December 18, 2019 6:16 am Leave your thoughts
It’s the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down….or it used to be, back in the days when nanny would line up the children for a dose of castor oil followed by a teaspoonful of malt (such things still go on in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s house, of course). Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh was famously fond of it – and at Naturally Good Food we still sell it in significant quantities. Recently, a customer got in touch to ask if we could explain its health benefits. So we thought we’d use this blog to have a try!
Our barley malt extract
- Meridian’s organic, family-size jar
- Meridian’s non-organic family-size jar
- Rayner’s Essentials’ bulk 5kg organic tub
- Clearspring’s slightly smaller organic jar
What’s it made from?
Barley malt extract is basically a by-product of the brewing industry, made from barley grains. The drying process for the raw grain is known as ‘malting’ – the grain is germinated by soaking it in hot water, but the germination process is then stopped by drying the grain with hot air. The process allows enzymes to turn the starches in the grain into different types of sugars.
What does it taste like?
It’s essentially a treacly, thick syrup, with a sweet, mellow taste. Perhaps the easiest way to imagine the taste is to think through a list of common foods that are made with malt – you’ll soon pick up on the common taste factor!
Barley malt is used in Malted Milk biscuits and Maltesers (and now you know why they’re called that….), as well as in Ovaltine and Horlicks.
How do we use it nowadays?
Being syrupy, it’s a popular choice to sweeten hot drinks. It’s also often used in breadmaking, where it gives a particularly ‘homely’ flavour (and helps the bread to rise). It works well as a sugar substitute in other types of baking too.
On an industrial scale, you’ll find it added to breakfast cereals, biscuits and chocolate, as above.
Is it really good for you?
Barley malt extract was famously used as a tonic for children, in the post-War rationing years: being full of carbohydrate sugars, it gave children a bit of a boost and some much-needed nutrition, which was considered likely to ward off colds. As well as sugars, it’s rich in vitamin A and riboflavin. Back in the olden days, substances like cod liver oil were added to it too, with the sugars used to mask the taste, making it a genuinely medicinal product. As it’s now sold in an unadulterated form, and as our children seem to have no difficulty accessing sugars any more – do we still need it?
Do we still need it?
Dieticians tend to agree that it would be a reasonable supplement to give to a child recovering from illness or otherwise suffering from a loss of appetite – but that it wouldn’t be great to dole out on a regular basis to people already at the limit of their daily sugar allowance. Its most important trace elements, like vitamin A and riboflavin, can equally be found in other foodstuffs, such as eggs and various vegetables.
However, barley malt extract does make a really good alternative to sugar in hot drinks and in baking, for both adults and children. It’s probably therefore time to move this product out of the First Aid box and back onto the kitchen shelves, where its unique taste and nutritional profile can do us the most good!
Good ways to use barley malt extract
Why not try out one of these recipes?
Perfect bagels (barley malt syrup really helps to give the traditional flavour here)
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This post was written by Yzanne