Appalachian Food

Molasses Sweet Bread

Molassess bread
Over the last week or so a real touch of fall has taken hold of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. We’ve had cooler temps and the leaves are beginning to turn.

The change in the weather left me hankering for some of Granny’s Gingerbread-or something like it. I needed an easy quick recipe-so I went to one of my favorite old time cookbooks-The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery.

Old sorghum sweet bread recipe
I found a recipe for Molasses Sweet Bread. When I was growing up Pap always had a jar of local honey sitting on the table-actually he still does. While the whole family enjoyed the jars of honey-it was mostly me and Pap that liked the jar of Sorghum Syrup that he sometimes bought in addition to the honey.

Most families in this area called Sorghum ‘syrup’. Although you do sometimes hear folks call it Sorghum, Molasses, or Sorghum Syrup. If you’ve never tasted it before-it has a much stronger richer taste than honey.

The bread recipe called for:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of ginger (I used only 1)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup of molasses or 2/3 cup molasses and 1/2 cup sugar (I used the full cup of syrup)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I didn’t have any-so I used the old stand by-of putting 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a one cup measuring cup and filling the rest with whole milk-let it stand at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 egg

Sift all the dry ingredients together.

Recipe for sorghum syrup
Stir in melted butter and syrup mixing well. Add milk and egg and mix well.

Molassess sweet bread
Pour mixture in a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes or till done.

Gingerbread from appalachia

Yum-it was good! Between me and Pap-the loaf didn’t last more than a day. But when I make it again-I think I’ll make a few changes. I believe adding a few raisins and nuts would make it even better. And it was so dense in the middle-that once I started slicing it-it fell apart. I believe baking it in smaller loaf pans or in a muffin tin would fix that issue. If you like the taste of Gingerbread-you’ll like Molasses Sweet Bread.

If you’re interested in seeing the cookbook-go here: Appalachian Cookery-and you can buy it on the Foxfire website. Its a great old timey cookbook-with lots of interesting tidbits to go along with the recipes.

Next time Granny makes Gingerbread-maybe she’ll let me take pictures and share them with you. Her recipe came from her mother-my Granny Gazzie. Its an old one-that calls for lumps of stuff instead of true measurements.





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  • Reply
    Don Davidson
    September 10, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    Sorghum is an all time favorite of mine too. I love it on everything. Like you, grew up with always on the table. We loved to
    Mash it up with butter and spread on biscuits or or cornbread. I even like that on plain of light bread or a bake sweet tater. Here is a recipe for a good molasses bar made with sorghum.

    • Reply
      Mary Moretti
      February 24, 2022 at 11:53 pm

      My grandparents always had molasses on the table, and my sisters and I were introduced to it when they had no maple syrup. I always loved it. I will have to try this sweet bread. I have a question for Tipper or anyone else who knows what real buttermilk looks like . On one of her videos Tipper mentioned how what we buy today as buttermilk isn’t like what it used to be. I know some of what is sold as buttermilk is actually milk with vinegar added to simulate buttermilk. Here in Massachusetts a dairy in Maine sells butter and buttermilk in grocery stores, it is watery looking, not thick and creamy. It does create a good rise and moister crumb in baked goods, but I wonder. Does that sound as though it looks like real buttermilk?

  • Reply
    January 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    It was snowing heavily this morning and I have a snow day from work. One of the previous commenters said “flung a cravin”. Well the “cravin” here was to bake some bread. I used a bit of self rise flour along with the regular flour. Delicious-more like a cake than bread. It didn’t crumble and the house smells so homey and cozy!

  • Reply
    September 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

    This sounds so good -I’ll be trying it this week for sure!

  • Reply
    September 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Looks so yummy! HAve to give it a try. I like all things made with molasses. A real treat when we were growing up was a pan of Mom’s fluffy biscuits. We would “sop up” molasses stirred together with soft butter with that delicious bread. I find the taste of molasses too sweet for me now, but love to bake with them.

  • Reply
    September 18, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Your Molasses Bread looks moist and delicious! Isn’t it funny how the fall causes a craving for the ginger/cinnamon spice combo? I’ve been craving molasses cookies and pumpkin pudding since it got chilly up here.
    Please do share Granny’s Gingerbread with us! Don’t you just love the old recipes that called for ‘butter the size of a walnut’ and ‘a teacup of sugar’? They are just another proof of what clever cooks our Great – Grannies were!

