Organic and Natural Sugars
Until recently, I didn’t think there was really that much difference between refined sugar and organic sugar but there is a big difference and one worth knowing about. Bone char (which are primarily pelvic bones from cattle that have been ground, heated, and charred) is often referred to as a natural carbon and is widely used by the industry to filter sugar through an absorption process giving sugar cane that “pure” white color we’re all used to seeing when we open a bag of refined sugar. Not all sugar companies use bone char to process sugar – some use other carbon systems – but many do so the easiest way to avoid bone char is to buy organic and natural sugars.
The use of bone char has been banned in many countries including New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Europe and, yet the use of bone char in the United States is legal. Troublesome – yes. And, since the only reason bone char is used is to whiten sugar, I stopped buying refined sugar. I buy organic or natural sugars which have been extracted from raw sugar cane without the application of any additives or synthetic chemicals.
Wholesome Sweeteners, a company based out of Sugar Land (yes, that is the real name of the town), Texas brings Fair Trade Certified, organic and natural sugars to the consumer. The company currently offers 12 organic and natural sugars:
Organic Sugar: Made from certified organic sugar cane grown in South America. The cane juice is extracted, clarified, evaporated and crystallized to form a blond colored sugar that is a one-to-one replacement for refined sugar.
Organic Powdered Sugar: A very fine pulverized sugar made by grinding organic sugar to a fine powder and adding a small amount (3%) of organic corn starch or organic tapioca starch to prevent caking. Unlike refined powdered sugar, organic powder sugar retains a bit of the cane’s natural molasses flavor to give a smooth, well-rounded flavor. Use as a one-to-one replacement for refined powdered sugar.
Organic Turbinado: A pale golden-colored, large crystal free-flowing sugar with a crunchy texture making it perfect to top cookies, muffins and other baked goods. Made by crushing organic sugar cane to get the juice out which is then evaporated and spun in a turbine to produce the large sparkling crystals.
Organic Sucanat: The word Sucanat is a trademarked name that means “sugar cane natural.” Made by crushing organic sugar cane (from Costa Rica) in roller mills to obtain the juice and then heating the juice until it is reduced to a rich dark syrup. The syrup is then hand paddled to add air which causes the syrup to release heat and start to dry. As it dries, porous granules form. Because the cane retains the molasses, Sucanat is a dark brown color with a rich molasses flavor (and is about 13% molasses). Sucanat dissolves quickly and can be substituted for any refined brown sugar in recipes where a molasses flavor is desired. The difference between Sucanat and organic brown sugars is that Sucanat is dehydrated cane juice while organic brown sugars are evaporated cane juice.
Raw Cane Sugar: A golden-colored sugar with large sparkling crystals which can be used as a one-to-one replacement for refined and brown sugars. Made from sugar cane grown in Malawi, raw cane sugar is also known as Turbinado or Demerara sugar. After the juice is squeezed out of the sugar cane, the juice is heat evaporated and spun in a turbine to produce the large crystals.
Organic Coconut Palm Sugar: An unrefined brown sugar with a caramel flavor, organic coconut palm sugar is made from the sweet sap of the coconut palm tree flower so it does not taste like coconut. A one-to-one replacement for refined sugars – both white and brown.
Natural Demerara Unrefined Cane Sugar: A crunchy golden sugar that is made with natural cane sugar – leaving the natural sugar cane molasses in instead of refining it out. A one-to-one replacement for refined sugars. Made by Billiington’s – one of Britain’s largest privately owned companies (and, one of the owner’s of Wholesome Sweeteners and the first company to bring a certified organic sugar to market in 1992).
The decision is no longer limited to refined white, brown, light brown, and confectionary sugar. With the wide variety of organic, Free Trade certified, and natural sugars available, better choices can be made. All of the sugars described above are available nationwide but can be purchased on-line directly from the company via their website: www.wholesomesweeteners.com.