Molasses (Recipe: Boston brown bread)
Spring has sprung, and my friend Laura is back on the yard sale circuit. And -- lucky me! -- she's already scored a couple of vintage cookbooks to add to my collection.
This week's bounty includes a book of chafing dish recipes by Fannie Farmer, and a guide to restaurants (and recipes) rated tops by employees of the Ford Motor Company -- in the 1940s. That was the heyday of motoring, of Sunday "drives in the car", before environmental awareness and gas prices hovering near US$3.50 a gallon. I love reading the descriptions of some of the historic inns all across the country, and I love the recipes -- old-fashioned, made with old-fashioned ingredients like molasses.
Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar refining process. After raw cane juice is processed into raw sugar, the sugar is refined, and the syrup that remains after the sugar has been crystallized is called first molasses. It's then thinned with water and boiled down again, to extract more sugar. With each boiling, the syrup (molasses) becomes less sweet. After three or more boilings, it's called blackstrap molasses -- almost no sweetness, but rich in iron, calcium and potassium. The darker the molasses, the stronger (less sweet) the taste.
These days, the largest producers of molasses are India, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and the United States, and it features in both sweet and savory dishes from each of those regions.
Store molasses in the refrigerator or a cool, dry pantry cupboard for up to six months after opening, and you'll be ready to make ginger spice cookies, marble molasses pound cake, Indian pudding, honey-molasses chicken or slow-cooked baked beans, all of which will help you keep up your strength for a morning of yard sale scavenging.
Boston brown bread
From The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places, published in 1946. This recipe comes from The Williams Inn in Williamstown, Massachusetts; the lovely historic inn pictured in the book was converted to a women's dormitory for Williams College many years ago, but the new inn that replaced it still uses some of the original recipes. For sour milk, substitute an equal amount of buttermilk. A #5 tin is a 56-ounce can (7-1/3 cups). Makes 4 loaves; recipe can be halved, and baked loaves can be frozen.
3 cups bread flour
3 cups yellow cornmeal
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
2 cups raisins
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp ginger
3 eggs, beaten slightly
3 cups molasses
3 cups sour milk
Mix dry ingredients together first; then combine remaining items in a separate bowl. Add dry mix to this liquid and stir well. Spoon equal parts into 4 well-greased, tall #5 tins. Cover with lids or waxed paper tied on firmly, and steam for 3 hours.