How is it made?
Blackstrap molasses is derived from the same source as its relatives light and dark molasses. Light molasses is the by-product left after boiling sugar cane syrup to extract sucrose (white sugar crystals), the crystals becoming separated by use of centrifugal force. Additional boiling can be done to extract additional sugar crystals. Dark molasses is the by-product of the second boiling. The third boiling leaves blackstrap molasses, a very dark, viscous fluid which may be somewhat bitter. This bitterness gives the blackstrap molasses a 'twang' when used on buckwheat pancakes, in gingerbread cookies, baked beans or other foods. It can be used in barbecue sauces or by itself as a basting ingredient. Blackstrap molasses isn't for everyone, possessing quite a strong flavor.
Full of good stuff
This product contains high concentrations of several important nutrients such as manganese, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. This quality causes it to find a niche as a dietary supplement. Claims are made for it being useful in the prevention/treatment of fibroid and cancerous tumors, anxiety, constipation, edema, heart palpitations, anemia, joint pain, arthritis, and acne. It is of interest as a suppliment to pregnant women for its high iron content as well as vitamin B6. Leave it alone with a calculator and it probably will balance your checkbook.
Blackstrap molasses is also used in the industrial production of alcohol, yeast production, curing tobacco, as a flavoring ingredient in animal feeds, as well as in making rum.
Molasses has a long history. The English word molasses is derived from the Portuguese melaco, which in turn comes from the Latin mel, a word for honey. Blackstrap is a term probably derived from the Dutch word stroop, meaning syrup, with black refering to its characteristic dark coloration. First mention in print was in 1582 in a Portuguese book detailing the conquest of the West Indies. Molasses became a very popular and important trade item from the Caribbean Islands to the American colonies since early colonial times. Molasses was once the primary sweetener used in America during the late 19th century, being much more affordable than refined white sugar which at the time was considered a delicacy. It wasn't until after World War I when the price to produce white refined sugar fell dramatically that molasses lost its popularity.
Molasses can be divided into sulphured and unsulphured varieties. The production of molasses sometimes utilizes sulphur dioxide, a substance which remains in the finished product as a preservative. Some people are sensitive to sulphur so it is suggested that they take care to use the unsulphured type. Unsulphered molasses is said to possess a cleaner and somewhat lighter taste than sulphured.