Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Barley Sugar and Butterscotch.

Barley Sugar and Butterscotch are boiled sugar sweets – but which is the oldest?

The OED says barley-sugar is ‘a confection, usually in twisted sticks, made from sugar, formerly by boiling in a decoction of barley’, and gives the first mention as 1712 in a pharmacology text. As with many of our candies, it started out as medicine. I am in search of a barley sugar recipe that specifies barley-water, and when I find one, I will let you know. In the meanwhile, here a recipe from Frederick Nutt’s The Complete Confectioner (1789)

Barley Sugar.
Take a small stewpan, put some syrup into it and boil till it comes to carimel; rub a little butter on a marble stone just to grease it that it may not stick; then take your saucepan by the handle and let the syrup run out of the spout along the stone in long sticks; twist it (while it is hot) at each end and let it stand till cold.

Butterscotch (also, apparently butterscot) is ‘a kind of toffee, chiefly composed of sugar and butter’, and it appears to be a more recent invention.

The OED is not accurate here, I am afraid. It gives the first mention in 1865. Other sources, including Wikipedia, say it was made in Doncaster in the north of England, in 1817, by a Mr. Samuel Parkinson. In another case of ‘hiding place of secret old recipe on tatty piece of paper discovered’ (see my cynical Sally Lunn story earlier this week), it is now being made again, to this original recipe.

As for its name, is it scorched, scotched (cross-hatched) or Scottish? I don’t know. But I am intrigued, and am in search of the ‘first recipe.’ Until then, you will have to be happy with the barley sugar.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that barley water is what you need to find? What about barley malt? In Japan, hard candies are still made using malted barley syrup.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Anonymous. Thats an interesting idea. What I did read said 'barley water' - but I guess that could mean water from soaking malted barley, or as you say,the malted barley itself. I'll see what I can find out.

The Old Foodie said...

OOPs I meant the malted barley syruo, not the malted barley. Would kind of affect the texture, wouldnt it?