Is Molasses Good For You? (Five Reasons Why + A History Lesson)
by Esme Addison
My favorite way to eat a biscuit, is very lightly sprinkled with salt, slathered in butter (on top, the bottom, split open with a pat in the middle) and served with a side of molasses.
I don’t know what it is about molasses but I love the taste. I’ve been eating since I was a child, and there is always a jar of it in my pantry. And my parent’s pantry and also my brother and sisters. However, I’m beginning to think it’s something you have to develop a taste for because I’ve tried to geta few people (namely Yankees) to try it – and they hated it! Looked at me like I was trying to feed them poison.
Well, I never! Ha.
But all of this brings me to the history of molasses. I’ve never given much thought to what molasses is beyond a by-product of sugar, and where it comes from… the Caribbean. But I thought now as I satisfy my urge to learn about the history of many of my beloved southern foods, Molasses was ripe for the proverbial picking.
So here it goes.
Table of Contents
What Is Molasses?
Molasses is a thick, syrup-like sweetener that has been used for centuries in cooking and baking. It is made from the juice of sugar cane or sugar beets, which is then boiled down to concentrate the sugar. The end result is a rich, flavorful sweetener that has been a staple in kitchens around the world for generations.
The history of molasses dates back to ancient times when sugar cane was first domesticated in Southeast Asia. It was introduced to the Western world by the Moors during their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the centuries, sugar cane plantations spread throughout the world, particularly in the Caribbean and South America. Molasses was produced as a byproduct of sugar production, and it quickly became a staple in the diets of people in these regions.
How Did Molasses Get To The US?
In the United States, molasses was brought over by the first settlers and became a staple in the South. It was used in a variety of dishes, including baked goods, sauces, and marinades. In the 19th century, molasses was also used to make rum, which became an important commodity in the American colonies.
Fun fact: My maternal grandfather was from Trinidad, and when he came to the United States as a young man, he had his trusty machete with him. Machetes were often used to chop down sugar cane, which in term made sugar and molasses. That old machete is something of a family heirloom – of the cultural kind – and it along with some stories is passed down the generations.
During the colonial era, molasses was an important export from the Caribbean to the American colonies, where it was used to produce rum and other alcoholic beverages. The triangular trade route, which involved the exchange of molasses, rum, and slaves between the Caribbean, Africa, and North America, was a cornerstone of the colonial economy and played a major role in the development of the modern world.
In the 19th century, molasses was also used as a key ingredient in the production of industrial alcohol, which was used as a fuel and solvent. In 1919, a molasses storage tank in Boston burst, causing a huge wave of syrup to flood the city’s streets and killing 21 people. The disaster, known as the “Boston Molasses Disaster,” or the “The Great Molasses Flood” is considered one of the largest industrial accidents in American history. In case you’re interested in learning how one can die from molasses… check out this interesting article 22 Surreal Photos From The Great Boston Molasses Flood And Its Sticky Aftermath.
As a writer of cozy mysteries, (you know the genre with puntastic titles) I can’t help but think that The Molasses Disaster would be a great title for a culinary mystery. At any rate…
Despite its association with alcohol and industrial accidents, molasses continues to be a popular ingredient in cooking and baking. It is prized for its distinctive, rich flavor and is used in a variety of recipes, from baked goods and sauces to marinades and sweets. Today, molasses is produced in many countries around the world and continues to play an important role in the global food and beverage industry.
Molasses has been produced for centuries in various parts of the world and has played an important role in the cuisine and culture of many countries. Historically, the largest producers of molasses were the sugar cane plantations in the Caribbean and South America. These areas had abundant sugar cane fields and a warm climate that was ideal for sugar production, which led to the development of a thriving molasses industry.
In the 19th century, the production of molasses expanded to the Southern United States, where sugar cane was grown in the warmer coastal regions. The production of molasses was an important industry in the South, and it played a significant role in the economy of the region.
Where Is Molasses Produced?
Today, molasses is still produced in many of the same areas as it has been for centuries. In the Caribbean and South America, molasses continues to be a staple ingredient in the local cuisine, and it is still produced on a large scale for export. In the United States, molasses is still produced in the South, although the industry is much smaller than it was in the past.
And in addition to these traditional molasses-producing regions, the sweetener is now produced in many other parts of the world. For example, Europe and Asia also have sugar beet and sugar cane fields, and they now produce their own molasses. With advances in transportation and technology, molasses is now more widely available than ever before, making it easy for people to enjoy its unique flavor and versatility no matter where they live.
In the Southern United States, molasses was historically produced in the warmer coastal regions where sugar cane was grown. Some of the states that were known for their molasses production include Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. These states had ideal growing conditions for sugar cane and a rich history of sugar production, which led to the development of a thriving molasses industry.
