I never really thought about the number of different ways to sweeten your food. In the last few weeks I have reviewed Maple Syrup, Honey, Corn Syrup and Agave Nectar. This week I will take a look at the sugars. It’s amazing the various sugars that are created from sugar cane and sugar beets; White Sugar, Powdered Sugar, Brown Sugar, Sucanat®, Turbinado and Raw Cane Sugar. What is the difference between these products?
Granulated White Sugar – This is the sugar most known to consumers, it is the sugar found in every home’s sugar bowl, and most commonly used in home food preparation. It is the most common form of sugar and the type most frequently called for in recipes. Its main distinguishing characteristics are a paper-white color and fine crystals.
Powdered Sugar – In Canada and Great Britain it is called Icing Sugar and in France Sucre Glace. This sugar is granulated sugar ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It contains about 3% cornstarch to prevent caking. Powdered sugar is ground into three different degrees of fineness. The confectioners sugar available in supermarkets – 10X – is the finest of the three and is used in icings, confections and whipping cream. Industrial bakers use the other two types of powdered sugar.
Brown sugar is simply white sugar combined with molasses. Brown sugar retains some of the surface molasses syrup, which imparts a characteristic pleasurable flavor. Dark brown sugar has a deeper color and stronger molasses flavor than light brown sugar. Lighter types are generally used in baking and making butterscotch, condiments and glazes. The rich, full flavor of dark brown sugar makes it good for gingerbread, mincemeat, baked beans, and other full flavored foods.
Sucanat® (which stands for Sugar Cane Natural), is a whole cane sugar. It’s made by simply crushing freshly cut sugar cane, extracting the juice and heating it in a large vat. Once the juice is reduced to a rich, dark syrup, it is hand-paddled. Hand paddling cools and dries the syrup; creating the dry porous granules we call Sucanat. Nothing is added and nothing is taken out! Because Sucanat still contains all of the cane’s natural molasses, it has a deep brown color and a distinct, natural molasses flavor that enhances many foods. It can be substituted for brown sugar in any recipe and it is especially good in chocolate-based recipes, for baking and for BBQ sauces and marinades. It is an excellent source of iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium and chromium, which helps balance blood sugar.
Raw Cane Sugar – It is essentially the product at the point before the molasses is removed (what’s left after sugarcane has been processed and refined).
Turbinado - is raw sugar that has been steam cleaned to remove contaminates, leaving a light molasses flavored, tan colored sugar. This sugar is raw sugar, which has been partially processed, where only the surface molasses has been washed off. It has a blond color and mild brown sugar flavor, and is often used in tea and other beverages.
Making the choice of what sweetener to use in your kitchen can be a little overwhelming. Hopefully this review of the various sweeteners can help you make good decisions. Do you have a favorite sweetener you use?
In deciding what to stock in my pantry, I try to have healthy and nutritious items. Last week I mentioned sweeteners; specifically Agave Nectar, which I have never tried, and Maple Syrup which we use all the time. There are many other sweeteners and as one reader pointed out you can even grow your own Stevia as a sweetener. I may have to try that this year.
This week I will talk about honey and corn syrup.
Honey is something we always have in our pantry. We used to keep bees and may have bees again. Once you get used to having your own local honey you can’t go back to the mass-produced honey that might be coming from China!
Bees using nectar from flowers make honey. Bees have a two miles radius so they will collect nectar from all the flowers they find in that area. The type of honey you collect from the bees varies depending on the flowers available to them in that radius.
Honey is slightly sweeter than sugar so less can be used to achieve the same sweetness intensity. Honey not only imparts a unique flavor to any dish, but is also balances and enhances the flavor properties of other ingredients used in a recipe. Honey acts as a binder and thickener for sauces, dressing, marinades and dips. It also provided and retains moisture to a variety of dishes and can even extend the life of baked goods. We enjoy a cup of tea each evening with a spoonful of honey.
In addition to being a great sweetener, honey also has a multitude of benefits that many people don’t know about. Honey has been proven to be a natural throat soother. It provides quick energy and the next time you get a burn rub it with honey, the pain will go away immediately! You can see why we are now buying our honey in bulk from a local beekeeper!
