Did you realize that the majority of sugar sold in the USA is not from sugar cane, but rather from Sugar Beets? Lately with the growing concerns of chemicals and unknown additives in our food supply, I’ve become increasingly interested in learning how to make my own sugar. Whaddya’ Know, It’s really not that difficult! Here’s how it’s done…
To get started you’ll need some Sugar Beet Seeds. Sugar beets are not the same as those beautiful round, plump red beets that leave not so pretty little stains on everything their juice touches. Sugar beets contain 12-21% sucrose. They can be planted about 3-4 weeks Before the last frost (which means if you hurry you can get them in the ground for an early crop!). We’ve seen on some sites that they’re drought hardy and require surprisingly little water to grow well and yet others stating that they are not drought hardy. We have not tested the drought version and are hoping we don’t have to! Sugar beets do not grow well in highly acidic soils and prefer a soil with a pH of 6.0-8.0.
Simply follow the basic instructions on the packet of seeds. They should be planted at a depth of about 1/4″ and to make them weed free apply 2-3 inches of mulch around the base of the plant once it sprouts.
Sugar beets prefer well drained soil, rich in hummus, but the ideal medium is sandy loam- a mixture of organic matter, clay and sand. They love warm days and cool nights, so if you live in a Southern State you’ll need to plant in early spring or early fall. They reach maturity is 90-100 days. Please be aware these are Biennial plants.
Once the beets are grown, harvest them by pulling them out of the ground and wash them thoroughly. As a close relative of turnips and other varieties of beets, the greens are also edible for kids and livestock alike.
How to Make Sugar:
Dice the beets into small cubes, place them in a large stockpot with just enough water to cover the cubes. Bring them to a boil and continue boiling for about an hour. Carefully strain the beet pulp from the liquid, reserving the liquid (as this contains your sugar!).
Next comes the difficult part, straining it very thoroughly. Remove ALL of the beetpulp from the liquid, strain it through several layers of cheesecloth, gathering the corners and squeezing gently to separate the liquid from the pulp.
Failure to remove ALL of the pulp will result is product that stores poorly.
Return the strained liquid to the stockpot over high heat. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer it uncovered (as the point is to REMOVE the water), until it has reached 1/3 of its starting volume.
Once it has reached that volume, remove it from the heat, cool. Scrape out the crystals. Boil the juice again until the liquid is gone. Cool, remove the crystals. The end product will be a dark brown sugar with a slight flavor similar to molasses. If you purchase raw sugar or sucanot you will likely enjoy the flavor of your homemade sugar.
If you decide to make your own sugar, we’d love to hear your results!
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