Wednesday’s post on how to make your own brown sugar sparked more interest than I expected. And a few questions came up in the comments, so I decided to try to answer them in a post. Here is a summary of what I learned about molasses plus a few more recipes that use molasses.
Molasses is a byproduct of sugar production, whether from sugar cane or sugar beets. Until after the end of World War I, it was the main sweetener used in the U.S. because refined sugar was too expensive for most Americans to buy regularly. By 1919, the consumption of white sugar had doubled since 1880 due to a drastic price drop of refined sugar. These days molasses costs about twice as much as refined sugars.
- What is the difference between molasses and treacle?
This one is still not completely clear to me (maybe I should go find treacle and do a taste test), but according to About.com:
A pale, refined molasses, [treacle] is notably sweeter and has a much more mellow flavor than molasses. Nowadays, treacle is a blend of molasses and refinery syrup.
British treacle can be substituted for molasses in most recipes, but much less frequently will molasses work as a replacement for treacle.
- Aside from making brown sugar, what is molasses good for?
Brit, that is a great question. In the interest of full disclosure I feel I should tell you that I don’t use a lot of molasses. I make gingerbread for the holidays. And in the summer, I use it in barbecue sauce. But it keeps for a long time (years) so I always keep a little in the pantry.
I posed the question to the food community on Twitter and only got two responses. I’m not sure if that reflects more on the (lack of) popularity of molasses or of me, but Jacquie H. said homemade barbecue sauce and Janice Ray uses molasses for a deep, dark ginger cake. So from my sample of two, I seem to be about average in my use of the dark stuff.
I dug a little deeper and found out these interesting tidbits:
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% of the daily value of each of those nutrients.
In Australia, molasses is fermented to produce ethanol for use as an alternative fuel in motor vehicles, and is also used to treat burns.
- from Wikipedia
So it’s healthy, can be used in your garden and to feed your livestock (if you have any), and in Australia is turned into an alternative fuel. I also read on Wikipedia that it can be used to remove rust. Hmm.
A few more recipes using molasses:
- A list of Molasses Recipes on About.com including bread, beans, as well as the standard barbecue sauce and gingerbread.
- Quick whole wheat and molasses bread from Mark Bittman
- A treasure trove of molasses recipes from 101 Cookbooks
Well, I’m not sure I really answered your questions, but I learned a little about molasses. And now I’m craving gingerbread.