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August 26, 2013

Organic and Natural Sugars

by Anne Paddock

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. 

canstockphoto8151582The 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.154822_473836376459_3944745_n

Organic Light Brown Sugar: A soft, moist light brown sugar that has a light molasses flavor. A one-to-one replacement for refined light brown sugar.155292_473839676459_7497241_n

Organic Dark Brown Sugar: A soft, moist fine-grained sugar with a rich molasses flavor and darker tone. A one-to-one replacement for refined dark brown sugar.150058_473839561459_1522759_n

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.76928_473842961459_7908543_n

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.154974_473839241459_2506421_n

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.154822_473836366459_5907535_n

Natural Cane Sugar: A Fair Trade Certified natural cane sugar made from sugar cane grown in Malawi, Africa. A natural blond color, natural cane sugar has a bit more molasses than conventional sugar.149106_473839751459_6630936_n

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.rawcane1krgb-1

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.012511921064p

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).383177_185129281579109_2067212299_n

Natural Light Brown Muscovado: A soft fine-grained sugar with a distinctive creamy rich flavor that is ideal for baking. A one-to-one replacement for refined light brown sugar.381530_185129374912433_765033800_n

Natural Dark Brown Molasses Sugar: A soft fine-grained dark brown colored sugar with a molasses toffee flavor. A one-to-one replacement for refined dark brown sugar.383705_185129208245783_569005583_n

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:

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