  • Reply
    September 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

    That sounds delicious!
    I’ve saved the recipe and will be trying it as soon as I can get my hands on some molasses.
    I hope your weekend show went well!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Tipper, I’ve been thinking of making gingerbread. My hubby and I love it. He especially likes to put lemon pudding and whipped cream on his. I like mine hot, just out of the oven with no toppings at all.
    Neither the daughter nor the granddaughters who live with us care much for it all. Really sad.
    Your recipe looks great. After I satisfy my craving for gingerbread, I may make up a pan of the sweetbread. It looks good, too.

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    September 17, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    You know Tipper I wouldn’t be offended if you just felt you needed to send me some. 🙂 LOL

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 17, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Everybody used to call my Grand Uncle Glenn “Sweetbread”. The story was he put sweetbread in his pocket when he went to visit his girlfriends.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I have that cook book Tipper, I just need to put it in good use. I love looking at the old timey looking pictures. I think I will start with making some of that bread, YUM!
    I also loved the school lunch story above.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Please forgive me but I’ve just got to tell this joke I heard when I was a boy (it was more pertinent then). All this about syrup, school lunch, and the old days made me remember.
    It seems that back during the depression days everyone had it tough. This little boy along with the others at the country school he attended would bring their lunch in an old syrup bucket and they would hang them on the tree in the yard until lunch. One young man never got anything to eat but a cold biscuit with cold polk greens in it and he decided anything would beat this. So one day he decided to swap although it might be wrong.
    Then one day at the lunch bell he was first out and grabbed the first bucket he came to and gleefully ran up the hill under another tree. Well, here he learned to appreciate what ones has no matter how meager! To his dismay inside there was only a hickory nut and two flat rocks.
    Only us poor boys could get a laugh at this.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    September 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Looks simply delicious, Tipper! My dad called it “Sorghum” and now I know more of the story, thanks to you and your amazing commenters. 😉
    {I love Mary Jane’s “school lunch” comment above!}

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Tipper–I’ve been up in Virginia giving some talks and so came to this late. First of all, I can identify with B. Ruth’s memories of the medicinal uses of blacstrap molasses. Grandma Minnie believe blackstrap, mixed with some sulphur powder, was the perfect spring tonic. I’m not sure I’d agree, but blackstrap is full of iron.
    Daddy often talked of how almost every family had a patch of cane when he was a boy and young man, and the “makin'” was a community affair.
    I’m surpised Bill Burnett didn’t mention a couple of sidelights to molasses makin’, but maybe that’s because of his law enforcement background in one case. The green “skimmin’s” turn to alcohol in a hurry, and there was often a local n’er-do-well or two anxious to sample that. Also, there probably isn’t a finer attractant for yellow jackets than the production of molasses.
    This is an interesting topic for anyone who cherishes enduring mountain traditions.
    One final thought. Among the finest ad slogans I’ve ever seen was one from my boyhood for a commercial cane syrup, Dixie Dew. It read: “Covers Dixie like the dew and gives a biscuit a college education.” That was doubtless true, but if so, properly made blackstrap most assuredly gives a cathead biscuit a Ph. D.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    September 16, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Old-time gingerbread was a regular treat made by my mother when I was growing up. She was from Dillsboro and made a lot of the old-time recipes. Incidentally, I have been eating at the Jarrett House in Dillsboro all of my life.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Growing up in southern West Virginia my dad made mollases every fall. All of us looked forward to that time of year. It was always fun dipping the foam out of the end of the pan with a cane stick. You had to be very careful because it was so really hot. My mom would use the mollases to make cakes and cookies but my favorite thing was when she would use it to make popcorn balls.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Tipper, that sounds divine. I love the sweet spicy breads.
    I especially like ginger bread. Id’s like to have Grannie’s recipe.
    Once at your house I was prowling through one of your old books, probably a Fox Fire Book, and found a 100 year old recipe for Ginger Bread. It was wonderful…dark, rich and dense. I just may have to hunt that recipe and give it a try again.
    Is molasses ans sorghum the same thing?

