Chefbear is back and this time he’s going to share his knowledge on how the smart prepper can store sweeteners for the long haul. As usual, I’m astonished by how much I learn every time he writes a post. Hey Chefbear, when TSHTF you’re welcome to come live in my neck of the woods! We could always use a man with your considerable talents around here.
Hello again ladies and gentlemen, Jarhead asked me if I could try to help everyone understand some options for long term storage sweeteners. I am going to give it a shot and I know I won’t cover everything, so if you see anything I missed just let me know and I will get you the info on it!
OK, meat and potatoes… or rather sugar and honey time! What I will do in this post is explain a few of the options available to the average person for long term storage. I will also explain a few of the different varieties of honey, as some can be used as replacements for other ingredients in your recipes. Before we get into the details let’s talk about how you should be storing these items. As a rule-of-thumb, sweeteners should be kept in a sealed air-tight container, away from humidity or moisture and away from pests (i.e. insects, mice, sweet-toothed children, etc.).
White Cane Sugar – Processed from the juice of the sugar cane, and highly refined to obtain the bright white color. It is a staple of savory and sweet recipes all over the world, and has an almost indefinite shelf life if stored properly.
Raw or Turbinado Sugar – Processed from the same cane juice that makes white sugar. This product is typically not refined or refined very simply. This maintains some of the molasses, which is the other product of making sugar. Raw sugar also has a great crunchy texture which it retains in some cooking methods. Like the white cane sugar it will keep almost indefinitely if stored properly.
Brown Sugar – Contrary to common belief, most brown sugar consumed in the US is actually granulated white sugar made from sugar beets that has molasses added to it. The molasses makes the brown sugar more “hygroscopic”, this means that it will retain and even attract more moisture than regular white sugar. Brown sugar does not enjoy quite the shelf life of the two previous sugars covered, but rarely spoils. The typical problem with brown sugar is that it dries up and gets hard, a simple solution to this problem (my grandmother taught me this trick when I was a kid) is to add a slice of bread to the storage container. A completely air tight container will help prevent this as well, but it will eventually happen. The sugar can still be used for cooking when it is hard, just add a few extra drops of liquid to your recipe.
Honey – There are as many different types of honey as there are flowering plants, so I will break this into sub categories, explain just a few of them and what they can be used for. In general honey is great for long term storage, especially the raw or unpasteurized varieties. Honey is naturally hygroscopic and will help breads, cakes and pastries prevent staling. Honey can also be used as an antimicrobial agent because of its low water activity and some of the chemical properties; hence you can use it to treat cuts ect. Raw honey from your area can be used to treat seasonal allergies, and can also be used for making cures or brine for preserving meats.
Most honey will crystallize, it is still fine for cooking or eating when this happens. You can return crystallized honey to a syrup consistency by soaking the container in warm water until the consistency returns, or you can slowly and gently heat the crystallized honey in a VERY clean, preferably stainless steel pot over very low heat and stir with a VERY clean instrument again preferably stainless steel. The biggest enemy to storing honey, as odd as it sounds, is saliva. A single drop of saliva can destroy an entire 5 gallon bucket of honey. NEVER lick your finger and touch the stored honey, or (yes I have seen people do it… its GROSS) pick up the little bear shaped bottle and squeeze it straight into your mouth, and then to get the last drop lick the end of the bottle! NASTY!
Tupelo – This is the most pure honey, and the most expensive. Because of the purity of this honey it does not typically crystallize like other varieties of honey. It also has the lightest taste of any honey, the color is almost clear-white-yellow and it is very delicate.
Clover Honey – Clover honey is the most common type of honey besides “wild-flower”. It is primarily made from clover pollen, but other types of pollen are typically found in-the-mix. Clover honey has a mild flowery taste, and some subtleties of molasses. It is the generic flavor honey that most people are familiar with.
Wild Flower Honey – This is actually a blend of several different honeys, while I am sure that there is a ratio that must be met according to the USDA, I am not sure what those ratios are. Typically from what I have seen from helping my grandfather, most producers mix the little bit of whatever types they have left to make this type of honey. Because it is a blend the color, texture and flavor varies greatly from producer to producer.
Avocado Honey – This is one of my favorites for cooking! Avocado honey is very dark, very thick and more closely resembles molasses than honey. In fact it can be used in place of molasses in many recipes. One of my favorites is what Ma calls the “mild shoo-fly-pie”, because it is lighter than molasses it will not give the same strong, almost smoky flavor that molasses will.
Other varieties of honey I have seen, and had the pleasure of beating my brother for (we used to fight over the honey-combs… not the cereal) include grapefruit, tangerine, lime and orange blossom honeys. I have also seen pumpkin, watermelon; cantaloupe (which is actually a musk-melon, but that’s a whole other topic!), pear, apple, peach and I have even seen squash flower honey. They all have different flavors and slightly different textures; generally they will have subtle flavors of the pollen they are made from.
Molasses – As mentioned earlier, this is a byproduct of sugar production. It is also the main ingredient in making rum. Most people don’t think of this as a sweetener, but it does contain sugar and can be used to make sweet dishes, my favorite would be “shoo-fly-pie”. Also mentioned before, molasses is hygroscopic and can help prevent the staling of baked goods. It can also be used in cures and brines for preserving meat.
I am also going to explain some of the “artificial” sweeteners that are available.
Splenda – As the commercials say, is made from sugar. It is a primarily a chemical called sucralose, one of the chemicals that make sugar sweet. Sucralose and another chemical from sugar called dextrose are both used in commercial curing, along with sugar-free or low-sugar food production.
Stevia- This is actually an herb that can grow in most areas fairly easily. It can be up to 300x sweeter than sugar by weight. There were some studies during the 1980’s that claimed it can cause cancer, most of those findings have been proven false in recent years. Personally I use it, and let’s face it… everything these days can possibly give you cancer!
So it’s yall’s turn! What do you keep in your stocks for baking, cooking and sweetening the coffee? After reading this are you considering making adjustments/additions to your stocks? Are there any sweetener options that I didn’t cover that you would like more information on? As always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my abilities! Thanks guys!