavour.
Alice in Wonderland
Chapter Seven : A Mad Tea-Party
‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well . . .’
‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.
‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’
‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; ‘VERY ill.’
Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’
‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’
‘You mean you can’t take LESS,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take MORE than nothing.’
‘Nobody asked YOUR opinion,’ said Alice.
‘Who’s making personal remarks now?’ the Hatter asked triumphantly.
Alice did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea and bread-and-butter, and then turned to the Dormouse, and repeated her question. ‘Why did they live at the bottom of a well?’
The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, ‘It was a treacle-well.’
‘There’s no such thing!’ Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Hatter and the March Hare went ‘Sh! sh!’ and the Dormouse sulkily remarked, ’If you can’t be civil, you’d better finish the story for yourself.’
Golden syrup was invented in 1883 by Scottish businessman Abram Lyle, when he discovered that a by-product of the sugar cane refined at his factory in Plaistow, east London, could be made into a delicious spread and sweetener for cooking. First sold to Lyle’s employees and local customers in wooden casks, the iconic green and gold tins that Lyle’s golden syrup is sold in today were introduced in 1885. The tin bears a picture of the rotting carcass of a lion with a swarm of bees, and the slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”.
This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: “Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness”
While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold. In 1904 they were registered together as a trademark, and in 2006 Guinness World Records declared the mark to be Britain’s oldest brand. Lyle’s golden syrup was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1911.
In 1921 Lyle’s business merged with Tate, a sugar-refining firm founded by Sir Henry Tate in 1859, to become Tate & Lyle. Tate & Lyle is the only cane sugar refiner in the UK and is the largest in Europe. It currently sells a million tins of golden syrup each month. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of golden syrup in 2008, Tate & Lyle sold the product in limited-edition gold tins.
Sulphured molasses is made from young sugar cane. Sulphur dioxide, which acts as a preservative, is added during the sugar extraction process. Un-sulphured molasses is made from mature sugar cane, which does not require such treatment. There are three grades of molasses : mild or Barbados, also known as first molasses, dark or second molasses and blackstrap.
These grades may be sulphured or un-sulphured. To make molasses, the cane of a sugar plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is extracted usually by crushing or mashing, but also by cutting. The juice is boiled to concentrate it, which promotes the crystallisation of the sugar.
The term blackstrap molasses is an Americanism dating from around 1920. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized and removed. The calorie content of blackstrap molasses is still mostly from the small remaining sugar content. However, unlike refined sugars, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals.
Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap has long been sold as a health supplement. It is also used in the manufacture of ethyl alcohol for industry and as an ingredient in cattle feed.