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I absolutely love honey and sorghum and there is always a jar of both in my house. In fact, I probably eat sorghum every day on something. It is supposed to be a great source of iron and potassium. Have a great weekend.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Can’t wait to try this, Tipper it looks yummy and I agree I think pecans and or raisins would be really good in this recipe. Would love to try Granny’s recipe for Gingerbread and the one I really want to try is Pap’s Sweet Bread so hope to see that one when you find the time to fit it in. I just love reading your blog every day, especially ones with the great old recipes that I love to try.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for the recipe for Sorghum Sweet Bread.
    One of my fondest memories of childhood was walking home from Choestoe School,
    entering our farmhouse, and smelling the sweet, pungent aroma of sorghum sweet bread Mother had just baked
    so we could have a slice with a glass of cold milk to assuage our after-school hunger until suppertime!
    My father, J. Marion Dyer (about whom I wrote the story, “The Summer Daddy Found the Spring,” was a master at
    Sorghum syrup making. He made for himself and “the public,” and over 3,000 gallons per season were usually his yield.
    Tomorrow at Blairsville, GA’s Farmers’ Market, he will be one of three remembered and inducted into the
    Union County Agriculture Hall of Fame.
    I will be there, remembering a noble father, hard-working farmer, and sorghum syrup maker extraordinary!
    Thanks for the wonderful posts on Blind Pig and the Acorn!

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    September 16, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I have loved the FOXFIRE books since I was a child. Picked up onelast night at my mama’s house. And we called it sorgham syrup and always bought some when we went to the mountains — my favorite is drizzled over warm buttered biscuits with a slice of cantaloupe.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    September 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

    That made my mouth water and I am not even hungry! I will try that recipe. When I was but a lad of 22 I had been away from home for about two years. We always had sorghum–or “syrup” growing up. I got a package one day from Mother. It was full of popcorn, used as packing, and in the middle was a quart jar of sorghum. I took it to a cafeteria the next morning and ordered a whole stack of buttered toast–couldn’t find a biscuit anywhere! I got back in a corner, with my back to the wall and surrounded by things foreign-even the language, I went back to the mountains–for a few minutes at least. I never forgot that meal or the Mother who knew what I’d be missing.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 10:59 am

    You’ve made me hungry for what we used to call sweet bread. Mama made it with molasses or sugar..Susie

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    September 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Wow, Tipper,
    I am going to have to bake some this weekend! It sounds and looks wonderful. Like you, I will probably add some nuts.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    September 16, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Making molasses is hard work, from the planting till the cooking it is labor intensive. We usually made between 300 to 400 gallons a year, it was a source of income when almost everything was grown on the farm. One thing we always looked forward to was Mom’s Gingerbread made with fresh Lasses with freshly churned, salted and pressed butter. A person needed to wear a hardhat to keep your tongue from slapping your brains out. Now you’ve flung a cravin on me. To solve the problem of the dense middle try reducing your heat to 325 and add fifteen minutes to baking time or until a toothpick comes out clean. This will prevent the outside cooking to fast and make the whole cake consistent.

  • Reply
    Brian Blake
    September 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Sounds delicious! Maybe with proper incentive I can get The Boss to mix some up for when our boy comes by, taking a break from the big city and looking for home-made.

  • Reply
    Carol Isler
    September 16, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I was just thinking this morning it was getting cool enough down here in Greer SC to cook a couple of pans of gingerbread.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 10:01 am

    My family earned their living by raising cane and making molasses. I wrote about the cane harvest in my post for Jan.28, 2011, Making Molasses.
    I really liked the sorghum straight from the cooking pan; many a time I burned my tongue! Do you have local mills for making sorghum? Most sorghum we find on the market now is really dark and strong tasting; ours was light and golden brown, almost like a syrup.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Hadn’t had any sorghum since I was
    a kid. My parents used to cook the
    sorghum by boiling it and serving
    it as “puff”. But I always enjoyed
    Sourwood honey with biscuits much
    better. I can remember daddy fixin’ sweetbread and that was a
    real treat. The nuts and raisins
    would be great in there too…Ken

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 9:33 am

    This sounds so good; it made me think about trying one. I ama scone person, but I really enjoy most bread products. Thanks for sharing and giving us some old timey information.

