Blackstrap molasses is just one type of molasses, the dark liquid byproduct of the process of refining sugar cane into table sugar. It is made from the third boiling of the sugar syrup and is therefore the concentrated byproduct left over after the sugar’s sucrose has been crystallized.
Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of manganese and copper. It is a very good source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. In addition, blackstrap molasses is a good source of vitamin B6 and selenium.
Molasses has been imported into the United States from the Caribbean Islands since the time of the early colonists. In fact, it was the most popular sweetener used until the late 19th century since it was much more affordable than refined sugar, which was very expensive at that time.
In some respects, molasses has had a rather sticky history with at least two important historical events centering around this sweet food product. The first is the Molasses Act of 1733, a tariff passed by England to try to discourage the colonists from trading with areas of the West Indies that were not under British rule. This legislation is thought to be one of the events that catalyzed pre-revolutionary colonial dissent and unrest.
It is not often that a fateful tragedy occurs that centers around a food, but unfortunately, in 1919, one such event did occur. The event is referred to as the Great Molasses Flood and occurred when a molasses storage tank holding over two million gallons of molasses broke, and its sticky content came pouring throughout the city streets of Boston, Massachussetts, traveling as fast as 35 miles per hour and creating a thirty foot tidal wave of sweetener. Unfortunately, this was not a sweet matter as twenty-one people died and significant amounts of property was destroyed.
Blackstrap molasses gained in popularity in the mid-20th century with the advent of the health food movement. Today, the largest producers of molasses are India, Brazil, Taiwan, Thailand, the Phillipines and the United States.