Molasses

Betty Rook wrote . . . . . . . . .

What is Molasses?

Molasses, also known as black treacle, is a thick syrup which is a by-product of the sugar refining process. Its name originates from the Latin word ‘melaceres’ meaning ‘honey-like’ as it is extremely viscous. Molasses is the result of sugar crystallizing out of sugarcane or sugar beet juice during the clarification stage of sugar refining. It is extremely diverse and is used primarily for sweetening and flavouring food products, home baking, brewing ale, distilling rum, animal feed, flavouring tobacco products and as a defining component of commercial brown sugar.

History

The crystallization process required to produce molasses from sugarcane was first developed in India as early as 500 BC. However, it was not until much later that this process began to spread to the rest of the world. Arab invaders eventually brought the process from India to Spain in the Middle Ages, however the global diffusion of the process was really down to Christopher Columbus. After landing in the Canary Islands in 1493, he brought sugarcane to the West Indies where the production of molasses proved to be very lucrative.

Molasses grew to be extremely prominent during the late seventeenth century in the notoriously tragic slave trade triangles and was referred to as the ‘Colonial molasses trade’. African slave traders who brought their slaves to the West Indies often used to buy English rum and then take West Indian molasses to England. In the eighteenth century, sugar-refining produced a much higher molasses to sugar ratio than it does today, with an estimation of production being three parts molasses to four parts sugar. This molasses was primarily used for producing rum.

The trading of Molasses was unrestrained when it first began except for small local taxes. American colonies began to prefer French molasses over British because their policy provided much cheaper prices which Britain could not compete with. As a result, the Great British Parliament made the decision to impose high taxes on any molasses that was shipped from a foreign power to North American colonies. This ‘Molasses Act of 1733’ imposed a six pence fee per gallon on foreign molasses with the intention that the colonies would have to buy British molasses or stop producing rum. Instead however, the colonies ignored the new Molasses Act and thought it would be better to smuggle molasses from the West Indies rather than to comply with the prohibitive taxes. The illicit smuggling of molasses continued for many decades and had it not been for these illegal operations, the New England rum production would have undoubtedly been destroyed.

Manufacturing Process

The primary ingredients for the sugar process of which molasses is a by-product are sugarcane and sugar beet. Other raw materials used in the process include limewater and carbon dioxide. Limewater, also known as ‘milk from lime’, is used in the sugar clarification process and is produced by heating limestone in a kiln. The limestone then gets mixed with sweet water from a previous clarification process to produce limewater. Carbon dioxide is released in this limewater process, it is purified in tanks and also used in the clarification of the sugar juice.

Regardless of whether the base is sugarcane or sugar beet, the sugar refining process of which molasses is a by-product is a cyclical process of washing and heating the cane or beets in hot water. The next step is the extraction of the sugar juice which for sugarcane can be accomplished in one of two ways: diffusion or milling. Using the diffusion method means that the cut stalks are dissolved in limewater whereas in the milling method, the stalks are passed under a series of heavy rollers in order to squeeze out the juice. For sugar beet, the sliced beet roots are loaded into cylinder diffusers which then wash out the juice with the help of hot water.

Clarifying the sugar juice is the next step in the process and it is at this stage in which molasses is produced. The juice, once clarified with limewater and carbon dioxide, is piped into a decanter, heated with lime and passed through carbon filters which results in a mud-like substance known as ‘carb juice’. The carb juice is then pumped through a heater to a clarifying machine which repeats the treating process with carbon dioxide. The carb juice is filtered out and leaves behind a pale-yellow liquid called thin juice, as mentioned previously in the sugar series. The juice is boiled to the point that only syrup remains, which is then concentrated through further vacuum boiling until sugar crystalizes out of the syrup creating a substance called ‘massecuite’. Massecuite is poured into a centrifuge which separates the sugar crystals from the syrup. Finally, this syrup left behind in the centrifuge is molasses!

Benefits

As sugar is so often used in food and drink products which are generally deemed ‘unhealthy’, it may come as a surprise that commercial molasses in fact has multiple health benefits. Molasses is packed with nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium and vitamin B6. These nutrients mean that molasses has many beneficial properties. For example, molasses promotes good bone and tissue health because it’s rich in calcium and iron and research shows that it can even help with arthritis. Molasses is also a good antioxidant therefore can increase red blood cell formation and maintain haemoglobin levels – it is often used in the preparation of anti-inflammatory medication. The antioxidants found in molasses can even help your hair as an anti-ageing conditioner.

