Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gimme some mo Molasses please

This post starts with me sitting at the table on an early Sunday morning in May. The sun just rose a few minutes ago. The hens are making a racket to be let out in the garden because they can see me through the kitchen window. I really should let them out but this is a busy morning for me. I could not sleep well last night and today is a big day at church for me. Plus I woke up starving to death.

An hour ago when I first woke up, I tried to roll over and go back to sleep. But between the cat and my anxiety it was no use. So I decided to watch television and all that was on were cooking shows. 10 minutes later I jumped up from bed with a craving for ribs. Well, ribs were not to be found in my refrigerator – nor was much of anything else but cheese and eggs. Not fancying an omelet, I considered making some grits or Irish oatmeal for breakfast. No, nope that wasn’t sounding right either.

Frustrated by my hunger I decided to take a chance on making biscuits. Biscuits are a true southern food, the essence of good simple living meals and the bane of my existence. I have never had so many trials and tribulations with any other food than biscuits. True, lately some of my attempts have been quite good. Far from the heavy over short bricks I used to bake. In fact my first biscuits may have served as heat tiles on the space shuttle.

I snatched down my old Ohio pottery mixing bowls, hoping they would bring me luck and prayed for success. A few minutes later, the biscuits were rolled, cut and on the baking sheet waiting for the oven to heat up as always. Grimalkin the cat was sitting there with his paw covered in flour and yet still trying to look innocent as I wiped the counter clean.

Finally the oven came up to temperature and in went the biscuits. I washed up and went out to toss some corn to the chickens. When I got back in the kitchen was filled with a delicious smell of fresh baked biscuits. I prayed and opened the door – they were lightly golden and seem nicely risen. I love nice soft high rise biscuits. Soon I had them off the pan and onto an old plate from my grandmother I always serve biscuits on. Butter was on the table and I went to get jam. I was craving strawberry but there did not appear to be any. I shoved aside 2 kinds of apple butter, pear butter, plum jelly and tons of blueberry jelly and jam. No strawberry – this was not a morning for my cravings to be happy.

So I decided to forgo jam and jelly and just do honey. I reached for the honey and as I was taking it off the shelf I knocked off a jar of molasses. Thankfully, I caught it before it hit the floor and I decided that was a sign. It has been years since I ate molasses and I thought – oh why not. So now there I was with fresh hot biscuits, fresh orange juice and a saucer full of molasses. I took one of the biscuits to slather on the molasses.
This would be a good time to tell you how delicious molasses is on cold cornbread. Yes, you guessed it the biscuits were heavy and undercooked. So while the hens were busy eating my erstwhile breakfast I was planning on breakfast in a restaurant. Then I remembered church and I sat down in utter frustration. This was going to be another granola bar breakfast – ugh. Resigned to eating what seemed to me like chicken feed with sugar I opened the refrigerator to replace the butter. There sitting in front of me was a few pieces of cornbread I had made Friday.

Ok, so now its cornbread and molasses. I buttered the bread well and then put a spoonful of molasses on it. Thick and rich and dark as dreams of avarice the molasses slowly spun down onto the cornbread. I poured myself a huge glass of milk and sat down - sat down to bliss. Gosh I had forgotten how delicious molasses and cornbread was. For years the two southern specialties had been the breakfast of poor families, busy farmhands and impatient children. It may have been a matter of economy or time back then but let me tell you – today it is delicious, as well as cheap and quick.

For those of you who do not know about molasses it is the dark super thick product of boiling down sugar cane or sorghum syrup. The first boiling goes to make light syrups. But in the strict waste not world of small farmers, they would add more water and reboil the cane or sorghum several times. These boiling would result in molasses. Each batch darker and richer than before. By the time you had made blackstrap molasses it was black and smoky and so thick it would set on a spoon forever. To get it off you have to claw it out with the back of another spoon. Blackstrap is not for beginners. But for those of you with a taste for history and adventure go out and get a jar. It can be bought everywhere from factory made in the store to home made in farmer’s markets and country fairs.

Molasses is great on cornbread. It is like cream to strawberries – a match made in heaven. But it is also a key ingredient in real baked beans. It is essential to gingerbread and it makes delicious moist cookies. For the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks you can have a pint jar tucked away in your pantry waiting to explain to you in slow dulcet tones just exactly what simple living is all about.


  1. Almost thou convinceth me to eat molasses!

    Actually, we do use molasses regularly in cooking, but I've never thought to try it on cornbread. Next time we have some I'll have to try it!

  2. It was the basic meal of poor southerner and slaves for a century or more. Now that is not much of a heritage but hey - hoity toity "polenta" was just boiled cornmeal mush until they rebranded it.

  3. I'm sorry but you haven't quite convinced me. I have only been exposed to molasses once or twice and I have never enjoyed it. I can't even describe how or why I disliked it but I did, just too heavy, and not that unusual I suppose when you consider that I harbor no love for dark chocolate either. However, you have convinced me enough to be willing to try again if the opportunity availed itself.
    But I don't think I'll be going out to buy some myself.

  4. lol try using it in cookies first/ It is an acquired taste I guess - but so is lots of stuff - oysters, liver (uck) onions, sour cream etc etc. Ill bake some dark ginger bread for us sometime


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