Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Molasses or treacle is a thick, syrupy derivative of the juice of the sugarcane plant or the processing of sugar beet. The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method of extraction.
There are three major types of molasses: unsulphured, sulphured and blackstrap. There are also three major grades of molasses: first molasses, second molasses, and blackstrap molasses.
- Unsulphured molasses is the finest quality. It is made from the juice of sun-ripened cane and the juice is clarified and concentrated.
- Sulphured molasses is made from green (unripe) sugar cane and is treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extraction process.
- Each season, the sugar cane plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is then extracted from the canes (usually by crushing or mashing), boiled until it has reached the appropriate consistency, and processed to extract the sugar. The results of this first boiling and processing 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. Further rounds of processing and boiling yield the dark blackstrap molasses, which is the most nutritionally valuable, and thus often sold as a health supplement, as well as being used in the manufacture of cattle feed, and for other industrial uses.
Sugar Beet Molasses
Molasses production from the sugar beet is different. It is about 50% sugar by dry weight predominantly sucrose but also significant ammounts of glucose and fructose. The non-sugar content includes many salts such as calcium, potassium, oxalate and chloride. As such it is unpalatable and is only useful as an additive to animal feed or as a fermentation feedstock. Only the syrup left from the final crystallisation stage is called molasses, intermediate syrups are referred to as high green and low green.
The non-sucrose elements in the beet sugar production process are called molassegenic because they take equal amounts of sucrose with them to the molasses stage where it cannot be economically extracted.
- Molasses is a chelating agent. An object coated with iron rust placed for two weeks in a mixture of one part molasses to nine parts water will lose its rust due to the chelating action of the molasses.
- A famous incident involving molasses was the Boston Molasses Disaster on January 15 1919, in which a large molasses storage tank burst and flooded a neighborhood of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150.
- The British pudding Treacle Tart does not use any treacle but golden syrup.
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