This Is Why Southerners Put Syrup on Biscuits

Any old-school food lover in the South knows cane syrup is the classic accompaniment to biscuits

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While people from all over America love biscuits, the buttery, flaky baked goodness takes on mythic proportions in the South. Whether it’s fluffy biscuits, homemade buttermilk biscuits, or grandma’s biscuits, every Southerner holds strong opinions on what rendition is best, and passionate debates ensue. But one thing that unites old-school southern biscuit lovers is what to put on the biscuit. And it ain’t just butter. You’ll also need syrup.

Cane syrup, in fact, is the traditional complement to biscuits. Some call it the “maple syrup of the South.” Though to Southerners, that might be a tad offensive. Perhaps we should say that maple syrup is the “cane syrup of the north.”

In any case, syrup and biscuits are as much an established part of old-fashioned southern food as cornbread and milk or a tomato sandwich.

What is cane syrup?

Sugarcane is one of the South’s historic crops. In places like Louisiana, refineries would process the cane into syrups. Cane syrups are dark golden brown in color, with medium flavor intensity. More intensely concentrated than maple syrup, but not as heavy as molasses, cane syrup usually balances the sweetness with a touch of bitterness.

Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup, wrapped in its iconic label, is one of those syrups that still exists, made in Louisiana for over a century. More than a condiment, cane syrup is an essential part of Cajun/Creole cuisine, used in marinades, glazing a ham, or baking a pecan pie. Over time, it also became an indispensable accompaniment with biscuits.

In the upper South, in parts of Appalachia, there is also a tradition of sorghum syrup, often called “sorghum molasses,” which is even darker than cane syrup.

How do syrup and biscuits taste?

For many Southerners, it’s the taste of nostalgia itself. Jackie Garvin, who writes the food blog Syrup and Biscuits, describes eating syrup on biscuits as a primal southern-food memory.

“My granddaddy ate syrup and biscuits almost every morning of his life that lasted for 90 wonderful years,” Garvin writes. “Cane syrup was his favorite. He’d sop up the thick, rich, dark amber liquid with a hot biscuit and declare, ‘That Top O’ The World sirp sho’ is good.’ Early in my life, I had the notion that syrup and biscuits represented something very good.”

Any old-school Southerner will also tell you: Syrup and biscuits is not just for breakfast. You’ll see people adding cane syrup to their biscuits at lunch and dinner, too.

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