Frigiliana is a beautiful small town in the province Malaga in the region of Axarquía. Nestled among the whitewashed houses and the steep hills lies El Ingenio Nuestra Señora del Carmen, the only molasses (or cane honey) factory in Europe, which has been running for close to three hundred years.
Entering the factory is like taking a trip in time, back to the historic past of this area in the inlands of Malaga, and back to an industry that once boasted dozens of sugar factories like this one scattered throughout the south of Malaga and Granada. At the end of the 20th century, molasses began to disappear from the meadows of Malaga, which meant sugarcane juice, the main ingredient in this type of honey which is obtained by using rollers or mallets to press the cane, had to be imported from Central America.
In El Ingenio factory, the process is still artisanal. The sugarcane juice goes through the first filtering here and is cooked in pailas, large double bottomed pans that hold steam at 120ºC, the resulting syrup is filtered again and goes to a vacuum concentrator where the master honey maker runs it through a series of tests and then removes it from the heat when it has reached the correct thickness. The end product is one hundred percent natural, with no additives or preservatives and lasts indefinitely, thanks to its high concentration of sugar, although for health regulations, it is labeled with a “consume by” date of five years.
Using the same 18th century methods, today between 300 and 400 tons of molasses are turned out annually and are sold in Spain, a good part of Europe and to large clients like Israel.So the “black honey,” as it is known in the region, will be part of the most exquisite dishes—mixed, drizzled on tender shoots of lettuce or acidic fruits, on the popular fried eggplant and with tougher meats like goat and lamb.
Ah. A bit of advice: the darker it is, the better it tastes and the more nutrients it will have.