If you know molasses, you know that determining the age of this particular product is very tough. Even after 10 years of proper storage, molasses smells and looks the same as it was when fresh. But then the flavor surely gets compromised. So does molasses go bad? Yes, it does, even though its appearance and smell say otherwise.
The truth of the matter is that molasses is pretty sensitive to humidity and heat. The chances of mold formation and growth are the most likely in the case of hot, humid conditions. So you have every reason to ensure proper storage.
Now let’s get to the bottom of it ALL!
Molasses – What Is It?
Molasses has been around for a very, very long time. Back in the days, during the 17th century, molasses was a huge part of the slave trade in the Caribbean. Traders exchanged slaves for barrels of molasses. Then it was taken to New England and brewed to manufacture rum.
But that still doesn’t answer the question what is molasses? It’s a dark, sweet by-product of sugarcane. It’s actually extracted from the sugar of sugarcane and sugar beets. So it’s only natural to assume that the sweetness, nutritional content, and color vary based on how much and what variety of sugar is extracted.
Because of all the sweetness of molasses, the ingredient is perfect for cooking, grilling, and baking. Along with brewing beer and rum of course. Many people also add it to sauces and marinades and for sweetening cocktails, coffee, etc.
Types of Molasses
There’s light, dark, and blackstrap molasses. Light molasses is light-flavored, relatively thin in terms of texture, and the sweetest. Dark molasses has a stronger flavor precisely because it’s denser. But then it’s not as sweet as the light variety. And finally, blackstrap molasses is the densest of all and the least sweet. In fact, blackstrap molasses tastes slightly bitter.
But why am I telling you about the different types of molasses when I should be talking about the shelf life of molasses? The reason why you need to know this is if, for instance, you have light molasses that tastes slightly bitter, you then know that those bitter notes mean the light molasses is no good for consumption.
Molasses – Does It Go Bad?
Molasses and honey have a very similar taste with the only exception that the former comes with a shelf life. However, under proper storage conditions, molasses can remain fresh and safe for consumption for a really very long time.
Another truth about molasses – it’s extremely hygroscopic. Now, what does that mean? Meaning molasses is highly susceptible to drawing and retaining moisture. Unfortunately, this paves the way for bacterial growth if ideal storage conditions are neglected.
Molasses, be it blackstrap, dark, or light, is also sensitive to humidity and heat, which makes it even more important to store molasses in a dry, cool place, not in the way of direct sunlight or heat. This is also applicable to the unsulphured and sulphured kinds of molasses.
Molasses – How Long Does It Last?
The shelf life of molasses is usually anywhere between 1 and 4 years. Please note that an unopened bottle of molasses is safe for consumption even past the Best-By Date or Best-Before Date printed on the label. Just don’t expect the quality or freshness of molasses to remain the same after the “expiration” date.
On the other hand, an opened jar retains max. freshness for 6 months only. However, you can still use the molasses in there for a longer time if the bottle is sealed tight.
After Opening the Bottle/Container
To be honest, it’s best to refer to the instructions provided by the brand in the form of the dates printed on the label. But the general consensus is within 6 months once the molasses jar has been opened.
At the same time, you should know that molasses is not prone to getting spoiled, even though it has been opened for 9-12 months already. So it can remain fresh and safe for consumption for a good amount of time, even for 1.5 years, provided it’s stored in the right manner.
The only thing that deteriorates is the flavor. Fresh molasses definitely tastes more flavorful than a bottle you opened a couple of months ago.
An expiration date that’s too close is not an uncommon occurrence in the case of molasses. But then there are some brands that offer an extended shelf life of about 4 years. Refer to the date printed on the label, which could be either the Best-Before Date or Best-By Date. However, either of the two is not the expiration date.
The Best-Before/Best-By is all about the quality of the food, and not its safety. Meaning molasses should remain the freshest till that particular date and then its quality will start to wear away. Yet the molasses doesn’t spoil. But its taste surely becomes less and less flavorful with long-term storage.
And if you’re worried about spoilage, here’s the next relevant section of the article.
How to Tell If Molasses Has Gone Bad
Since it’s very hard to determine the age of molasses because its smell, appearance, and feel remain the same as when it was fresh, the part of spotting warnings signs is certainly one of the most challenging things to do. The absence of clear-cut clues means you have to be extra careful about the slightest changes in the color and flavor of molasses.
In such a scenario, just keep in mind that what you’re dealing with here is a liquid sweetener. Hence, any sort of crystallization points in the direction of molasses gone bad. Hints of mold are also very unnoticeable due to their very tiny size. So you can’t even tell when mold first starts to form.
Look out for the slightest changes in odor as well. Spoiled molasses is sure to taste weird, so watch out for that too. The best way to go about this is to buy new molasses and then compare the fresher version with the one that’s been sitting in your pantry for a long time. Taste both and then decide if the older batch is good for consumption or not.
A sweet smell and fine texture are enough to make you believe that your molasses has not gone bad. Nevertheless, taste it to find out the ugly truth. If spoiled, throw it away that instant. And if not, then go ahead and use molasses in this very delicious homemade gingerbread recipe.
Molasses Storage – What About Refrigerator Storage?
When the jar of molasses is not opened, then store it in a dark, dry, and cool place (the pantry) and expect that to last for a whole year. Factors like humidity and heat are the worst enemies of a food item like molasses because they give rise to bacteria and mold. So to avoid the formation and proliferation of unwanted, toxic elements, ensure proper storage.
And every proper storage begins with a proper container. In this case, that would be the original container molasses came in. After every use, wipe down the mouth of the bottle before sealing it securely.
Moving on to refrigerator storage, you can store molasses long-term in there if you live in a warm climate. Just make sure the temperature of your fridge remains consistent.
Also, before adding to your recipes, you have to first allow the temperature of the molasses to cool down a bit. Otherwise, you’ll end up struggling with the thick consistency, which isn’t easy to pour. Heating molasses by placing the jar in a bowlful of warm water is another solution to this problem.
Life without a little bit of sweetness is a life lived unfulfilled. I’m sure you agree because why else would you want to know about the shelf life of molasses!
Its flavor is warm, sweet, and slightly smoky too. So it’s only natural to want to preserve that for the longest time with the help of proper storage.
Many think that molasses, just like honey, doesn’t go bad. However, that’s not true. It may last for the longest time when stored the right way but it does go bad eventually. How soon that is depends on a lot of factors – the brand, your method of storage, if you’ve opened the jar or not, etc.