Honey v golden syrup v treacle v molasses v maple syrup
FAQs part 3: This was the first food related question my mum asked me many years ago when she discovered golden syrup.
The short answer is no. Honey, golden syrup, treacle, molasses and maple syrup are different things. Honey and maple syrup are the most natural products but it is rather rare to find 100 per cent Irish honey; most commercial honeys are a blend of Irish and European products. If you can get your hands on raw honey, you are in for a treat.
Golden syrup on the other hand is a by-product from sugar processing and was invented by chemists at Abram Lyle (now Tate & Lyle). It can be easily substituted for honey although I find that the flavour changes slightly. My mum loved golden syrup in hot milk when she couldn’t sleep.
Treacle is also a by-product of sugar production made from cane molasses and syrup. It is perfect for Christmas baking but a Cornish way of using treacle is to mix two part gin with one part treacle called mahogany – I haven’t tried it yet and have to admit that the thought of drinking treacle is not very appealing to me.
While golden syrup is mostly sweet, treacle has a hint of bitterness and a deep rich flavour and both are sold in tins (molasses as well).
Before 17th century, treacle was thought of as an antidote for poisoning but I couldn’t find any evidence that it actually worked. Molasses is the same as treacle just sometimes a bit denser and stickier. While treacle is considered to be a product of the UK, molasses can be made everywhere.
Golden syrup can be poured easily but treacle and molasses benefit from standing the tin in a bowl of hot water to loosen the texture out a bit.
One of the best known recipes for treacle is the treacle tart – not sure why it is called treacle tart as most recipes use golden syrup as the main ingredient and only add a few spoonful of treacle to the mix.
Maple syrup is - as the name suggests - made from the sap of maple trees. I learned a few years ago that maple syrup shouldn’t be thick, in fact it is rather thin. It’s perfect drizzled over pancakes and waffles (head over to Idaho Café for the best waffles in town with a delicious maple syrup).
As the flavour profile is completely different from honey, golden syrup and treacle, I would be reluctant to say you can interchange one for the other. But saying that, I have done so in the past for some dishes and it worked.
It also works well in marinades and dressings – try to use maple syrup when marinading spare ribs. From all the syrups, honey and maple syrup are the most natural products but as with all sugary things, should be consumed in moderation.