The best sweetener there is

Homemade gingerbread, taffy, cakes, beer. Just some of the things that make life sweeter. Crosby Molasses Company, the 125-year-old New Brunswick purveyors of Canada’s finest fancy molasses, has been a part of these and other family recipes for over six generations, and is experiencing resurgence in popularity from younger generations wishing to continue these traditions.

Molasses is a part of Canada’s culinary traditions, particularly on the east coast. It has been used for generations to sweeten up the most basic ingredients and create delicious treats. The north-south trade industry with the Caribbean brought the exotic syrup to Canada, with the harbours filled with schooners and brigantines filled with molasses.

Since L. G. Crosby started an import and export trade with the West Indies, Crosby’s have imported the finest fancy molasses. Crosby, an ambitious 20-year-old, started a grocery business in Yarmouth, N.S., carrying fish and lumber from Canada to the West Indies, returning with syrupy “liquid gold” called molasses.

In 1897, Crosby’s relocated to Saint John, N.B., where the business remains to this day, continuing to flourish and supply sweeteners for both the retail and industrial markets. Crosby’s legacy is now guided by Vice-President James Crosby, fifth-generation of the independent family-owned business.

Fancy molasses—a direct product of the sugar cane and in no way a byproduct of any sugar manufacturing process—is being lauded once again as a natural sweetener and excellent source of iron, calcium and vitamin B. Fancy Molasses is the gold star of molasses and when used in baking, the results are a light coloured, sweet product, also good as a topping on bread, biscuits, and crackers.

“I know growing up we often had molasses poured onto a plate and you dip the bread into molasses. That is a very traditional use,” Crosby said. “Our challenge is keeping that tradition alive but also introducing the product to people who might not be familiar.”

Sold across the country and in New England, Crosby’s imports over 6,000 tonnes a year of the sweet stuff, with its primary market being Eastern Canada and Quebec. The company’s adjacent private label business produces dry sugar based food products sold in major grocery chains nationwide.

Crosby’s is fostering the return to home baking, touting the benefits of cooking from scratch for its nutritional benefits, as well as the intangible delights of baking and cooking families. “Taking the time to cook from scratch is worth it. What better way to spend an afternoon with your children than to bake gingerbread?”

In her cookbook, Molasses Inspiration, Joy Crosby, mother of James, says, “Today, we continue to enjoy basic recipes that have traditionally been enhanced with molasses.

Moreover, we now also use it in main course recipes—in marinades, bombes, glazes and drizzles.

Molasses appears on menus in the finest restaurants as a main ingredient, a rub, a marinade or as a sauce or topping. Contemporary chefs have recognized the distinctive flavour and unique qualities of molasses, and they have now they have created new recipes around this key ingredient.”

James regales his mother’s gift in the kitchen, and often enjoyed desserts and breads glazed with molasses as a child. From desserts, meals, sauces, marinades and barbecue, molasses is a multi-faceted and versatile addition to any pantry.

“It’s a pure and natural sweetener,” Crosby says. “As far as sweeteners go, it is the best out there.”