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Molasses (American and Canadian English) or treacle (British) 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". Molasses varies by amount of sugar and method of extraction, and age of plant.
To make molasses, sugar cane is harvested and stripped of leaves. Its juice is extracted usually by cutting, crushing or mashing. The juice is boiled to concentrate it, promoting sugar crystallization. The result of this first boiling is called first syrup, and it has the highest sugar content. First syrup is usually referred to in the Southern states of the US as "cane syrup", as opposed to molasses. Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter 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 of blackstrap molasses is 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 those nutrients. Blackstrap has long been sold as a health supplement. It is used making ethyl alcohol for industry and as an ingredient in cattle feed.
Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking and cooking.
Sugar beet molasses
Molasses from sugar beet differ from sugarcane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystal ligation stage is called molasses; intermediate syrups are called high green and low green, and these are recycled within the crystallization plant to maximize extraction. Beet molasses is 50% sugar by dry weight, predominantly sucrose, but contains significant amounts of glucose and fructose. Beet molasses are limited in biotin (vitamin H or B7) for cell growth; hence, it may be supplemented with a biotin source. The non-sugar content includes many salts, such as calcium, potassium, oxalate, and chloride. It contains betaine and the trisaccharide raffinose. These are as a result of concentration from the original plant material or chemicals in 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 molasses desugarization. This 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 market price. As such, it is practiced in the US. and parts of Europe. Molasses are also used for yeast production.
In Middle Eastern cuisine, molasses is produced from carob, grapes, dates, pomegranates, and mulberries. In Nepal it is called chaku (Nepal Bhasa: चाकु) and used in the preparation of Newari condiments such as yomari.
Food products and additives
Molasses can be used as:
- The principal ingredient in the distillation of rum
- In 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, Salloum and Hookafina Blak )
- In dark rye breads
- 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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