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With countless studies showing its potentially harmful effects on health, it’s hard to believe that anything useful could come of refined sugars. Molasses may just be the exception.
Molasses, also known as black treacle, is the brown-coloured syrup that’s remains when sugarcane is refined into granulated sugar. Harvested sugarcane is stripped of its leaves and pressed or crushed to extract the inside juices. This liquid is then boiled into a concentrate until crystals are formed. The solid crystals are what we use as standard table sugar. The fluid syrup is then reserved or boiled again, and the number of boils determines the grading — and the flavour — of the finished product.
A single boil yields ‘A’ molasses — sometimes referred to as ‘light’ molasses — with the mildest taste and more commonly used in baked goods. After second boil and crystal removal, ‘B’ or ‘dark’ molasses results. And finally, a third boil generates the thickest and darkest molasses, named ‘blackstrap’ molasses (grade C). With most of the sugar crystals removed, blackstrap is the least sweet — even slightly bitter — of the trio.
Interestingly, molasses can be made from other plant-based foods — most commonly sugar beets, but also sorghum, pomegranate, carob and dates, in rarer circumstances. However, the syrup from sugar beets has a rather acidic and salty taste, so it’s largely applied in the manufacturing of animal feeds.
So, why is this syrup worth including in your pantry? Well, blackstrap molasses is arguably one of the most nutrient-rich of all the sweeteners on the market. It delivers ample amounts of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which isn’t readily available in processed modern food choices. It also provides nearly 200mg of calcium, 3.5mg of iron and 43mg of magnesium – or about 10 to 20 per cent of your daily required intake of these essential minerals, depending on your age group. These minerals frequently run low for vegetarians and vegans, or fussy little eaters. Some research also demonstrate that molasses contains more antioxidant-rich polyphenolic compounds than many other ‘natural’ sweeteners such as honey, agave or maple.
Additionally, molasses — especially blackstrap — has a more robust flavour than any other sweetener. Earthy and savoury, it gives baked goods, marinades, sauces and salad dressings that extra boost.