Corn syrup is made when cornstarch is broken down into glucose. You can buy both light and dark corn syrup, the light corn syrup may have vanilla flavoring added, while the dark corn syrup has a stronger natural flavor. The advantage of corn syrup over sugar is its resistance to crystallization. Regular syrups sold in bottles are a home cook’s ultimate resource in baking cakes and making candy from scratch. Unlike other sweeteners, corn syrup does not crystallize upon use or cause any grainy texture in foods.
High-fructose corn syrup is distinct from corn syrup in that it is created by enzymatic processing, producing a sweeter compound that contains higher levels of fructose. High fructose corn syrup is rarely sold directly to consumers, although it can be found in a majority of processed foods sold in grocery stores.
I have a bottle of corn syrup in my pantry but I really don’t use it much. I find I can usually substitute maple syrup or molasses in most recipes. If you do make candy and want to use corn syrup did you know there is a corn syrup substitute? Alea Milham has a wonderful recipe on her blog Premeditated Leftovers.
Linked To: ThrivingThursday, FarmBlogHop
If you are like me you want to stock your pantry with items that are nutritious and healthy for your family. In regards to sweeteners what do you use? I grew up with plain ordinary white sugar, which I realize is not the healthiest choice. I did a search on Wikipedia to see just how many sweeteners there were and I found a list containing 120 different sweeteners. I didn’t even recognize many of them. How do you decide what to stock in your pantry? I decided to look at just a few without talking about artificial sweeteners.
Raw Cane Sugar
Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar
Over the next few weeks I will take a look at some of these various sweeteners.
Agave Nectar is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made.
It is comparable in taste to honey according to some people. I have never tried it. I did read one post on Foodrenegade.com that stated that agave nectar is not a “natural sweetener” plus it has more concentrated fructose in it that high fructose corn syrup!
Apparently native Mexican peoples do make a sort of sweetener out of the agave plant, called miel de agave and it’s made by boiling the agave sap for a couple of hours. Similar to how maple syrup is made.
In a recent article now posted on the Weston A. Price foundation’s website, Ramiel Nagel and Sally Fallon Morell write
“ Agave “nectar” is not made from the sap of the yucca or agave plant but from the starch of the giant pineapple-like, root bulb. The principal constituent of the agave root is starch, similar to the starch in corn or rice, and a complex carbohydrate called inulin, which is made up of chains of fructose molecules. Technically a highly indigestible fiber, inulin, which does not taste sweet, comprises about half of the carbohydrate content of agave.
The process by which agave glucose and inulin are converted into “nectar” is similar to the process by which cornstarch is converted into HFCS. The agave starch is subject to an enzymatic and chemical process that converts the starch into a fructose-rich syrup—anywhere from 70 percent fructose and higher according to the agave nectar chemical profiles posted on agave nectar websites.”
If you are trying to stay away from highly refined products I would stay away from Agave nectar. Or make sure what you are buyng is made the authentic way!
Living in the state of Vermont maple syrup is near and dear to my heart. We have neighbors who run their own sugarhouse and collect the maple sap off the mountain we live on. It’s annual event to help them out and the men spend many nights working together to produce the maple syrup.
When the spring temperatures reach 45 degrees F during the day and the nights remain below freeing the sap starts to run. In March and April the sugar maker drills a hole in the trunk of the sugar maple and taps in a spout with either a bucket or plastic tubing attached. Sap averages 2-3% sugar and looks like clear water. The sugar content of syrup is 66.9%. For each gallon of maple syrup produced the sugar maker must collect 40 gallons. Sugaring season continues until warmer spring temperatures arrive and the leaf buds start to unfold. The sugarmaker will then pull the taps, clean their equipment and sell their wonderful product.
Maple syrup can be used in many ways. On your pancakes or waffles. Used in a salad dressing. It can also be used in many other main dish recipes or in baked goods. One of our favorite ways to enjoy maple syrup in is this delicious Maple Gazed Snack Mix.
Our family loves the taste of pure Vermont maple syrup and it is definitely something you will find in our pantry!
