Volume I, No. 3, Spring 1974
In keeping with the article on making molasses, I have devoted this column to recipes that use molasses. Whether you are a hardy soul with ambitions of homemade molasses or a timider person who buys it in the supermarket, these recipes are worth making.
Verna Lucas, one of Our staff members, brought in this recipe that her mother, Pearl, found in an old cookbook acquired in a box of odds and ends bought at a country auction. The recipe has since become a family favorite, and it's no wonder. The rich flavor of molasses permeates the moist layers of the cake. I baked the cake in layers according to the recipe, but Pearl says she has never done it that way. She uses an old iron skillet approximately ten inches across.
Molasses Coffee Layer Cake
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar 2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup made (perked) coffee
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. mixed spices*
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
*If you don't keep mixed spices use cinnamon, a little nutmeg, and approximately 1/4 tsp. ginger.
Beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs, then molasses and coffee; lastly the flour, salt, spices and baking powder. Bake in layers until done (at 350° ) and put together with frosting.
Many Ozarkians of the past and present have enjoyed combining molasses with other ingredients to make spreads to eat with pancakes, cornbread, biscuits, or homemade bread. Perhaps the most familiar of these is Sorghum Butter.
Mix together molasses and soft butter. Some people like to melt it, but be sure not to cook it. Just let it get warm enough to mix the two together easily.
Another delicious topping to liven up an ordinary breakfast or an evening snack is egg butter.
1 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten
Put the molasses on and let it come to a boil. Slowly stir in the two eggs which have been beaten until frothy. Cook the mixture slowly until as thick as desired. Let personal preference dictate here. Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp. nutmeg if desired.
There are many, many other uses for the sweetener, molasses. To list all the Ozarks molasses recipes I would have to go in the cookbook business. I would rather leave that business to those with more time, patience, and experience. Eula York sent us a molasses recipe of her mother's incorporated into a very interesting story. Her mother, born in 1894, never owned a cookbook until the 1930's, but she had many hand-written recipes and many she learned by heart from her mother and grandmother. Since her retirement from teaching, Mrs. York is compiling these hand-writ-ten accounts and recipes into a combination cookbook and biography. This story is a part of that collection.
If you have never experienced a molasses taffy candy pull you have missed an Ozark treat and should be introduced to this fun time occasion.
The date was 1920 and winter was beginning. There was little to do for fun--especially for little girls. Maudie Ellen, (born Maudie Ellen Bailey, 1894) knew what it was like to be the only girl in a big family of boys, and understood her one daughter's Desiree to have fun with other girls.
Now that the fall crops had been harvested and stored in the cellar, the butchering was done, molasses making was completed and things generally readied for winter, it seemed a favorable time to allow her daughter to ask a cousin and two other girls to spend the night.
After supper was over everyone assisted in clearing the big kitchen table. (The table was not always completely Cleared--some things were left on and covered with a cloth until the next meal.) In this instance everything was cleared and clean plates were placed around the table for each girl.
Maudie Ellen began the preparation for making molasses taffy, and to keep four girls busy and out of the way she insisted that each get a pencil and paper and write her recipe to save for their hope chests. Since this was something big girls did, this was accomplished with some difficulty, since spelling words like molasses and vinegar were not easy.
The basic recipe was as follows:
2 teacups molasses
chunk butter, size of an egg
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Maudie Ellen melted the butter in a big iron skillet placed near the back of the old wood cook stove. Then with a tea cup she dipped molasses from an earthenware jar. As she stirred the mixture she moved it toward the front where the stove was hot. After the mixture began to boil, she stirred it constantly. Soon she began to test the boiling mixture by dropping a little from the spoon into a cup of cold water. When the testing showed that the candy was brittle enough she moved the skillet to the back of the stove and added the vinegar.
Now other preparations must be made. Hands were washed and greased with butter. Maudie Ellen then placed some of the hot candy on each plate With instructions not to touch it until she gave permission. (This meant that it must be tested to make sure it was cool enough to handle.)
Everyone watched as Maudie Ellen picked up her candy from the plate, doubled it over and pulled it out several inches and doubled it back. It did look easy. She pulled it out a few more times and handed it to one of the girls with instructions to keep pulling it and doubling it back. She made the rounds of the table and soon each one was pulling candy.
Most had trouble keeping the candy from coming apart as they pulled it out, but Maudie Ellen was always helping and the girls soon discovered that it could just be put back together and pulled some more. As it was pulled it became a lighter color and became harder and harder to pull.
At Maudie Ellen's instructions, when the candy had been pulled enough, each one stretched the candy out on the oil cloth that covered the kitchen table. With the back of a case knife she quickly marked each length of candy into lengths of about one inch. Then picking the long piece of candy up she lightly tapped it with the handle of the knife and the candy broke in bite size pieces. Now it was ready to eat.
Certainly, the giggles of girls with sticky fingers and the squeals of near disaster were thanks enough, and the girls were excused from any clean-up duties. Maudie Ellen hummed a hymn as she stacked the plates. The girls were sharing their candy with father and the brothers and there was no doubt that everyone was having fun.
Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.