The Independence Day and Molasses Connection

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Ronnie Fein
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fresh ginger cake

It’s almost July 4th and every American is thinking fireworks and parades or lemonade and fried chicken but my mind turns to molasses.

Really.

Because molasses is inextricably tied up with the American Revolution.

John Adams said so, so I’ve got the day covered historically, politically and gastronomically.

Really.

Here’s why.

Right after Europeans settled in the Americas, the production of sugar cane (brought to the West Indies by Columbus) became big business. Molasses is the liquid left over after cane is processed for sugar. The colonists bought tons of molasses because it was much cheaper than crystal sugar (and continued to be until after the Civil War). They used it for sweetener, but also to distill it into rum (which gets its name from saccharum, the sugar in molasses). That became big business too.

Unfortunately, the colonists bought their molasses from French planters, rather than English ones, because the French sold it at bargain prices. And that, made the British furious, so Parliament passed the infamous Molasses Act, which imposed a stiff duty on all molasses imported into the colonies from foreign countries. And, unfortunately that led to cries of “taxation without representation” and anyone who ever went to school in America knows that one.

molasses chicken wings

So, molasses.

It’s a real treat too, for July 4th or any time. I find its rich, robust flavor a big plus for countless items from cookies to barbecue sauce to baked beans to pudding to gingerbread. There are several kinds but for cooking, unsulfured molasses (light or dark) is the finest and sweetest. Try using it, at least in part, instead other liquid sweeteners for such recipes as corn bread, pecan pie and spice cake. Or for these: Fresh Ginger Cake and Grilled Chicken Wings with Molasses Barbecue Sauce: both perfect for any July 4th celebration.