All About Sugar

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARK BROWN SUGAR?

Selection of one or the other is a matter of personal preference. Dark brown sugar has a stronger molasses flavor. Lighter types are used in baking, butterscotch and glazes for ham. Richer-flavored dark brown sugar is desirable for gingerbread, baked beans, plum pudding and other full-flavored foods.

HOW CAN BROWN SUGAR BE STORED TO PREVENT HARDENING?

Store brown sugar in a way that allows the product to retain its natural moisture-in its original plastic bag (closed tightly) or in a moisture-proof container. If the sugar hardens, let it stand overnight in a sealed jar with a damp paper towel or apple slice. For a quick fix, heat the needed amount in a 250 oven for a few minutes, or microwave on low for 1-2 minutes per cup. Use immediately.

WHAT IS BROWN SUGAR?

Brown sugar consists of sugar crystals contained in molasses syrup with natural flavor and color components. Many sugar refiners produce brown sugar by preparing and boiling a special syrup containing these components until brown sugar crystals form. In the final step of the sugar processing the crystals are spun dry in a centrifuge; some of the syrup remains giving the sugar its characteristic brown color. Other sugar refiners produce brown sugar by blending a special molasses syrup with white sugar crystals.

WHAT IS TURBINADO SUGAR?

Turbinado sugar is raw sugar that has been refined to a light tan color by washing in a centrifuge under sanitary conditions. Surface molasses is removed in the washing process. In total sugar content turbinado is closer to refined sugar than to raw sugar. It can be purchased in many health food stores and some supermarkets.

WHAT IS RAW SUGAR?

Raw sugar is a tan to brown, coarse granulated solid obtained on evaporation of clarified sugar cane juice. Raw sugar is processed from the cane at a sugar mill and then shipped to a sugar refinery. It is about 98% sucrose. Raw sugar is not sold to consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes raw sugar is “unfit for direct use as food or as a food ingredient because of the impurities it ordinarily contains.”

HOW MUCH SUGAR DO AMERICANS EAT?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates in 2011 Americans consumed about 39.1 pounds of sugar per person.

WHAT IS SUGAR?

Sugar, or sucrose, is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom. It is the major product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform the sugar energy into food. Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use.
Cooking with Sugar

CAN CONFECTIONERS (POWDERED) SUGAR BE SUBSTITUTED FOR GRANULATED SUGAR IN A RECIPE?

Confectioners’ sugar and granulated sugar usually are not interchangeable. Confectioners’ sugar is made up of much finer particles than granulated sugar and it contains corn starch (to prevent caking).
Sugar Alternatives

WHAT ARE FRUIT JUICE CONCENTRATES?

Food manufacturers today use a variety of nutritive sweeteners from traditional sugar to newer fruit juice concentrates. In order to be used as sweeteners, fruit juice concentrates are purified through heat and enzyme processing and filtered to remove fiber, flavor components and impurities. The end product is almost identical (in calories, sugars and nutrients) to sugar syrup. The food industry uses fruit juice concentrates in jams, canned fruits, beverages and some baked goods.

WHAT IS BLENDED SUGAR (SUGARIDEXTROSE)?

In some locales, dextrose, a corn-derived sweetener, is added to granulated cane sugar or beet sugar to create a white granulated sugar blend that may be less expensive than traditional sugar. Dextrose is about 70% as sweet as sugar and is more hygroscopic (water attracting). Because of these characteristics, blends may not perform exactly as sugar in certain recipes.

WHAT IS HONEY?

Honey is a mixture of sugars formed from nectar by an enzyme, invertase, present in the bodies of bees. Honey varies in composition and flavor, depending on the source of the nectar (clover, orange blossom, sage, etc). A typical analysis of honey would show (exclusive of undetermined substances): 38% fructose, 31% glucose, 1% sucrose, 9% other sugars, 17% water and 0.17% ash.

Sugar and Health

IS HONEY MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN SUGAR? WHAT ABOUT OTHER SWEETENERS?

On an equal weight basis, there is very little nutritional difference between honey and sugar. Because it weighs more, a teaspoon of honey contains slightly more carbohydrate and calories than a teaspoon of sugar. All nutritive sweeteners (sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, fruit juice concentrates) contain primarily sugars and should not be considered a source of other nutrients.

WHY IS SUGAR FOUND IN MANY PROCESSED FOODS?

Sugar is prized for its sweet taste and has many other functions in cooking and baking. It contributes texture and color to baked goods. It is needed for the fermentation by yeast, which causes bread to rise. Sugar acts as a bulking agent (ice cream, baked goods) and preservative (jams, fruits), and it imparts a satisfying body or “mouth-feel” to beverages. In non-sweet foods – salad dressings, sauces, condiments sugar enhances flavor and balances acid content in tomato and vinegar-based products.

WHAT NUTRIENTS ARE PRESENT IN SUGAR?

Sugar is pure carbohydrate, an important nutrient that supplies energy to the body. Vitamins and minerals are sometimes present, but in trace amounts. Sugar and other nutritive sweeteners play an important role in making other foods taste better and, through their many uses in cooking, increasing the variety of foods available.

Sugar Cane vs. Sugar Beet

IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUGAR FROM SUGAR BEETS AND SUGAR FROM SUGAR CANE?

There is no difference in the sugar produced from either cane or beet. Sugar cane, a giant grass, thrives in a warm, moist climate, storing sugar in its stalk. The sugar beet grows best in a temperate climate and stores its sugar in its white root. Sugar from both sugar cane and sugar beet is produced by nature in the same fashion as all green plants produce sugar-as a means of storing the sun’s energy.

Sugar Production

HOW IS SUGAR PRODUCED?

During the sugar refining process, the natural sugar that is stored in the cane stalk or beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material. For sugar cane refining, this is accomplished by a) grinding the sugar cane to extract the juice, b) boiling the juice until the syrup thickens and crystallizes- c) spinning the crystals in a centrifuge to produce raw sugar; d) shipping the raw sugar to a sugar refinery where it is; e) washed and filtered to remove the last remaining plant materials and color; and f) crystallized, dried and packaged. Beet sugar processing is normally accomplished in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to remove the sugar-containing juice. The juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to sugar cane processing.