As you know I recently participated in a Pantry Challenge. I challenged myself to make meals from what we had on hand. My goal was to clean out the freezer so we would have room for some pork. We have neighbors that raised two heritage pigs and we had the opportunity to purchase fresh, locally raised pork. Our neighbors were raising several Gloucester Old Spot pigs. they were born in September and are ready to go to market now at 7.5 months. They are a heritage breed that originates in England. They are known for their size and the amount of bacon they produce as well as quality lard.
Buying meat in bulk is a good way to save money and enjoy farm-raised meat. In the past we have purchased locally raised beef but with our children out of the house, ½ a cow or even a ¼ of a cow is too much beef for my husband and I to enjoy. I think the pork will be easier to manage.
Having never purchased ½ a pig before we had no idea what to expect or what would actually come in our share. Luckily there are numerous charts online that tell you what to expect!
Apparently every bit of the pig is useful. They turn pasture plus excess dairy and vegetables into fresh pork, bacon, hams, ribs, sausage, hot dogs, kielbasa, salami and more! Pigs produce valuable manure for the fields and gardens, till and weed gardens, naturally eradicate pest insects and weeds, clean up crops and clear brush. Looking at the chart it appears that almost every bit of the pig is used in someway, even the oink!
Pigs can be slaughtered when they reach 250 pounds which takes about 7.5 months. They don’t reach butchering weight as soon as chickens but sooner than beef cattle. Once arrangements were made to take them to the butcher we had to decide just how we wanted our meat. Decisions had to be made on whether we wanted roasts or pork chops, and what size packages. The hams could be smoked or left as fresh hams. The hams can also be taken whole, halves or slices. So many decisions! We decided to take the ground pork as fresh ground pork and make our own sausages. I think I am most looking forward to the thick sliced smoked bacon. It will go perfectly with my Amazing Overnight Waffle recipe!
I was a little concerned as to how much room to allow for ½ pig. I found this website SugarMtnFarm.com which said the meat once cut up should fit into a large size cooler. I’ll let you know if that is accurate.
If you are living a prudent life recycling is one of the first steps in going green! Why is recycling important, you may ask. Recycling is reusing materials in original or changed forms rather than discarding them as wastes. In reusing material or changing material into new materials rather than throwing it away, the environment as well as we benefit from it.
Recycling will often save you money by decreasing the amount of material going into the landfill. In our town we pay for our trash pick up but the recycling is free. By recycling we lessen the amount of trash, which in turn slows the growth of the landfill and preserves the land.
Recycling conserves the world’s resources by using recycled materials instead of trees, metal ores, minerals, oil and other raw materials harvested from the earth.
Recycling saves energy by reducing the need to process new material, which usually requires more energy than the recycling process. Recycling aluminum saves 92% of the energy required to make the material from scratch.
Recycling prevents pollution. Decomposing waste often release noxious gases and chemicals as it decomposes at landfill sites. These gases and chemicals create air pollution. Air pollution is exactly what it sounds like, polluted air. When the chemicals leach into the groundwater this creates water pollution and our water is contaminated.
Recycling creates jobs and saves money. Recycling in the U.S. is a $236 billion a year industry. More than 56,000 recycling and reuse enterprises employ 1.1 million workers nationwide. (National Recycling Coalition)
If we created more recycling opportunities we would create more jobs and no one would have to loose their jobs either.
By simply following the recycle mantra of “reduce, reuse and recycle,” you can help forward the fight against environmental destruction.
It always feels good to challenge yourself in one way or another. I am so glad to have challenged myself with this pantry challenge! We have used up nearly all of our frozen meals I had on hand and made a lot of room in our freezer.
I can now look forward to the farm raised pork we will be putting in the freezer, and to the fruits and vegetables which will go in this summer.
I took time to empty the freezer this week and do an update inventory so I know exactly what’s in there and where it is. I also enjoyed spending so little at the grocery store these last few weeks. When you have a well-stocked pantry and freezer you really only need to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables or dairy products at the store.
Sure is nice to look in the cupboard and see all the empty containers! I will continue to freeze meals and make a point of using the leftovers rather than letting them accumulate!
It would be nice to have some meals canned instead of taking up freezer space. Have you done this before?
How did you do with your pantry challenge? Any words of wisdom or lessons learned? Please let me know how your week went!