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Posts Tagged ‘treacle vs molasses’

scan0002The annual Essex County (NJ) Historic Holiday
House Tour was held this year on December 7
and 8. The public was able to tour assorted
historic sites located throughout the County
on both days. Naturally, all the properties held
under the auspices of the Montclair Historical
Society
were included in this event.

Of course, I was busy greeting the many folks
who stopped by the kitchen during their tour
of The Israel Crane House. The crowds on Saturday tended
to ebb and flow, but they were virtually non-stop on Sunday.
It was fantastic! I SO enjoy this program every year, as it
gives me an opportunity to chat at length with visitors. We
always cover an assortment of topics and have some mighty
interesting conversations. HUZZAH!

Engaging and enlightening discussions weren’t the only thing
that I shared with the guests. There was a rather wonderful
spread of tasty treats for all to enjoy, as well. And this year,

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the offerings were pretty much the same as in years past. And
so the following goodies were set out for guests to enjoy.

Shrewsbury Cakes, made in accordance with Amelia Smmons’
receipt in her book American Cookery (1796):

Shrewsbury Cake.
Half pound butter, three quarters
of a pound sugar, a little mace, four
eggs mixed and beat with your hand,
till very light, put the composition
to one pound flour, roll into small
cakes—bake with a light oven.

N.B. In all cases where spices are
named, it is supposed that they be
pounded fine and sifted; sugar must
be dried and rolled fine; flour, dried
in an oven; eggs well beat or whipped
into a raging foam.

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For our Gingerbread Cakes, below, I followed the receipt
in The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747), by Hannah
Glasse (1747):

To make Ginger-Bread Cakes.
Take three Pounds of Flour, one Pound
of Sugar, one Pound of Butter, rubbed
in very fine, two Ounces of Ginger beat
fine, a large Nutmeg grated; then take
a Pound of Treakle, a quarter of a Pint
of Cream, make them warm together,
and make up the Bread stiff, roll it out,
and make it up into thin Cakes, cut them
out with a Tea-Cup, or a small Glass, or
roll them round like Nuts, bake them
on Tin Plates in a slack Oven.

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I particularly like Glasse’s version, as she calls for using treacle
(“Treakle”) and not molasses. Yes, the two are similar, as both
are obtained during the sugar refining process, and either one
can be used. However, the taste of each is VERY different! And
I find that small cakes made with molasses tend to be blander
than those with treacle. The latter have a bit of a bite to them
(which I like BTW!).

If you’re interested in more information on the difference
between treacle and molasses, and their respective places
in the process of sugar refining, see my previous post HERE.

Pounded Cheese was also offered, along with store-bought
Water Crackers, which are made by Carr’s, a British company
that was founded in 1831.

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The receipt for the above cheese is from the 1817 cookbook,
The Cook’s Oracle, by William Kitchiner, M.D.:

Pounded Cheese.
Cut a pound of good mellow Cheddar,
Cheshire, or North Wiltshire cheese
into thin bits, add to it two, and if
the Cheese is dry, three ounces
of fresh butter, pound and rub
them well together in a mortar
till it is quite smooth.

Obs.–When cheese is dry, and
for those whose digestion is feeble,
this is the best way of eating it
and spread it on Bread, it makes
an excellent Luncheon or Supper.

N.B. The piquance of this buttery,
caseous relish, is sometimes
increased by pounding with it
Curry Powder, Ground Spice,
Cayenne Pepper, and a little
made mustard; and some
moisten it with a glass of Sherry.

If pressed down hard in a jar,
and covered with clarified butter,
it will keep for several days
in cool weather.

Also on hand both days were a smoked ham, candied citron,
dried apple slices, roasted chestnuts, and so on. OH! And
our delightful hot spiced cider. Which, according to one

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visitor, was MUCH better than what he’d been served
at another Tour site. HUZZAH!

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So. Treacle. Or Treakle. And treakyll. Tryacle. And so on. Just
what is it? Well, I’ve always been told, first and foremost, that
it’s a British term, and then one of the following: “just substitute
molasses for it”; or, “it’s the same as molasses.” Now, does that
mean they’re similar or that they’re different?

In any event, I decided to do a bit of research on the subject.
I began by consulting my nearly three-decades-old Webster’s
Deluxe Unabridged Dictionary
, and found it basically says
treacle IS molasses. Definitions in glossaries of several
historical cookbooks agree. One or two books devote more
space to it, from a few paragraphs to an entire page. Most
allude to its use medicinally, its eventual role as a replacement
for honey, and its origins in the manufacture of sugar. They
remain fairly silent, though, as to whether or not treacle
and molasses are the same or different.

I then came upon a British website that discusses the origins
and the uses of treacle. While admitting that the ingredient is
a real “minefield,” it first states that “strictly speaking,” it’s a
generic term for any syrup resulting from the refining of sugar
cane. It then states:

In practice, however, there is
a technical difference between
treacle and molasses in that
molasses is obtained from
the drainings of raw sugar
during the refining process
and treacle is made from
the syrup obtained from
the sugar.

Finally, I turned to The Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It makes a similar
distinction between treacle and molasses. According to the OED, treacle is:

the uncrystallized syrup produced
in the process of refining sugar;
also sometimes extended to
the uncrystallizable syrup that
drains from raw sugar.

I think that’s similar to what’s on the previously mentioned website,
yes? Or maybe not. But then, at the end:

= Molasses 1.

A-ha! So, look under “Molasses 1.” and we find:

the word is rare in British use,
but in the U.S. is commonly
used promiscuously with treacle.

Well! Aren’t we! Stupid, “promiscuous” Americans!

But finally, the OED gets down to the nitty-gritty:

In technical language, molasses
is applied to the drainings of raw
sugar and treacle to the syrup
from sugar in the process
of refining.

OK. Now I understand. I think! Both molasses and treacle are
by-products of the sugar making process, but there IS a difference,
depending on from where within the entire process each particular
liquid is acquired. And I gather that molasses results from the first
draining, and treacle from a later one.
(Yes? No? If anyone has other ideas, please share!)

Okay. When all is said and done, who cares? Well, I do. If you recall,
I stated previously that I wanted to make a dish that included treacle
as an ingredient. Well, by golly, Hannah Glasse’s Ginger-Bread Cakes,
from her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, fit the bill. Of
course, wanting to do justice to her receipt, and to be as historically-
accurate as possible, I knew that only genuine, bona-fide treacle
would suffice. None of that molasses stuff that we Americans
“promiscuously” use as a substitute! The next step was to find
treacle, but that part was actually easy. I knew that one of my
local supermarkets, oddly enough, stocks it. Yep, there on a set
of shelves at the end of one aisle (otherwise known as the “British
section”), in amongst the Marmite and the marmalades, is good
ol’ authentic, made-in-Britain treacle. HUZZAH!

Incidentally, although they may or may not be interchangeable,
the taste of each is, indeed, a bit different. At least, to me. I find
treacle to be more bitter than molasses, almost unbearingly so.
I’d say molasses is the sweeter of the two. Which makes sense,
perhaps, if I’m correct in thinking molasses is extracted first.

Of course, treacle still shows up every now and then. As many
of you know, Harry Potter likes treacle tarts. And then there’s
that beloved childhood nursery rhyme, “Pop Goes the Weasel”:

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

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