[Sca-cooks] Sugar production

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Tue Aug 1 21:48:40 PDT 2006

> Has anyone read of how sugar was produced from cane written/described by 
> someone (in period) in a letter somewhere?

Gerard provides a brief description of sugar refining in his Herbal, but 
finding the quote isn't easy.  You might be better advised to check Harold 
McGee's "On Food and Cooking."

In general, the process (IIRC) is harvest the cane, break it, boil it, skim 
it, drain off the molasses, boil, skim and drain until you reach the clarity 
of sugar you want, use albumin from blood or egg white to revome impurities, 
pour the resulting liquid into a sugar mold (a hanging cone shape of cloth 
that allows water to escape) and leave it to drain and crystalize.  The 
albumin has been dropped from the modern process.

> Has anyone tried to grow or otherwise produce their own sugar using period 
> methods to acertain how close the various sugars available to us modernly 
> are to period sugars?

Refined white sugar has been available since about 500 CE.  Since the color 
of sugar is a function of how much molasses remains in the sugar, all modern 
sugars have counterparts within period.  Any differences between period and 
modern sugars will be in additives to the modern sugars.  Powdered sugar, 
for example, contains cornstarch to prevent clumping while on the shelf. 
Period powdered sugar, being fresh from the mortar and pestle, didn't need 
the additive.

> Have you seen any paintings or drawings by artists in period which might 
> show the production of sugar?
> Thank you for any help.
> Kateryn de Develyn

McGee's book has a 16th Century print of sugar making and there are prints 
and woodcuts that show various aspects of the process.


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