Molasses refers to the viscous by product obtained during the processing of cane sugar or sugar beet into actual sugar. It is a thick, dark brown syrup that is derived from boiling sugar cane juice during the process of refining. The word molasses originates from the Portuguese word ‘melaço’, which in turn is comes from the Latin word used for "honey".
The quality of molasses depends on various factors like the maturity of sugar cane, the process adopted for extraction, etc. Essentially a by-product of refining sugar cane, the thick syrupy molasses contains about 50% sucrose. It is the liquid that is separated from sugar crystals during the first stages of refining. Additional processing results in the formation of a much darker and stronger tasting molasses variant known as ‘black strap’.
Molasses had been imported to the United States from the Caribbean Islands by the early colonists. In fact, it was perhaps the most popular sweetener in use until the late 19th century, since it was found to be much more affordable than regular refined sugar, which was very expensive at that time.
Blackstrap molasses rose in popularity towards the middle of the 20th century with the advent of the global health food movement. Today, the largest producers of molasses are India, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Brazil and the United States.
Types and Uses
Also sometimes known as “dark treacle”, molasses is left over after the granulated sugar has been extracted. Typically appearing as a thick, dark, pungent liquid, Molasses is available in light, dark, unsulfured, and blackstrap variations that range from weak to strong in flavor. Light molasses is obviously the lightest in color and flavor; dark has a richer flavor; while blackstrap has a sort of bitter flavor unsuitable for most culinary purposes.
Molasses is in fact a common ingredient that finds use in baked products. it lends a distinctive flavor and noticeable color to baked goods, the intensity of which depend on the type of molasses used. Molasses offers quite a strong flavor in baking and an equivalent amount of it may be used as a substitute for honey or maple syrup in certain recipes.
o Also Molasses is the main ingredient in non agricole rum production.
o This apart, Molasses is a substance very often used by organic gardeners in order to deliver greater health to both soils and plants.
o Another interesting use of this versatile ingredient is in animal feeds. It is often added to feeds so as to reduce the dust content as well as improve overall palatability. Horses are very well adapted to digest and assimilate this as long as it is trickle fed.
Process of Manufacture
Several different grades and types of molasses are produced in the course of sugar cane processing. In the first stage, the sugar cane plants are harvested and then stripped of their leaves. Following this, the sugar cane is usually mashed or crushed in order to extract its sugary juice. Sugar manufacturing begins with the boiling of sugar cane juice until it reaches the appropriate consistency; it is finally processed to extract sugar. This first step of boiling and processing produces what is called “first molasses” and this has the highest sugar content among the other molasses because of the fact that relatively little sugar has been extracted from this juice. Green, i.e. the unripe sugar cane which has been subjected to treatment with sulphur fumes during the process of sugar extraction produces what is known as “sulphured molasses”. The juice from sun-ripened cane that then has been clarified and concentrated produces “unsulphured molasses”. Another round of boiling and sugar extraction produces the “second molasses” which has a slightly bitter tinge to its taste.
Further rounds of such processing and boiling yield the final dark colored “blackstrap molasses”, which is considered to be the most nutritionally valuable among all the various types of molasses. It is commonly used as a sweetener in the manufacture of cattle and other animal feeds in order to increase palatability, and is even sold as a human health supplement owing to its nutrient dense nature. As such, any kind of molasses would work to provide benefit to soil and growing plants, however, blackstrap molasses is by far the best choice since it possesses the highest concentration of sulphur, iron and micronutrients derived from the original cane plant.
There are several brands of Molasses available in the market today. For instance, the label of one such brand reads as follows –
Brer Rabbit Blackstrap Molasses
Nutritional Information and Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 1 Tbsp ~21 g. Servings per Container: About 24.
Amount Per Serving: Calories - 60;
Percentage Daily Values; Fat – 0 g, 0%; Sodium – 65 mg. 3%; Potassium - 800 mg. 23%; Total Carbohydrates – 13 g, 4%; Sugars – 12 g, Protein – 1 g, Calcium - 2%; Iron 10%; Magnesium 15%; Not a significant source of calories from fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Organically produced Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of minerals manganese and copper. It is also a very good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. In addition, blackstrap molasses is known to be a good source of vitamin B6 as well as selenium.
Blackstrap molasses is considered a healthful sweetener since it contains significant amounts of certain minerals that promote overall health. It is natural and if organically produced is more beneficial, unlike white sugar, corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine and aspartame that supply only empty calories and ‘zero’ useful nutrients.
1. Being a good source of mineral iron, apart from providing rapidly assimilated carbohydrates, blackstrap molasses can help increase energy levels by helping to replenish body iron stores. Iron is an integral constituent of haemoglobin that transports oxygen from lungs to all cells in the body, and also forms part of key enzyme systems responsible for energy production and metabolism. In comparison to red meat, molasses supplies more iron for lesser calories and is completely fat-free.
2. Calcium, another very important mineral in the body, involved in a variety of physiological activities, including the contraction of heart and other muscles, blood clotting mechanism, conduction of nerve impulses to and from the brain, regulation of enzyme activity, and cell membrane function is present in considerable amounts in Molasses.
Hence it is good for growing children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women as well as menstruating and post-menopausal women or those at increased risk of iron and calcium loss.
Molasses has a characteristic slightly bitter flavour, a trait that is favoured in traditional North American recipes such as Boston baked beans. It may also be used in the making of traditional sweet dishes such as gingerbreads, rich fruit cakes and treacle toffee.
- melted margarine or butter
- white sugar or brown sugar
- all-purpose flour
- baking soda
- ground cinnamon
- ground cloves
- ground ginger
- In a medium bowl, the melted margarine, sugar, and egg are mixed together until very smooth. The molasses is stirred in. The combination of flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger is passed through a sieve to mix uniformly; this is slowly blended into the molasses mixture to form a dough which is covered, and kept to chill.
- Oven is preheated to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Dough is then rolled into walnut sized balls, and flattened on the remaining white sugar. Cookies are then placed on greased baking sheets and baked until cracks appear on top. They are cooled on wire racks before storing in container.
A serving of 2 cookies ~ 60 g would provide-
· 120 calories
· 4.7 g fat
· 7 mg cholesterol
· 179 mg sodium
· 18.6 total carbohydrates with 0.3 g dietary fiber
· 1.1 g protein
Some other interesting recipe ideas that involve the use of molasses are-
Lamb, pepper and pineapple kebabs with lime, chilli and coriander mayonnaise in which lamb is marinated in the mixture consisting of molasses along with pineapple juice, vinegar and pepper.
Main Course Dishes-
- Aubergine and Bean Casserole in which molasses provide a distinct colour and flavour with a bitter-sweet taste.
- Balsamic, maple and molasses-dipped roast lamb in which molasses form part of the liquid marinade combining with olive oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, red wine and other ingredients.
- Sticky gingerbread pudding with ginger wine and brandy sauce wherein molasses is used both as part of the ginger wine brandy sauce as well as the main pudding mix itself.
A Few Quick Serving Suggestions
- Adding a little molasses to baked beans dishes will give them a traditionally robust flavor.
- Molasses imparts a deliciously distinctive flavor to cookies and gingerbread cakes as described above.
- Basting turkey or chicken with molasses will provide both a rich color and taste.