Molasses is made from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets. It is the syrup left over after the sugar crystals precipitate from the juice during boiling. Manufacturers may add sulfur dioxide as a preservative to molasses made from young sugar cane.
Sugar producers boil the cane or beet juice up to three times to extract the maximum amount of sugar. Light molasses is produced after one boiling and has the highest sugar content of any molasses variety. It is lighter in color and less viscous than dark molasses, which is the result of the second boiling. Blackstrap molasses is what remains of the cane or beet juice after three boilings. It is very dark in color, highly viscous, and has a deep, spicy flavor.
Molasses has a long history of use as a sweetener in baked goods and Boston baked beans. Another use of molasses is in flavoring tobacco products. Molasses is also the base for distilling rum and contributes to the distinctive flavor of dark ales such as stout. Its nutrient content varies by brand and variety, but it is usually a good source of iron and also contains potassium, calcium and magnesium. Blackstrap molasses is the most nutrient-rich variety.