The first time that I shopped for molasses at the Natural Food store I saw that they had 2 kinds, organic sulphured and organic unsulphured .
Not knowing the difference I blindly bought the organic unsulphured kind simply because unsulphured seemed to be better than sulphured.
Of course I came home and googled it to see what the difference is. I am still not sure that I totally understand the difference but here is what I found out (Thanks to About.com and The World's Healthiest Foods respectively).
- Molasses is made from sugar cane.
- The two main tasks required to make molasses from sugar cane are to separate out the sugar cane juice from the pulp, and then to extract the sugar (mostly sucrose) from the juice.
- What's called molasses is the syrup that remains after the sugar has been extracted from the juice. It's not that easy to extract all of the sucrose from sugar cane juice.
- The lighter the molasses, the sweeter it is.
- After a first round of processing, which involves spinning the juice in a centrifuge and heating (boiling), you can get a lot of the sucrose out, but not all of it. The syrup that remains after this first round of processing is the light molasses you see in the grocery store. It's also called "first" molasses and has the mildest taste of any molasses.
- Another round of processing is needed to further extract more sucrose. (The removal of sucrose from the molasses syrup is not all that significant on the nutrition side of things, but it is important to the manufacturer on the economic side because the removed sucrose can be further processed and sold as table sugar). This second round of processing further concentrates the syrup and also darkens it, resulting in the dark molasses you find in most grocery stores. Dark molasses is also called second molasses. (This is they kind that I use to put in my son's oatmeal)
- A third round of processing is possible, and this is the round that results in the product known as blackstrap molasses (This is the kind that I put into my kids oatmeal now).
Blackstrap molasses is the thickest form of molasses, the darkest, and the most dense in terms of minerals.
- Three rounds of heating are the reason for the very dark color of blackstrap molasses, because even though many sugars have been removed from the syrup, the sugars that do remain get caramelized from three rounds of heating.
- Blackstrap refers to the color of the molasses, which is extremely dark. It has a very strong, somewhat bittersweet flavor with a heady aroma.
- It contains many of the nutrients left behind by refined sugar crystals. By measure, it is 55% sucrose, the least sweet of the varieties.
- Sometimes you'll only find blackstrap molasses in natural foods stores.
- You'll find significant amounts of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and selenium in blackstrap molasses.
- Sulfur dioxide can be used for a variety of reasons during the processing of sugar cane or the production of molasses.
- Most commonly, sulfur dioxide is used to lighten the color of the molasses or to help extend its shelf life.
- It may also be used to help with the processing of sugar cane when the cane has been harvested at an early stage.
- In principle, it would seem that a sugar cane allowed to sun-ripen and develop would make for a more natural food product than a sugar cane that was harvested at an early stage.
- On the environmental side, sulfur dioxide is a primary component in the production of acid rain, and is a pollutant of enormous concern to environmental scientists. The idea of a sugar cane processing facility releasing more sulfur dioxide into the air is not environmental friendly.
All varieties can contain sulphur depending on the specific refining process used, but unsulphured products are available.
So after my extensive Internet searches that is what I know about unsulphured vs sulphured molasses.
I am not sure I am any wiser about unsulphured molasses but I do know that I will continue to add organic blackstrap molasses to my children's morning oatmeal cuz it seems like a healthy thing to do.