Molasses, or black treacle (British, for human consumption; known as molasses otherwise), is a viscous by-product of the refining of sugarcane or sugar beets into sugar. The word comes from the Proto-Indo-European *mélid". Cognates include Ancient Greek μέλι (méli) (honey), Latin mel, Portuguese melaço. 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. Often the fields of cane are set on fire to burn off the leaves and drive out the snakes that seem to enjoy this habitat. 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 flavor. 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 has long been sold as a health supplement. It is used for producing ethanol for industry and as an ingredient in cattle feed. Blackstrap molasses is significantly more bitter than "regular" molasses.
Sugar beet molasses
Molasses made from sugar beets differs from sugarcane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystallization 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 is also used for yeast production.
Many kinds of molasses on the market will come branded as unsulphured (using the original British spelling of sulfur). Many foods, including molasses, were treated with sulfur dioxide as a preservative, helping to kill off molds and bacteria. Sulfur dioxide is also used as a bleaching agent, and helped to lighten the color of molasses. Most brands have veered away from sulphured molasses, due to its relatively stable natural shelf life, the off flavor that can arise from using sulfur dioxide, and the fact that sulfur dioxide in high doses can be toxic.
Blackstrap molasses, or simply blackstrap, is the dark, viscous molasses remaining after maximum extraction of sugar from raw sugar cane. This residual product of sugar refining is used in the manufacture of ethanol for industry and as an ingredient in cattle feed. The term is an Americanism dating from the 1870s. First known use is in a book by detective Allan Pinkerton in 1877. In North India it is known by Urdu word Raab.
The third boiling of sugar syrup yields blackstrap molasses. The majority of sucrose from the original crystallizes through this process, though the calorific content of blackstrap molasses is still mostly due to the small remaining sugar content. Unlike refined sugars, it contains significant amounts of vitamin B6 and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese; one tablespoon provides up to 20% of the recommended daily value of each of those nutrients. Blackstrap is also a good source of potassium. It is sometimes used in baking or as fertilizer.
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 The King, Al Fakher Tobacco, Cedars Tobacco, Mazaya, 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
- In certain cookies
- As a humectant in jerky processing
- 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 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
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,213 kJ (290 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
- Sucrose: 5.88 g
- Glucose: 2.38 g
- Fructose: 2.56 g
Minerals in Meridian/Organic/Pure blackstrap - per 100 g (equivalent to 5 tablespoons):
- Calcium: 400 mg (50% RDA)
- Iron: 13 mg (95% RDA)
- Magnesium: 300 mg (38% RDA)
- Anadama bread
- Brown sugar
- Great Molasses Flood
- Maillard reaction
- Shoofly pie
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Media related to Molasses at Wikimedia Commons