Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blackstrap Molasses Milk Steamer {Naturally-Sweetened, Kid-Approved}

On the first nippy fall day every year, my children begin clamoring for hot cocoa. And once the snow falls in earnest, they come in, icy cold from their romps, with snow-whipped rosy cheeks, peel off their wet, frozen clothes, and plonk down at the kitchen table to wait for a hot beverage.

And I can't help but think, as I heat up the milk, how much my Palestinian grandmother would approve.  

You see, Arabs are serious about their hot milk.  Yes, they love traditional coffee, and they serve up glasses and glasses of hot mint tea to their guests.  But in the privacy of their homes, at the kitchen table or in the drafty glassed-in verandas of the West Bank, you will find the mamas and the aunties drinking steaming mugs of milk, scalded in saucepans on the stove top and then poured into heavy mugs.  My grandmother always had one of these mugs nearby.  In the morning, my mother added a spoonful of Nescafe instant coffee (why instant coffee is all of the rage in the Middle East is beyond me, but it is).  In the afternoon and evening, she switched to plain milk, or a little Ovaltine before bed.  But milk, always hot milk.

In fact, nothing made my Palestinian grandmother, my Teta, cringe more than when she saw my sister and I drinking glasses of cold milk for breakfast in the winter (well, venturing outside with damp hair or without an undershirt provoked a great deal of dismay). My mother had tried to convert us and served us hot milk for breakfast, but we simply refused.  Perhaps, if she had offered us this beverage we would have warmed up to the drink (wink, wink).

Now that snow is falling and my little ones are asking for hot cocoa, my thoughts have turned back home, to the nourishing power of a mug of warm milk.  I am still not overly fond of plain hot milk, but I love a warm mug of creamy milk, as long as it has a little bit of flavoring.  I make homemade chocolate syrup (not my recipe, but find the link here) for this purpose, which we enjoy.  Still, I wanted something easier, faster, and even more nourishing for my family, so  I experimented in the kitchen to see if I could create another flavored hot milk drink.  I dug through my cupboard and found a jar of blackstrap molasses, and this new favorite drink was born.  It has all the warm creamy sweetness of a mug of hot chocolate, but with the warm spicy flavors of your favorite molasses cookie.


Add caption
Molasses is the sweet, dark, flavorful syrup produced as a byproduct of boiling down cane sugar, and has been used as a traditional sweetener in this country dating back to the 1800's.  This is your great-grandmother's sweetener, the stuff of the frontier, of little Laura in the Little House on the Prairie.  And unlike the cane sugar, molasses is nutrient-rich. Which each boiling down, the molasses produced becomes darker, lower in sugar and higher in nutrients, and stronger in flavor.  You can find molasses in a variety of strengths, from light to original to robust.  My favorite molasses is the very darkest of molasses, blackstrap molasses, for its high rates of vitamin B6 and minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium.  It has a very robust flavor that I have come to really enjoy (think of dark molasses cookies or dark gingerbread cake), but if this flavor is new to you, start small or start with robust molasses and work your way to blackstrap molasses.

Molasses is also very popular in the Arab world, but they are talking about another food all together.  When Arabs talk about molasses, or "dibbis," they are referring to a syrup made from the cooked-down pulp of fruits.  These natural sweeteners are used in cooking and in sweets, and every region has its favorites -- pomegranate molasses, date molasses, grape molasses, carob molasses.  I love these all, as well, and enjoy date or grape molasses stirred into a mug of hot milk.  If you have these, by all means use them.  If not, then reach for the jar of molasses that is probably already stashed in your pantry.

Blackstrap Molasses Milk Steamer

1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. blackstrap molasses (or other molasses)
Splash of vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Heat milk in a saucepan or microwave until warmed through.  Stir in molasses and vanilla.  Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired, and serve.

Hint:  Since molasses is acidic, if you add molasses to boiling milk, the milk will curdle.

This kid approves!

Related Posts:

*Traditional Arabic Coffee

*How to Make Pomegranate Molasses


  1. Thanks for this recipe. I must try it. I don't remember when I last drink milk. Thank you for this.

  2. It looks to be a tasty recipe. I'll try it.


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!