December 30, 2013
A few weeks ago, I made this year's experimental batch of beet sugar. Read here about previous adventures in making sugar from sugar beets.
Below is a photo recap of the process:
The most challenging part of this process is knowing when to remove the sugar from the heat. I still have yet to find a precise indicator of when the sugar should be removed from the heat to create a product that is stable and will crystalize.
With this batch, I cooked it until most of the water had evaporated and the remaining mixture foamed for several minutes; at this point, the mixture adhered to the spoon sufficiently that I could easly see the bottom of the pan when I stirred it. I then poured this hot, still liquid, material into a glass jar and let it cool. (Immediately soaking all utensils used in the process for as the sugar cools it sticks agressively to whatever it is on.)
After several hours of cooling, the sugar stablilized in a solid, sticky state that can be scooped out of its jar with a spoon. It did not fully crystalize into individual grains, but the sugar does have a granular texture. While different than what most are used to when it comes to sugar, it is perfectly usable in a variety of sweet and delicious recipes.
One concern to be aware of is the potential for mold. Different sugar sources require different maximum percent water contents in order to create stable products. For example, honey needs to have no more than ~17% water to remain stable and not ferment; maple syrup no more than 33%. I do not know what the maximum % water content is for beet sugar without risking mold. But one of batches from last year, did grow some mold. While this could be due to other reasons, my best guess is that this is due to a high percent water content.
The other batches from last year have remained stable throughout the year and did not grow any mold. And today the sugar is still as delicious as it was the day it was made :)
Finally, the ratio of washed sugar beets to sugar for this batch was 8lbs to 1.5cups.