Sugar has become a staple in most people’s diets and is included in one form or another in almost all recipes. Supermarkets sell sugar, which is an ingredient in a large percentage of processed foods. Restaurants depend on sugar to enhance the flavor of their dishes. Even though ultra-fine white granulated sugar is used the most, brown sugar is also in demand because of its unique flavor. Even though white and brown sugar are extracted from either cane or sugar beets, they are processed differently. Both sugarcane and sugar beets are the most common sources of all sugar.
While white sugar is the most popular sweetener in most kitchens, brown sugar adds a different flavor and texture to recipes. Manufacturers add molasses to sugar in varying amounts thus producing colors that range from light to dark brown. Cooks realize that brown sugar contains water that white sugar does not. It is this water that causes brown sugar to dry out quickly. The end result is hard lumps.
Sugarcane and sugar beets differ in the way they are raised and harvested, but they both contain sucrose in high concentrations. Sugarcane is almost 17 percent pure sugar; sugar beets do not produce as much sugar and are more difficult to grow. Sugar beets must be replanted every year, while the roots of sugarcane are left during the harvest and will regrow the next year. Both sugar beets and sugarcane must go through a process that extracts the sugar.
The white sugar that forms during this process is dried and bleached. Molasses is the syrupy mixture that forms during the sugar processing. This is the origin of another product that can be blended with the white sugar to make brown sugar. Brown sugar comes in three different forms. All can be lumpy because of the moisture content of the molasses. The amount of molasses in the sugar determines whether it is light brown, dark brown, or natural brown
The manufacturing process for both sugarcane and sugar beets results in forming sugar crystals that have been separated from liquid syrup and then dissolved in boiling water, cooled, and dried. The color has been removed in white sugar through bleaching. Brown sugar contains more water than white sugar because of the molasses. Because brown sugar contains water, it is easily dried out. White sugar does not harden or lump because it is dried prior to packaging and shipping. It is important to store both white and brown sugar properly in order to prevent hardening and lumping. Leaving white sugar exposed to air can cause it to become lumpy as well. Proper storage is key to preventing moisture from invading white sugar from the outside. Unlike brown sugar, with its high moisture content, white sugar usually does not lump.