Molasses (also known as cane molasses) is used in both cooking and baking to add color, rich flavor and moistness to the final product. This week’s Kitchen Questions & Answers is all about molasses: Do you know what a good substitute for it is or whether or not it goes bad? Do you know which is a better quality molasses: light or dark? These questions and more are answered below…
- What is molasses? When sugar is refined from sugarcane, there is a thick syrup that remains from the process. Molasses is this syrup and depending on what part of the refining process it comes from determines the grade and whether it’s light, dark or blackstrap.
- What is the difference between light and dark molasses, other than the color? Light molasses is of better quality since it’s less processed and is the syrup from the first batch (or boiling) of the sugar syrup. It’s of thinner consistency and milder in flavor than dark. Dark molasses is from the second boiling and it’s not as sweet as light molasses. Light molasses may be of better quality, but it’s not necessarily the ideal choice in certain recipes since it’s milder in flavor.
- What is blackstrap molasses? This is a low-grade molasses from the third batch (boiling) of the refining process. It’s the darkest and thickest with a more bitter flavor.
- What is the difference between sulphured or unsulphured molasses? Sulphur can be used in the refining process when young sugarcane is being processed, unsulfered means it wasn’t added and mature sugarcane was used.
- What is sorghum molasses? Instead of made from sugarcane, this is made from sorghum cane. It’s not a “true” molasses and is technically sorghum syrup. It can also refer to a mix of sorghum syrup and sugarcane molasses.
- How should molasses be stored? Keep it stored at room temperature (or slightly cooler), with the bottle cap sealed tight. To help prevent it from degrading too quickly or begin fermenting, don’t store in a warm location. You can refrigerate a bottle once it’s opened but the colder molasses gets, the thicker it becomes and it’s harder to pour (as the saying goes: “Slow as molasses in January”).
- My bottle of molasses is too thick to pour, any way I can still use it? Stick the bottle in a pot of warm water (not boiling) and let it sit for a bit. The consistency will soon be thin enough to pour.
- Does molasses go bad? Yes! You’ll likely notice there’s no expiry date on bottles of molasses but it can go moldy, ferment or crystallize when it gets old. Its shelf life is usually a good 18 months so you have plenty of time to use it up before it expires. If you’ve lost track of how old your bottle is, I use it as long as the texture looks fine (not crystallized), doesn’t smell off or fermenting, and there’s no sign of mold. If it’s fermenting, you’ll likely notice a release of gas when you open the bottle (it will smell bad too).
- What can I use to substitute molasses in a recipe? Try honey, maple syrup or corn syrup. Brown sugar can also be used as a substitution (use 3/4 of the amount of molasses called for–packed). Source: Handy Substitute Recipes For Baking .
- Any tips for measuring molasses? Molasses can be prevented from sticking to the measuring cup if the cup is first greased with butter, lard or non-stick cooking spray. If it’s a spoon you’re using to measure, brush the bowl of the spoon with butter before you begin to measure. Sources: 25 Vintage Baking Tips: Timeless Wisdom  and How To Measure Accurately .
Neat to Know: Molasses can be used to darken gravy .