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Golden syrup is a pale treacle. It is a thick, amber-coloured form of inverted sugar syrup, made in the process of refining sugar cane or sugar beet juice into sugar, or by treatment of a sugar solution with acid. It is used in a variety of baking recipes and desserts. It has an appearance similar to honey, and is often used as a substitute by people who do not eat corn syrup.
Molasses, or dark treacle, has a richer colour than golden syrup, and a stronger, slightly bitter flavour.
The sugar cane refining process produced a treacle-like syrup that usually went to waste. In 1883, Charles Eastick, a chemist at the Abram Lyle & Sons (now part of Tate & Lyle) refinery in Plaistow formulated how it could be refined to make a preserve and sweetener for cooking. The resulting product was marketed commercially in 1885 as "golden syrup". However, the name 'golden syrup' in connection with molasses occurs as early as 1840 in an Adelaide newspaper, the South Australian.
The tin bears a picture of the rotting carcass of a lion with a swarm of bees, and the slogan "Out of the strong came forth sweetness". This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness". While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold. In 1904 they were registered together as a trademark, and in 2006 Guinness World Records declared the mark to be Britain's oldest brand. Lyle's golden syrup was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1911.
In 1921 Lyle's business merged with Tate, a sugar-refining firm founded by Sir Henry Tate in 1859, to become Tate & Lyle. In 2010, Tate & Lyle sold its sugar refining and golden syrup business to American Sugar Refining.
Originally, in cane sugar refining, golden syrup was made from those sugars that failed to come out of solution at the crystallization stage, but an equivalent product may be made from beet sugar by processing a sucrose solution to break down a proportion of the disaccharide, converting it into the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. This may be done by acid hydrolysis or by adding an enzyme, invertase.
Typically in acid hydrolysis, the disaccharides are split by hydrochloric acid, resulting in a solution which is acidic; neutrality is restored by the addition of lye, which is sodium hydroxide. As a result, syrup made by this method contains some common salt, sodium chloride.
The glucose and fructose produced are more water-soluble than the original sucrose. As a result, golden syrups are less likely to crystallize than a pure sucrose syrup. The high fructose content gives the syrup a taste sweeter than that of an equivalent solution of white sugar; when substituting golden syrup for white sugar, about 25% less golden syrup is needed for the same level of sweetness.
The term invert comes from the method used for assessing sugar syrups. The plane of linear polarised light passed through a sample of pure sucrose solution is rotated to the right. As the solution is converted to a mixture of sucrose, fructose and glucose, the angle of rotation reduces, through zero and then increases in the opposite direction, thus the direction appears to have been inverted compared to light passed through the sucrose solution.
Lyle's golden syrup is a partially inverted sugar syrup. It consists of glucose and fructose syrup produced by inversion, which has been blended with the original sucrose syrup in a proportion that creates a thick mixture which does not crystallize.
Golden syrup is widely available across the world, made either from sugar cane or sugar beets, but in the United States, where white corn syrup is common, it is harder to find, except in Louisiana, where it often appears in Cajun cuisine.
Lyle's Golden Syrup, made by Tate & Lyle, remains one of the best known UK brands. The other UK sugar company, British Sugar, makes an equivalent product under its Silver Spoon brand.
In South Africa, the most popular brands are Illovo golden syrup and the locally produced Lyle's Golden Syrup. In addition to the classic golden syrup, several flavoured versions are also marketed, notably maple flavour.
In Australia, CSR Limited is the major producer, but it is also produced by Bundaberg Sugar and Smith's.
In New Zealand, Chelsea golden syrup has been a household name since the late 19th century.
Rogers Golden Syrup and Lyle's golden syrup are available in Canada. In Canada, Lyle's Golden Syrup is available in either a glass jar or the traditional tin.
King brand syrup, a mixture of corn and invert syrup, is sold in many areas of the US, often grouped with table syrups like maple syrup. Speciality stores or those with international sections, such as Wholefoods Market and Cost Plus World Market, often stock Lyle's golden syrup from the UK in several different packs.
In Germany, a similar product called Zuckerrübensirup (literally "sugar-beet syrup") is a popular spread, especially in the western part of the country around Cologne. The best known producer is the Grafschafter Krautfabrik which has produced Zuckerrübensirup for more than a hundred years. This syrup is almost always made from sugar-beet; golden syrup from sugar cane is extremely rare on the German market. There are two types of Zuckerrübensirup in Germany, a golden one, similar to golden syrup from sugar cane, and a brown syrup which is similar to dark treacle. The German company Schneekoppe makes a product called Frühstücks-Sirup (breakfast syrup), which is a golden syrup with some added natural flavor to imitate the taste of honey.
Official website of Ragus Sugars (Manufacturing) Ltd http://www.ragus.co.uk