Molasses or treacle is a thick syrup by-product from the processing of the sugarcane or sugar beet into sugar. (In some parts of the US, molasses also refers to sorghum syrup.) The word molasses comes from the Portuguese word melaço, which comes from mel, the Portuguese word for "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.
To make molasses, which is pure sugar cane juice, the sugar cane plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is extracted from the canes, usually by crushing or mashing. The juice is boiled to concentrate which promotes 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 black strap molasses is still mostly sugar by calories; however, unlike refined sugars, it contains significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. Blackstrap molasses is a source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. One tablespoon provides up to 20 percent of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Black strap is often sold as a health supplement, as well as being used in the manufacture of cattle feed, and for other industrial uses.
It is possible to extract additional sugar from beet molasses through a process known as molasses desugarisation. 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 is used for yeast production.
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