Southerners know that a well-stocked pantry includes a variety of syrups. While we may like maple for our pancakes, we often prefer other syrups for baking, cooking, and especially for sopping with hot biscuits. Because most syrups can be used interchangeably, the choice pretty much boils down to personal taste. Here are some sweet examples that will certainly get your taste buds going.
Sorghum syrup is often confused with cane syrup, even among Southerners. Sorghum syrup is made by cooking down the juice of sweet sorghum cane; cane syrup is made in much the same manner but from sugar cane. Sorghum syrup tends to have a slightly sour taste compared with that of pure cane syrup. Although syrup production was widespread a century ago, sorghum syrup is now limited to small-batch producers with local distribution channels. Steen’s Syrup Mill in Abbeville, Louisiana, is one of the few remaining producers of pure cane syrup.
Alaga Syrup is cane syrup with a little corn syrup added. This blend, which has been around for a century, has the characteristic color and flavor of cane syrup but the viscosity of corn syrup.
Lighter syrup blends, such as Yellow Label and Golden Eagle, are a mixture of cane syrup, honey, and corn syrup. Often called “table syrups,” these blends and others like them can be used in place of honey or corn syrup.
Molasses results when sugar-cane juice or sugar-beet juice is refined to remove sugar crystals. After the sugar crystallizes, the remaining syrup is molasses. There are several varieties of molasses, but unsulphured and blackstrap are the two most common. Unsulphured molasses is lighter and milder than the blackstrap variety. Because the flavor of molasses is so much stronger and less sweet than that of its other cousins, it is most often used in baking and cooking.
Corn syrup is a derivative of cornstarch. Caramel color, refiners’ syrup (a type of molasses), salt, and a preservative are added to corn syrup to create dark corn syrup. Sometimes called “white corn syrup,” light corn syrup is a mixture of corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Corn syrup is primarily used in baking in Southern kitchens and has unlimited shelf life whether opened or not. A yellowing of light corn syrup may occur with age but is not considered harmful.
Most syrups, especially those containing corn syrup, can be stored at room temperature. Maple syrup, however, should be refrigerated after the bottle is opened. (Always consult the product’s label to determine if refrigeration is necessary.)
If syrup crystallizes, simply place the bottle or jar in a pan of warm water until the crystals have melted.