  • Reply
    Wayne Newton
    September 16, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Tipper, when I was a boy, growing up in Wiregrass Country, we grew sugar cane, so our syrup was cane syrup. That’s the only syrup I knew anything about.
    Papa brought home a jar of sorghum syrup he had been given while on a trip to East Tennessee.
    All us boys pestered Mama to make us some biscuits so we could try it. EEWWW!!
    That was our general reaction to the strong, almost sour taste of it. Papa reacted the same way. He opined that it was soured. Who knew?
    It was many years before I decided to try some again, while on a weekend in Union County.
    Cautiously I poured a small amount on my pancakes, and took a nibble of it.
    It. It was the same as I tried so many years ago. Strong, almost sour, so I asked the waitress, asking her why it was so sour.
    She had a good laugh, saying, ” You must be from the flat lands, sugar cane country.” “It aint sour, it’s sorghum!”
    Once I knew it was not spoiled, I pitched in and ate two orders of pancakes, both with sorghum.
    I developed a liking for the “mountain syrup”, as we called it.
    Today I keep at least one jar of the good stuff in my pantry, and nary a drop of the sugar cane kind.

  • Reply
    Mary Jane
    September 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Here in East Texas, where I grew up, we looked forward to Ribbon Cane syrup in the fall. A few miles down the road, there was a produce stand, and the people who owned it had a syrup mill. I remember seeing the mule turning the machine that crushed the cane, and the big shallow pan over a fire, cooking the juice down to syrup. I recall chewing a piece of cane to get the sweet juice. That was a long time ago, and now we have to drive to buy our Ribbon Cane at a little country store that caters to highway trade. Not many years ago, it was available in the local grocery stores, but no more. I love it on homemade biscuits with real butter. My Daddy used to take biscuits to school with a hole punched in it with a finger and filled with syrup. That was school lunch!
    Mary Jane

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 16, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I forgot to mention…One time when I was a little “peaked”, a doctor told my parents to give me a daily vitamin…but my Dad decided to dose me with Blackstrap molasses…yuk…I begged for the vitamins…ha
    They were believers in a dose of Blackstrap molasses just as a healing boost if we were feeling poorly…I was so glad when they grew out of this notion…even
    though a lot of folks still take it….
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Looks delicious and I can almost smell the good aroma of this bread. Tipper, I may have to try this recipe…I remember my mom making gingerbread and we loved it.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I love gingerbread and I love molasses and I love bread, so mixing them together would be a hit for me.

  • Reply
    B f
    September 16, 2011 at 8:09 am

    well youve done it again. got me smelling that molasses bread cooking so of course i,ve got to copy it and try it as i have so many jars on hand and here it is time to make sorgum again (molasses or sorgum, whichever you prefer)and did you ever eat it hot with butter ? yum -yum

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 16, 2011 at 7:37 am

    I can smell it cooking now, yum

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 16, 2011 at 7:36 am

    It’s almost Sorghum makin’ time here in TN…It took me a while when young to learn to love the stronger flavor of Sorghum over sugar cane molasses and maple syrup…There is nothing better over hot buttered biscuits than a plop of good dark Sorghum…I love honey too..but in the fall a trip to buy Sorghum takes the cake or (biscuit)..ha
    Sounds like a good recipe for a cool fall day…I would love your Grannies recipe for gingerbread too…That was the Fall cake we had as kids in the forties…It smelled so good baking when we came in from school..Sometimes she saved the cream and whipped us a dollop and put on top of our slice…yummm!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Think I’ll be making some of it today. Been so long since I’ve made it. Putting nuts and raisins in it would be even better.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    September 16, 2011 at 7:17 am

    I really enjoy the Foxfire books and I love molasses, especially over hot biscuits and homemade butter. Granny always had a big crock of molasses. That is what we called it. Syrup was what was in the Bob White gallon jar.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2011 at 6:47 am

    You’ve got me hankering for this yummy treat! Definitely going to give this recipe a try real soon. Adding nuts and raisins would be wonderful!

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