Source: Czarnikow

Strawberry Shortcakes

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (very cold or frozen)
2 eggs
1/2 cup 10 % or 18% cream
2 tbsp coarse sugar

Filling

2 cups strawberries, sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup strawberry jam or preserves

Method

  1. In bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using box grater, coarsely grate butter into flour mixture; toss lightly to combine.
  2. Whisk eggs with 1/3 cup of the cream. Using fork, stir into flour mixture to form ragged dough.
  3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; pat dough into 1-inch thick round. Using floured 2-1/4 inch fluted round cutter, cut out biscuits, rerolling excess dough to make 10 biscuits. Transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheet.
  4. Brush tops with remaining cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden and flaky. Let cool completely, slice in half.
  5. Stir strawberries with 1 tbsp of the sugar; let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Whip cream with vanilla and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread 1 tsp of the jam on bottoms of shortcakes. Top with 1 tbsp whipped cream and strawberries, along with accumulated juices. Top with remaining shortcakes. Spoon remaining whipped cream and strawberries over top.

Makes 10 servings.

Source: Manitoba Egg Farmers

The First Fall of World Sugar Consumption in 40 Years

Source: Czarnikow

Novel Antisense Drug Shows Promise in Slowing Fatty Liver Disease

A stained micrograph of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease depicts vacuoles of fat (white spaces) and mild fibrosis (blue-green). Liver cells are colored red.

Using a first-of-its-class drug in a clinical trial, an international research effort headed by a scientist at University of California San Diego School of Medicine reports that inhibition of a key enzyme safely and effectively improved the health of persons with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a chronic metabolic disorder that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The gene silencing approach represents a novel way to reverse NAFLD. The findings are published in the June 15, 2020 online issue of The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

NAFLD occurs when fat accumulates in liver cells due to causes other than excessive alcohol intake. The precise cause is not known, but diet and genetics are believed to play substantial roles. The condition is typically not noticed until the disease is well-advanced, and perhaps has transitioned to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a progressive form that can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.

There is no cure. Treatment primarily consists of ameliorating contributory factors, such as losing weight, improving diet, exercising more and controlling for other conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. No Food and Drug Administration-approved medications exist. In worst cases, a liver transplant may be required.

“NAFLD wasn’t even recognized as a disease three decades ago; now it is alarmingly prevalent, affecting roughly one-quarter of all Americans and emerging as one of the leading causes for liver transplant in the United States,” said the study’s lead author Rohit Loomba, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the UC San Diego NAFLD Research Center. “Given its relative ubiquity and its potentially calamitous consequences, safe and effective treatments are absolutely needed.”

In the double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled Phase II trial, Loomba and colleagues enrolled 44 qualifying participants at 16 sites in Canada, Poland and Hungary. For 13 weeks, participants were injected with either an antisense inhibitor called IONIS-DGAT2 or a placebo. The inhibitor, produced by Carlsbad-based Ionis Pharmaceuticals, interferes with Diacylglycerol-O-acyltransferace or DGAT2, one of two enzyme forms required to catalyze or accelerate the production of triglycerides, a type of fat found in blood. High levels of triglycerides boost fat storage throughout the body, including the liver.

The researchers found that after 13 weeks of treatment, participants who received the enzyme inhibitor experienced measurable reductions in fatty liver levels compared to baseline, without elevated levels of fats, enzymes or sugars in the blood. There were six reported serious adverse events, including a cardiac arrest and deep vein thrombosis, but the researchers determined the events were unrelated to the study drug.

“These findings showed robust reduction in liver fat by MRI without corresponding increases in blood lipids,” said Loomba. “Given significant proportion of patients achieving roughly a 30 percent reduction in MRI-PDFF, the threshold that corresponds with higher odds of histologic response when treated for a longer duration, it looks like after just 13 weeks of treatment, the drug was actually slowing progression of NAFLD to NASH.

“All of this is very encouraging and argues for the next step: longer term trials to further investigate the potential of this drug in improvement of liver histologic features associated with NASH, the progressive sub-type of NAFLD.”

Source: University of California San Diego

New Blood Test May Improve Liver Cancer Screening

An experimental blood test may improve screening for the most common form of liver cancer, researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute say.

The test checks people for previous exposure to certain viruses that may interact with the immune system and increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), according to their new study.

“Together with existing screening tests, the new test could play an important role in screening people who are at risk for developing HCC. It could help doctors find and treat HCC early,” said study leader Xin Wei Wang, co-leader of the NCI Center for Cancer Research liver cancer program.

“The method is relatively simple and inexpensive, and it only requires a small blood sample,” he said in an institute news release.

Many screening tests detect features of cancer cells, but those features can change over time, and not all cancer cells in a tumor have the same characteristics, the authors noted. Rather than focus on cells, the new test detects features of the cancer’s environment — signs left behind by past viruses.

Infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus, or cirrhosis of the liver are among the factors that increase the risk of HCC. It’s recommended that people with risk factors get screened for HCC every six months, undergoing an ultrasound with or without a blood test for alpha-fetoprotein.

If HCC is caught early, there’s a much better chance that it can be cured. But most patients are diagnosed when the cancer is advanced and often incurable.

“We need a better way to identify people who have the highest risk for HCC and who should get screened more frequently,” Wang said.

Improving early detection and monitoring of HCC are particularly important because HCC rates are rising in the United States.

The researchers are continuing to study their blood test and plan to assess it in clinical trials.

The study was published in the journal Cell.

Source: HealthDay


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