This is an ingredient used in the Mexican kitchen that I have discovered recently and grown very fond of. It is called piloncillo and is made of pure unrefined sugarcane. I have used it when making Mexican sauces or mole; I have also added it in small doses to stews or bean dishes when a little sweetness is needed. I found that it can easily replace our Lebanese molasses, such as the carob or grape molasses. I am adding a link to a great blog describing piloncillo in detail.
It is simple to use, just get one or two cones, add a little water and a stick of cinnamon (or other spice), if you like, and bring it to a simmer. Once it has started to get syrupy, turn off the heat and cool it. Transfer it to a container, and keep it in the fridge for a few weeks. I will be using it in the next few weeks and will refer to it in my posts.
I was talking to my friend Poncho about it, who lives in San Luis Potosi in Mexico, and grew up in a small rural village or pueblo. He told me that when his parents were young, that was the only sugar available, and they used to get these cones and break them up to add to their coffee on a daily basis. There is a famous coffee in Mexico called café de olla that adds this piloncillo and spices to the drink.
In Egypt as well, farming sugarcane is widely practiced in the region of Upper Egypt. The Egyptians love drinking sugarcane juice, which is sold everywhere and is reputed to be very healthy. In addition, there is also (similarly to Mexico) a byproduct of the sugarcane juice called black honey (3asal aswad). I asked my Egyptian go-to person in Lebanon, Salah, who is a farmer, and he confirmed that it is very popular in the rural areas especially to consume this black honey with bread (“aysh”) and sometimes mix it with tahini or ashta.
Regarding the production of sugarcane, it turns out that the world’s largest producer is Brazil, followed by India. The farming of sugarcane in Egypt started with the Arab conquest, around 640AD. I read online that the Arabs got it from the Persians, who got it from the Indians.
Here it is sold in the produce section at a local Latino supermarket.
Piloncillo syrupJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern October 17, 2022 Mexican fusion, Condiments, Pantry, condiment, molasses, egyptian food, mexicanfusion, piloncillo, sugarcane, pantry items, black honey,
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 cone Piloncillo ( I used 2 and doubled the recipe ingredients)
1/2 cup water
1 small stick cinnamon or 2 cloves or a few anise seeds (3 or 4)
- Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture until it thickens slightly and gets syrupy, about 25 minutes over low to medium heat.
- Strain the mixture once it has cooled into a container, cover and place in the fridge to use as needed.
This sweet syrup can be used anytime a recipe calls for sweetness, be it cake, cookie, pancakes, stews, salsas, moles, soups, anything!
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