Friday, March 11, 2011

Home-made Sugars

The unrest in governments around the world, along with natural disasters every time you turn around has me thinking in hyper drive. They say, "No man is an island." Well, they aren't kidding since in our world, we are all interconnected. I wish it weren't so and our government was a bit self-reliant, producing more of its own oil and enough food to feed our nation. It could, it chooses not to.This dependency leaves us vulnerable to the dictates of other nations. It's a little hard to stand firm when someone else is controlling the thermometer in your home or the food in the pantry. This has led to price leaps at the gas pump and in the grocery store.

The results of our government's past decisions are a teetering economy and a shrinking of what money can buy. What I've done so far will help us as a family but I can quickly see it won't be enough. Just last night, I had to buy Miracle Whip, something we didn't use much of until I began packing a school lunch for our oldest grand daughter. $6.49 for a jar and I can remember not that long ago when it was 2 something. We'll talk more later about this as I'm going to try making my own.

Beyond Miracle Whip salad dressing, one of the things I've been thinking about is sugar. In times past it rose greatly in price. Think the Great Depression and World War II. It wasn't quite so bad becasue that was when women cooked. Today, that one hike in price would effect almost everything in the grocery store. Mother isn't feeding us now, the factories are. So since I love sugar, I stocked up a bit so I can ride along until it goes on sale and I can buy it at a reduce price. Not a reduced price from its new all time high price but for less. Buying on sale is how this family has stayed afloat but I can see we are going to have to tighten the belt.

I've stored brown sugar, powdered sugar, and white sugar in the past when I knew the price was going to go way up. But with my move toward self-sufficiency, I've got less room in my storage room. More equiptment and more things I make myself. I've begun to wonder could I just store white sugar and have all three products at my home-made fingertips?

Making my own brown sugar would entail keeping a good supply of molasses on hand. No problem since I buy mine by the gallon and so I gave making my own brown sugar a try.

Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons of mollasses

1 cup of white sugar

I at first used a blender but that didn't work too well. Instead I'd suggest you use a mixer or stir by hand which is what I ended up doing. The result is a moist brown sugar. The home-made is on the left side. I would guess it would become lighter in color, more like the commercial kind as it dries out some. I've not intention of making up a bunch and letting it sit though since it is so easly to whip up what you need withinin minutes. One blogger said she uses nothing else but this home-made version as it is richer and moister. I'm anxious to give it a try in baking. If I liked oatmeal cereal in the morning, this would be really good in it.
As for making my own powdered sugar, I wasn't as happy with the results.
This is commercial powdered sugar.This is home-made. The sugar granules just don't break apart as effectively in the blender as with commercial equipment.
The recipe is:
1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon corn starch

You can substitute arrowroot, or tapioca flour for the corn starch if that's what you have or if you wish to avoid corn.

Fragmenting the sugar crystals increases the the one cup you started with to 1 1/4 cups.

The instructions don't recommend you use a food processor as it doesn't do a very good job.

A blender works decent if you use the pulse setting and stop frequently to shake the contents before pulsing again. They said to do only one cup at a time. My blender is rather large and I'm wondering if a cup and a half wouldn't work better.
The results - on the left my home version and on the right the commercial. Some bloggers were happy with the results of not using the corn starch but the big wigs I consulted on the Internet said you would not get as good a results if you omitted it. Don't know - didn't try. My opinion so far is that this home-made version would do in a pinch. It would be great in a frosting to drizzle on cinnamon rolls and would probably work in my angel food cake recipe. I wouldn't be using it to mix frosting for a wedding cake though. Like you'd ever catch me making one or anyone asking me to do it. I'd be more inclined to mix my home-made with the commercial product to make it stretch. That brings me to wonder if cost wise, is significanly cheaper. I've no data and a sick grand daughter which wouldn't appreciate my hauling her to the store to find out. Let alone all the occupants who'd I'd be infecting. See, I can be nice sometimes.

Now if the bees were doing better, I wouldn't be so concerned about purchasing white sugar but the weather here is very uncertain. A couple years ago grasshoppers came in and ate everything in site leaving the bees nothing. The seven or eight years before that it was drought. So they can't be depended upon in a non irrigated area like ours.

I've been reading about how if I grew an orchard, or what ever you call it, of Box Elders then I could make something akin to maple syrup. They grown in Wyoming but since trees period don't do well in this county, it isn't a good option. Besides, I've not the acreage for the project. I've not heard of anyone doing it except in Wyoming pioneer journals.

And if I was prone to move to the other side of the Big Horn Mountains, then I could join the farmers there in growing sugar beets and make a home-made syrup from them. Looked it up, kind of looks fascinating. I may have to slip over there where my Mom is and con a farmer into letting me have some sugar beets, just so I can try making some. But realistically, I can't fit them into my garden along with everything else and who knows if they'd grow. That leaves me with buying some white sugar from the store.

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