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Local Sweetness: Breaking Your Cane Sugar Addiction

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.

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