This recipe is a bit confusing because we don’t think or measure or even use some of these ingredients anymore! First and foremost, treacle. What exactly is this stuff? You might have heard some snarky society commentator complaining that “so and so is spewing utter treacle and it’s nauseating” or the like. Treacle is a sugar syrup and is the product of the sugar cane refining process. It is still in use in Britain under the name dark treacle. The closest similar item you will quickly recognize is molasses, also a product of the sugar refining process, yet one is obtained in a different way than the other. I found Recipes4Us has the Reader’s Digest version on treacle so click over there for more detail. For our purposes today, you may use molasses, but do know that there is clear treacle and dark treacle. Dark treacle is similar to black strap molasses and will give you a stronger flavor. If you wanted to try a clear treacle substitute, you could try light Karo. Unfortunately, the recipe above does not specify which type of treacle was to be used, though I suspect it is dark treacle (in which case just use molasses).
Secondly, this business of weighing your saucepan. When Maggie Ritchey was writing this recipe in class, she did not have the ability to take the “tare weight” of the container, meaning she couldn’t just pour out 1/2 a pound of treacle; it had to go into something and that something had a weight as well, so she calculated the weight of her saucepan plus 1/2 a pound, took out the weight, then poured her 1/2 pound of treacle. Today’s modern scales will weigh your container and then balance the scale to zero, effectively setting the scale to a negative weight. What does this mean in 21st century measurements? You will be using somewhere around 8 ounces of treacle or molasses. Use a scale to weigh your measuring cup, hit the tare button, then start pouring until your scale reaches 1/2 pound. Normally I would calculate this for you but my scale broke and I’ve yet to replace it.
This gingerbread recipe does not sound like the sweet and spicy gingerbread our modern palate is accustomed to – it uses cayenne pepper and caraway seeds, probably giving it a kick back that is a savory and pleasant finish after the sweetness of the treacle and sugar.
Take the weight of a saucepan, add 1/2 lb weight. Pour into the saucepan 1/2 lb treacle. Take the saucepan off the scales & weight 1/4 lb lard. Add this to the treacle. 1/2 lb sugar 1/2 teacupful water. Put the pan on the fire & let these melt. Put into a basin 1 lb flour 1/2 teaspoonful salt 1/2 teaspoonful ground ginger 1/2 teaspoonful ground cinnamon, a pinch of allspice 1/2 teaspoonful carbonic of soda, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a tablespoonful carraway seeds. Mix these all well together. Drop in 2 whole eggs, with the melted treacle, lard & water. Beat very thoroughly. Place in a greased baking sheet & bake in a slow oven for 1 hour. The addition of some blanched, chopped almonds will be an improvement to those who like them.