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What is Black Treacle?

08/09/2022 By Ibrahim Belo in Products Baking, Black treacle, Treacles

Black treacle is a viscous, dark syrup manufactured from cane molasses that has seen a consistent rise in popularity since the mid-twentieth century. It is widely used in industrial food and beverage applications, including confectionery, baking, sauces, marinades and brewing.

What is black treacle?

Generally, the phrase ‘treacle’ is used in the UK to refer to uncrystallised syrup – especially the darker kind. Historically, treacle was used as a medicine, often used to treat snakebites. This application gives the syrup its name, with the word treacle stemming from the ancient Greek thēriakē, which means ‘antidote against venom’.

A spoon dripping black treacle into a glass bowl

Black treacle is a thick, dark and viscous syrup.

During the seventeenth century, treacle was commonly used to preserve meat, then gradually transitioned into sweet baking and savoury loaves. Black treacle featured in popular culture, being an essential ingredient of Mahogany, a cocktail traditionally drank by sailors made from two parts gin and one part black treacle.

From the mid-twentieth century, black treacle was intensively commercialised, becoming widely available via retail and bulk supply, as an ingredient for both industrial use and in the home.

What is black treacle made from?

Although using cane molasses, black treacle manufactured in bulk is a different product with unique characteristics and a notably rich and slightly bitter flavour. The raw material, cane molasses, is shipped to the UK via tanker ships, pumped ashore into 80,000 tonne holding tanks then completes its journey to the Ragus factory using bulk road tankers.    

Raw cane molasses next to cut sugar cane

Raw cane molasses is processed with refiners syrup to manufacture black treacle.

At this point the raw molasses is not suitable for food production and requires further processing. A heated evaporation process purifies the raw molasses into a stable product, with sugar and acidity levels adjusted and refiners syrup added to meet our black treacle recipe specifications.

How is black treacle different?

The black treacle manufactured at an industrial scale by Ragus is a mixture of molasses and refiners syrup. This gives it a flavour similar to cane molasses, but that presents more of a softer and rounded, yet ‘forward’ flavour. It’s the molasses that gives black treacle its distinct appearance, making it look different to other syrups, such as golden syrup.

black treacle being mixed

Black treacle is a liquid sweetener, natural colourant and flavouring for sauces.

Black treacle is often compared to molasses, but the two products are unique, and each has its own applications in food and beverages. To most, black treacle is known as a slightly smoother version of molasses that some refer to as having a caramelised toffee taste. In industrial applications, black treacle is used as a liquid sweetener, natural colourant and flavouring for sauces, baked products, confectionery and desserts. It’s also used in brewing beers and ales, to produce mild, porters & stouts.

glass bowl of bbq sauce next to an image of ribs glazed in a bbq marinade

Black treacle has a wide range of industrial applications. It’s unique features sweeten, flavour and colour sauces and marinades.

Black treacle nutrition and flavour profile

Is black treacle good for you? Well, it has notable nutritional properties. Because of the particularly high proportion of molasses present, the nutritional profile of black treacle includes an elevated amount of vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, and iron.   

It can be helpful to think about the process of making caramel when we consider how unique black treacle is as a product. When making caramel, white sugar melts and steadily darkens in colour, finishing with a deep, dark red hue just after reaching the point of burning. This intensifies the flavour of the white sugar, with the dark colour of black treacle being comparably intense and possessing a slightly bitter element in its flavour profile from the molasses inclusion.

What products is black treacle used in?

With an intense flavour, dark colour and bitter-sweet taste, black treacle is widely used in industrial food applications such as Christmas puddings, treacle tarts, fruit cakes, parkin and gingerbread. Its distinctive properties make it a core functional ingredient of liquorice sweets and treacle toffee. It also has savoury applications, underpinning the flavour of smoky marinades for meat or fish. Black treacle is used by brewers for ales and specialty and seasonal beers.

Black treacle is used extensively for both sweet and savoury food applications, for bakery products and sauces and marinades. Top left: Christmas fruit cake; top right: parkin; bottom left: liquorice; bottom right: treacle toffee.

It is the intense, rich and ‘forward’ flavour that makes black treacle particularly suitable for Christmas puddings, liquorice sweets and gingerbread. The colour of black treacle also darkens the products it’s used in, with the treacle acting as a natural colourant.

Where to buy black treacle

Black treacle is widely available for consumers via grocery retail. Ragus supplies black treacle in bulk to industrial users via 1000 kg intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) and bulk road tankers. It is ideally stored for up to 18 months before use in a cool, dry location with a temperature between 15 – 20⁰C.

Ragus manufactures black treacle in bulk for industrial applications. If you would like to learn more about our specialist sugars and syrups, please contact our Customer Services Team. To see more sugar news and updates, continue browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Ibrahim Belo

With a primary responsibility for manufactured product quality control, Ibrahim works within our supplier chain, factory and production laboratory. He has a focus on continuous improvement, implementing and maintaining our technical and quality monitoring processes, ensuring standards and product specifications are met.

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