In Louisiana, molasses was an important ingredient in the local cuisine, and it was used to make a variety of dishes, including gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines. In Florida, molasses was used to make rum, which became an important commodity in the American colonies.
Today, although the molasses industry in the Southern United States is much smaller than it was in the past, the sweetener is still produced in some parts of the region. For example, in Louisiana, small-scale molasses production continues to this day, and it is still used as a staple ingredient in the local cuisine.
When I try to cajole non-southerners to try molasses. I always mention how healthy it is for you. You can’t say that about plain ol’ sugar can you?
Five Reasons To Incorporate Molasses Into Your Diet
Not just delicious. Here are five health benefits of molasses:
- Rich in minerals: Molasses is a rich source of minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. These minerals are essential for good health and play a role in maintaining strong bones, a healthy immune system, and proper muscle function.
- Good source of antioxidants: Molasses contains antioxidants, which help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are important for overall health and can help prevent chronic diseases.
- Low glycemic index: Molasses has a low glycemic index, which means it does not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This can be beneficial for people with diabetes, as it helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
- May improve digestion: Molasses contains fiber and prebiotics, which can help improve digestion and promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
- May improve heart health: Some studies suggest that molasses may help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
So, when you’re sopping that biscuit in a pool of ebony goodness, you’re doing something good for your body! I personally feel like I never get enough iron, especially since I’m a pescatarian who tends to be low carb at times. I get the majority of my iron from molasses. And I love that it’s low on the glycemic index. I mean the biscuit is going to cause my sugar level to spike, but at least the molasses won’t add to it.
Gingerbread, BBQ Sauce & More
In the kitchen, molasses is often used as a sweetener in baking and cooking. It is particularly popular in the making of gingerbread, cookies, cakes, and pies. It is also used as a sweetener in sauces, marinades, and glazes for meats, such as ham and pork. Molasses is also a key ingredient in traditional Southern barbecue sauces, lending a sweet, tangy flavor to the sauce.
One of the most popular dishes that uses molasses is baked beans. This classic Southern dish is made by simmering navy beans in a mixture of molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, and spices. The result is a rich, flavorful dish that is perfect for outdoor barbecues or a hearty winter meal.
I do love a molasses-based bbq sauce. Of course, you have to get the rations just right or the molasses can really overpower the other flavors.
Not All Molasses Are Created Equal
There are several types of molasses, each with its own unique flavor profile, color, and nutrient content.
Here is a detailed overview of the different types of molasses:
- Light Molasses: Also known as mild molasses or first molasses, light molasses is made from the first boiling of the sugar cane syrup. It is the sweetest and lightest in color, with a mild, slightly caramel-like flavor. Light molasses is often used in baking, particularly in gingerbread, cookies, and cakes, to add moisture and a subtle sweetness.
- Dark Molasses: Also known as robust molasses or second molasses, dark molasses is made from the second boiling of the sugar cane syrup. It has a stronger, slightly bitter flavor and a darker color compared to light molasses. Dark molasses is often used in sauces, marinades, and baking, and can be substituted for light molasses in many recipes.
- Blackstrap Molasses: Blackstrap molasses is made from the third boiling of the sugar cane syrup and is the most flavorful and nutritious of all the types of molasses. It is dark in color, with a strong, slightly bitter, and slightly smoky flavor. Blackstrap molasses is a rich source of minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and is often used in baking, as well as for health purposes as a natural supplement.
- Unsulphured Molasses: Unsulphured molasses is made without the addition of sulphur dioxide, a common preservative used in the production of molasses. Unsulphured molasses has a milder, slightly sweeter flavor compared to sulphured molasses, and is considered a healthier alternative.
- Sulphured Molasses: Sulphured molasses is made with the addition of sulphur dioxide, which helps to preserve the molasses and gives it a stronger flavor. Sulphured molasses is less expensive and has a longer shelf life compared to unsulphured molasses, but some people may be sensitive to sulphur dioxide.
You might think when you head to the molasses aisle of your favorite grocery store, that you can just grab any ol’ molasses jar. But I don’t think so. I made that mistake a few times when I couldn’t find our family’s favorite brand. I tried two different kinds – and – blech! Not awesome. Not sure why I didn’t like those other brands but I definitely have a favorite. Other southerners may feel differently. Actually, I’d love to hear from you in comments about which brands you love.
I have not tried every single molasses in the market, so, I’m sure I could find others I like. But I took a photograph of the jar I keep in my pantry for this article.
Click on the image of the molasses jar to try out my favorite molasses brand using our Amazon affiliate link. Grandma’s is my favorite brand, though I’m opening to trying different ones. Tell me in comments what you’ll make with it.