My grandmother always kept a jar of molasses and blackstrap molasses in her cupboard. My grandfather loved blackstrap molasses on his pancakes and biscuits even more than he loved pure cane syrup.
They thought back then, as many health experts today do, that molasses was good for you and was a better sweetener than sugar -- this from a couple who grew most of what we ate. My grandfather raised a few head of cattle, including a couple of dairy cows, and always planted a big garden.
I can remember my grandmother canning jars of vegetables and preserves. I especially loved her spiced pickled peaches and bread and butter pickles. She and my grandfather knew that fresh was best -- better flavor, better nutrients, just plain better.
She also was a baker and loved using molasses in her baked goods, such as molasses cake or cookies. Baked beans were not baked beans without molasses.
Today, some health experts agree. The television show "America Now" recently did a segment on the health benefits of molasses that reader Terry Thomas found interesting.
"I recently viewed some of your stories and recipes. I was very glad to see the molasses cookie recipe so I can use the molasses I bought today at the Biloxi farmers market," she said. "This Uncle John's sorghum molasses is made in Philadelphia, Miss. I heard on the 'America Now' news show that wellness expert Peggy Hall calls molasses a 'forgotten food.' She says molasses is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and essen
tial fatty acids.
"If any of your readers have information about sorghum and molasses or other recipes using molasses, I am interested in their stories," Thomas said.
Molasses, which is a byproduct of making refined sugar, comes in several types or grades.
According to livestrong.com, blackstrap molasses, produced by the third boiling of the sugar syrup, has the greatest nutritional value.
I stumbled onto a couple other interesting facts about molasses: one tablespoon of molasses consumed daily can help replenish iron in your body and secondly, some say molasses helps dogs that have arthritis.
Readers, if you have anymore interesting facts or recipes about molasses, please share them with Thomas and I.
The interest in molasses reminds me of the saying "Whatever is old is new again." Here is a molasses cake recipe that Mary Webb shared several years ago. She got the recipe from friend Doris Hatten. It is a good one that doesn't need icing.
DORIS HATTEN'S MOLASSES CAKE
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups pure cane syrup or molasses
4 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream butter until soft, add sugar and blend well. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add milk, syrup, soda, and spices and blend well. Pour into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch greased and floured pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 55 minutes or until cake springs back when touched with fingertips. Cool in pan.
-- Submitted by Mary Webb
"I was also glad to see the red beans and rice recipes," Thomas said. "These recipes made me think about the sausage and black-eyed peas recipes we cook usually in cold weather. However, slow-cooker cooking is also good for summer to keep from turning on the oven. I found a link to some recipes on the Conecuh sausage recipe site (conecuhsausage.com/Recipes.aspx). We usually make a variation of the sausage and black-eyed pea stew."
Last Saturday was my granddaughter's first birthday. I decided that the princess needed a castle, so I proceeded to make her a castle cake. I knew that one of her friends, Myah Blanco, did not like chocolate, so I needed to make the layers in different flavors.
Lilly, my granddaughter, loves anything chocolate, but red velvet or red devil's food is her favorite; she is my granddaughter, and that's a favorite of mine, too. It also was her late great-grandmother's favorite. I made the castle top with red velvet and the base a fresh strawberry cake for her 4-year-old friend, who really doesn't like cake either, just the frosting. She loved the frosted and edible glitter on the turrets.
Today, red velvet cakes can be found in any bakery or on the baking mixes of any supermarket shelf, but when I was little, my great-aunt made a red devil's food cake that no mix can outdo. The owner of a Texas bakery, she made my mom one every year on her birthday. Getting Aunt Addie's red devil's food cake was a special treat.
Lilly's birthday triggered these memories, and so I share Aunt Addie's recipe. It's as good today as it was when I was a preschooler.
When reading the ingredients, readers will notice the recipe calls for Crisco. My great-aunt didn't think there was any shortening but Crisco. Others didn't work as well.
AUNT ADDIE'S RED DEVIL'S FOOD CAKE
2 (8-inch) greased and floured pans
1/2 cup Crisco
1- 1/2 cups sugar
1-7/8 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons hot coffee
2 tablespoons red food color
2 tablespoons vanilla
Cream sugar and Crisco; add eggs. Mix cocoa, coffee and coloring and add to creamed mixture. Mix flour, salt and soda; add to cream mixture alternately with milk. Add vanilla. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool before icing.
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Enough milk for good spreading consistency
Mix ingredients, adding milk to make a thick, but easily spreadable icing. Ice cooled cake layers.
-- Recipe from my late great-aunt Addie Leslie Smith
Gluten-free recipes, please
"I am also interested in any tips your readers have for gluten-free cooking," Terry Thomas said. Readers, I know some of you have some good gluten-free recipes and some tips for cooking gluten-free. Please share these with us.
Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at email@example.com, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.