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Local Sweetness: Breaking Your Cane Sugar Addiction

If you want to keep your "home, sweet home" sweet and close to home, here are some simple ideas to get away from using cane sugar.

White and raw sugar cubes

Photo: howzey (flickr)

There are other natural sweeteners that are more local-friendly than cane sugar. Try agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup. Or, make your own sugar, from sugar beets!

Sugar, coffee, bananas, chocolate. Some of the hardest things to find suitable workarounds for if you’re trying to live a locavore lifestyle.

Finding local cane sugar is nearly impossible if you don’t live in Hawaii or the continental Southeast — and even then, the raw product is typically shipped to a processing plant thousands of miles away before distribution.

But there are options. If you want to keep your “home, sweet home” sweet AND close to home, a local-food columnist suggests a DIY option:

Set aside a section of your garden for sugar beets and boil them down for a homemade sweetener!

Making Beet Sugar

(adapted from: Grandpappy’s Homemade Sugar Recipe)

  1. Carefully wash and scrub beets, remove greens.
  2. Finely slice, dice or shred beets into a large pot.
  3. Add just enough water to cover the beets.
  4. Cook beets over medium heat until tender (about an hour).
  5. Drain the beets (retain the water! this is what you will use to make the sugar), you can eat the cooked beets, use them in other recipes or can them.
  6. Simmer the beet sugar water over low-medium heat, stirring frequently until it becomes a thick syrup, roughly the consistency of honey.
  7. Transfer the syrup to a storage container. As it cools, it will begin to crystallize.
  8. As the sugar crystallizes, periodically remove it from the container and crush it into sugar crystals.

Substituting Honey And Maple Syrup

You can also use maple syrup or honey in many recipes.

To substitute honey for sugar, eHow provides a few guidelines:

  • Up to one cup, honey can be substituted for sugar in equal amounts.
  • Over one cup, use about 2/3-3/4 cup of honey for every cup of sugar.

They also recommend reducing the amount of liquid in your recipe, adding a little baking soda to counter honey’s acidity and reducing the cooking temperature a bit.

For maple syrup, similar rules of thumb apply: use about 3/4 cup maple syrup in the place of each cup of sugar and reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by about 3 tablespoons per cup of maple syrup added.

Both honey and maple syrup also make healthier, more local additions to coffee, tea and other beverages.

Read More:

  • The Sweet Success of DIY and Organic Sugar (The Daily Green)
  • Grandpappy’s Homemade Sugar Recipe (grandpappy.info)
  • How to Substitute Honey For Sugar in a Recipe (eHow)
Megan Meyer

Megan Meyer was in the company of foodies for most of her formative years. She spent all of her teens working at her town's natural food co-op in South Dakota, and later when she moved to Minneapolis, worked as a produce maven for the nation's longest running collectively-managed food co-op. In 2006, she had the distinct pleasure (and pain) of participating the vendanges, or grape harvest, in the Beaujolais terroire of France, where she developed her compulsion to snip off grape clusters wherever they may hang. In the spring of 2008, Megan interned on NPR's Science Desk in Washington, D.C., where she aided in the coverage of science, health and food policy stories. She joined Indiana Public Media in June, 2009.

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