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Molasses (American & Canadian English) or treacle (British English) is a viscous by-product of the refining of sugarcane, grapes, or sugar beets into sugar. The word comes from the Portuguese melaço, ultimately derived from mel, the Latin word for "honey". The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the source plant, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method employed.
To make molasses, the cane of a sugar plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is extracted usually by crushing or mashing, but also by cutting. The juice is boiled to concentrate it, which promotes the crystallisation of the sugar. The result of this first boiling is called first syrup, and it has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the source. First syrup is usually referred to in the Southern states of the USA as "cane syrup", as opposed to molasses. Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter tinge to its taste.
The third boiling of the sugar syrup yields blackstrap molasses, known for its robust flavour. The term blackstrap molasses is an Americanism dating from around 1875. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallised and removed. The food energy content of blackstrap molasses is still mostly from the small remaining sugar content. However, unlike refined sugars, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and significant amounts of several minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap has long been sold as a health supplement. It is also used in the manufacture of ethyl alcohol for industry and as an ingredient in cattle feed.
Sugar beet molasses
Molasses made from sugar beet are different from sugarcane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystal ligation stage are called molasses; intermediate syrups are referred to as high green and low green, and these are recycled within the crystallization plant to maximize extraction. Beet molasses is about 50% sugar by dry weight, predominantly sucrose, but also contains significant amounts of glucose and fructose. Beet molasses are limited in biotin (vitamin H or B7) for cell growth; hence, it may need to be supplemented with a biotin source. The non-sugar content includes many salts, such as calcium, potassium, oxalate, and chloride. It also contains the compounds betaine and the trisaccharide raffinose. These are either as a result of concentration from the original plant material or as a result of chemicals used in the processing, and make it unpalatable to humans. Hence it is mainly used as an additive to animal feed (called "molassed sugar beet feed") or as a fermentation feedstock.
It is possible to extract additional sugar from beet molasses through a process known as molasses desugarization. This technique exploits industrial-scale chromatography to separate sucrose from non-sugar components. The technique is economically viable in trade-protected areas, where the price of sugar is supported above the world market price. As such, it is practiced in the U.S. and parts of Europe. Molasses are also used for yeast production.
Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking and cooking. One of the following may be substituted (in varying proportions) depending on whether the dish is sweet or savory:
- Black treacle
- Sweet sorghum syrup
- Barley malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Brown sugar
- Dark corn syrup
- Kecap manis, a thick Indonesian soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar.
- Date Syrup (known as Silan or Rub)
In Middle Eastern cuisine, molasses is produced variously from carob, grapes, dates, pomegranates, and mulberries. In Nepal it is called chaku (Nepal Bhasa: चाकु) and used in the preparation of various Newari condiments such as yomari. It is also a popular ingredient in ghya-chaku.
Food products and additives
Molasses can be used as:
- The principal ingredient in the distillation of rum
- In certain beer styles such as stouts or porters
- An additive in tobacco smoked in a hookah, shisha, or narghile (found in the brands Mazaya, Al-Fakher, Nakhla, Tangiers and Salloum)
- An additive in livestock feeds
- An ingredient in fishing groundbait
- A source for yeast production.
- An iron supplement
- The main ingredient in the production of Citric acid
- The carbon source for in situ remediation of chlorinated hydrocarbons
- Blended with magnesium chloride and used for de-icing.
- A stock for ethanol fermentation to produce an alternative fuel for motor vehicles
- As a chelating agent to remove rust
- As a minor component of mortar for brickwork
- Mixed with glue to case ink rollers on early printing presses.
- As a soil additive to promote microbial activity.
- Sucrose: 5.88 g
- Glucose: 2.38 g
- Fructose: 2.56 g
Minerals in Meridian/Organic/Pure blackstrap - per 100 g:
- Calcium: 400 mg (50% RDA)
- Iron: 13 mg (95% RDA)
- Magnesium: 300 mg (38% RDA)
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- "Molasses" at Dictionary.com
- "Health Benefits of Blackstrap Molasses". Spiritfoods. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- The Cambria freeman., 26 March 1875, Image 3
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