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Molasses

Molasses or treacle is a thick syrup by-product from the processing of the sugarcane or sugar beet into sugar. The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word mela�o, which is in turn the Greek "mellas" - honey. The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method of extraction.

Cane molasses

Sulphured molasses is made from green, not yellow, sugar cane and is treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extraction process. The sugar cane plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is then extracted from the canes, usually by crushing or mashing. The juice is boiled to concentrate and promote the crystallization of the sugar. The results of this first boiling and removal of sugar crystal is first molasses, which has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the juice.

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 gives blackstrap molasses. The majority of sucrose from the original juice has been crystallized but blackstrap molasses is still mostly sugar by calories, but unlike refined sugars, it contains significant amounts vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, and iron. One tablespoon provides up to 20 percent of the daily value of each of those nutrients.  Blackstrap is often sold as a health supplement, as well as being used in the manufacture of cattle feed, and for other industrial uses.

Sugar beet molasses

Molasses from the sugar beet is different from cane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystallization stage is 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 containing significant amounts of glucose and fructose. The non-sugar content includes many salts such as calcium, potassium, oxalate and chloride. These are either as a result of concentration from the original plant material or as a result of chemicals used in the processing. As such, it is unpalatable and is mainly used as an additive to animal feed or as a fermentation feedstock.

Substitutes

Cane molasses is a common ingredient in baking, often used in baked goods such as gingerbread cookies. There are a number of substitutions that can be made for molasses; for a cup of molasses the following may be used (with varying degrees of success): 1 cup honey, or 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, or 1 cup dark corn syrup, or 1 cup pure maple syrup.


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