Ibrahim Belo Written by Ibrahim Belo

Granular Detail: Black Treacle

Black treacle is a staple of supermarket shelves all over the UK, with the syrup first gaining commercial popularity in the post-war era. In this blog, we look at how it became so highly sought-after by underlining its key properties, its manufacturing process, and the applications it can be used for.  

What is black treacle?

Black treacle is a dark and highly viscous syrup made from cane molasses. Ragus’ black treacle is a mixture of syrup and molasses. As a result, its flavour is similar to cane treacle but more rounded and softer than molasses. The product’s distinctive dark colour also comes from the use of molasses, distinguishing black treacle from golden syrup.

Treacle’s original use was in medicine, dating back to the 17th century. It was primarily used to treat snakebites, with the word treacle stemming from the ancient Greek thēriakē, meaning antidote against venom. In the early 1950s, black treacle, like all other treacles, rapidly became truly commercialised as a foodstuff, being used in treacle tarts, parkin, liquorice sweets and treacle toffee.

In recent memory, it has been labelled as the ‘British term for molasses.’ Due to the two products having different flavours and manufacturing processes, this is not the case and the two syrups cannot be used like-for-like.

Viscous black treacle poured into container

Black treacle’s dark colour and flavour make it the perfect counterpart to golden syrup. 

How is black treacle manufactured?

The process starts at the cane refining mill, where sugar cane is harvested and stripped of its leaves. It is then crushed to release its sucrose content.

From here, the resulting juice is boiled, causing sugar crystals to form and leaving a highly concentrated sugar syrup. After a third and final boiling, the resulting liquid is cane molasses. Most of the sucrose present in the original juice that has crystallised is then removed in a centrifuge, with this separating the crystals from the adhering film of molasses. Using this production process ensures all the essential nutrients found in the sugar cane are retained in the cane molasses.

At Ragus, we source our molasses from a range of certified mills and refineries across the globe. It is exported from these in tanker ships before arriving at our production facility in temperature controlled road tankers. The raw molasses, at this point not fit for food production, is then pumped into evaporating vats. In these it is heated to over 80˚C, purified, and adjustments are made to the sugar content and acidity level.

Then, it is passed through a 300-micron filter to remove any remaining impurities. From here, the molasses is cooled to a specific temperature and matured in holding tanks. Once matured the molasses is dropped into vats and blended with refiners syrup to produce black treacle. The treacle is then decanted through an 80-micron filter and packed into containers ranging from 7 kilogram pails to 25,000 kilogram road tankers for transportation to our customers.

What products is black treacle used in?

Black treacle is mainly used in baked goods such as Christmas puddings, fruit cakes, parkin, liquorice sweets, treacle toffee and gingerbread. This is due to its intense flavour, dark colour and bitter-sweet taste. It also acts as a sweetener and natural colourant.

But it is also used in savoury dishes to help form rich glazes or smoky marinades for meat or fish. Some brewers even use black treacle to produce mild ales, and it is a crucial ingredient in mahogany, a cocktail traditionally drank by sailors made from two parts gin and one part black treacle.

All of the above ensure that black treacle, next to golden syrup, remains one the UK’s most recognisable and widely used sugar products.

Ragus uses its extensive experience to manufacture the highest quality and most consistent black treacle. Contact us today on +44 (0)1753 215424 or enquiries@ragus.co.uk to find out how this can benefit your food product.