During the refining of sugar cane and sugar beets, the juice squeezed from these plants is boiled to a syrupy mixture from which sugar crystals are extracted. The remaining brownish-black liquid is molasses. Light molasses comes from the first boiling of the sugar syrup and is lighter in both flavor and color. It's often used as a pancake and waffle syrup. Dark molasses comes from a second boiling and is darker, thicker and less sweet than light molasses. It's generally used as a flavoring in American classics such as gingerbread, shoofly pie, Indian pudding and Boston baked beans. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling and is what amounts to the dregs of the barrel. It's very thick, dark and somewhat bitter. Though it's popular with health-food followers, it's more commonly used as a cattle food. Contrary to what many believe, blackstrap is not a nutritional panacea. In truth, it's only fractionally richer than the other types of molasses in iron, calcium and phosphorus and many of its minerals are not assimilable. Sorghum molasses is the syrup produced from the cereal grain sorghum. Whether or not molasses is sulphured or unsulphured depends on whether sulphur was used in the processing. In general, unsulphured molasses is lighter and has a cleaner sugar-cane flavor.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.