Molasses is a by-product obtained from the processing of sugarcane and sugar beet into table sugar. Usually, molasses is a dark, viscous liquid that's generally made from sugarcane; however, sometimes grapes, sugar beets, sorghum, or other plants can also be used to make a molasses-like substance. The production of molasses requires several steps, including cutting the sugarcane plants, boiling, straining, skimming, and reboiling. When manufacturers make sugar, they boil sugarcane (and sometimes sugar beets) and remove crystallized (refined) sugar from the liquid. The remaining liquid is molasses. Molasses is usually considered a sugar by-product that goes through multiple boiling processes. Different types of molasses include:
- This is the highest grade of molasses. It is made from sugarcane juice that hasn’t had any sugar extracted from it.
- The residue from the first boiling is known as light or mild molasses.
- It has a distinctive, sweet, and mild taste.
- It contains around 65% sucrose.
- Light molasses often doubles as a sweetener and syrup for pancakes.
- The second boiling produces dark or full molasses.
- It is about 60% sucrose.
- Dark molasses is less sweet compared with light molasses.
- The flavor of dark molasses gives body to baked goods such as gingerbread and dishes such as baked beans.
- It is the product of the third and final boiling.
- It is thicker than both light and dark molasses and has bitter flavor.
- It is not used as a flavoring agent in foods, but health food stores sell it as a nutritional supplement.
- There isn’t enough sucrose left to make it taste sweet, so it almost tastes bitter. It is very thick, and because the sugar has been caramelized through each successive boiling, it is so dark brown that it’s almost black.
- It contains minerals including iron, calcium, and copper.
- It can be used for feeding cattle, making alcohol or rum, or selling to consumers if sweetened with something such as corn syrup. It is the last grade of molasses to be made. It is about 55% sucrose.
Other types of molasses:
- Manufacturers can also make molasses from sugar beet processing.
- Sugar beet molasses is unusable in food because it is extremely bitter.
- This molasses type is typically used to grow yeast.
- Another type of molasses, sulfured molasses, contains sulfur dioxide as a preservative.
- Sulfured molasses has strong and bitter taste. Moreover, it’s not as sweet as its un-sulfured peers.
- Molasses contains several essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, phosphorus, chromium, cobalt, and sodium.
- It is a good source of energy and carbohydrates, and it contains sugars.
- It offers various vitamins such as niacin (vitamin B-3), vitamin B-6, thiamine, and riboflavin. It is very low in both fat and fiber.
- Molasses has a dense nutritional content. It may help reduce stress and ease indigestion. It helps improve blood circulation and build stronger bones.
- The antioxidant content in blackstrap molasses contains the highest amount of antioxidants compared with that in refined sugar, corn syrup, raw cane sugar, and other sweeteners. These antioxidants protect the body against oxidative damage associated with cancer, cardiovascular disorders, and degenerative diseases.
- As per research, molasses can be used to treat menstrual cramps, constipation, rheumatism, and acne.
- Studies have reported that it can be used to maintain healthy uterine muscles, maintain an ideal weight, speed up the healing process, increase blood cells, and prevent hypokalemia.
Molasses is best kept at room temperature between 50°F and 70°F. The shelf life of molasses is generally 18 months when kept below 69.8°F and under reasonably steady conditions of temperature and humidity. Refrigeration or freezing may crystallize the natural sugars and therefore is not recommended.