HERB - Sweeteners

BJ of NZ bjofnz at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Apr 10 14:59:15 PDT 2001

hi i'm the chronicler for our shire and i've been
trying to put together a  sugar alternative article 
unfortunately i'm all out of enthusiasm for the
project so  thought I'd post it here and see if i'm on
the right track 

The Sweet Tooth

In the last issue we discussed Sugar.
My conclusion was that for the nobility the use of
sugar was a method of displayed wealth,onspicuous
consumption.  However as a day to day sweetener other
ingredients may have been used on a more regular basis
So I invite your response to the following.

The poor mans sugar,
In the Domestroi...." nearly every recipe which calls
for sweetening, specifies honey. Philip E Cutone 

Very early period practice in Europe appears to
indicate that honey was almost exclusively used for
sweetening foods. Cane sugar was known, but rather
rare in Europe, and would more or less have come under
the heading of a pharmaceutical. Around the time of
the first Crusade, the Crusaders returned to Europe
with a taste for many of the foods that we now
associate with medieval European cooking

Fruit as sweeteners
The used of currents and apples in meat dishes and
sauces would have sweetened them. It is usually seen
in conjunction with honey or sugar.

In some cases the Fruit used in period varies from
that grown now. 
The Seville Orange is bitter rather the sweet as the
Naval orange we know.

Concentrated grape juice was used in classical roman ,
medieval and modern middle eastern cookery
(Unripened grapes were used to make Verjuice, a
vinegar flavoured alternative)

Dried fruits used in dishes held concentrated sugars
contributing to the taste.

Sugar substitutes, that may have been used  are a sort
of molasses made from dates. In it’s solid form,
described as a fudge-like block, and Acer sacchrum
(sugar maple)  that was imported to England in 1560 
Acer campestre is the only maple native to Europe 

The culinary use of molasses in England would date
from late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. They
might have been used earlier elsewhere.
"The commentary notes that molasses was being imported
to England towards the end of the century." (Fiacha) 
Molasses (British "treacle") is a by product of sugar
According to C. Anne Wilson (Food and Drink in
England) they were originally used for medicinal
purposes. At some point after sugar started to be
refined in England (sixteenth century), the supply of
molasses outgrew the medicinal demand and they started
to be used in cooking. –Cariadoc 

Sugar Beet While the sugar beet may be period,
extraction of beet sugar apparently isn't. Commercial
sugar extraction from beets is a 19th century thing. 
it wasn't until Napoleonic times Sugar beet was used
for large scale sugar extraction, Processed it looks &
appears to behave exactly the same as sugar cane sugar

I see this column as being one in which the
fundamental need of food and it’s associated social
commentary come into play.
Agriculture -Farming to Cooking , 
Trade, -Transport –preservation 
social  influences –Tradition, status ,

It’s not enough to know they ate it  I want to know
why they ate it,  and who ate it  

Things I’m interested in finding out are

Where did the spice come from in the first place? what
processes had it undergone?
from seed to Harvest, 
Harvest to packaging 
who brought it ?
How did they find out about it?
How and in what form was it transported in ?
Where did it end up? 
How did they use it and store it? 

p.s. I try to ask all people i quotes permission  but
sometimes late into the night i forget  please if you
recognise something in here may i have your permission
to use it

>From bjofnz at yahoo.co.nz

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