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How to Make Sugar From Sugar Beets

Home made sugar from sugar beets is not the same product as commercial sugar. Commercial sugar is chemically treated and spun in vast, powerful machines to make the white grains we're used to. You may like your own home made sugar better or you may not like it at all.

First, plant a sugar beet. I'm not kidding. If you want to make your own sugar, you will probably have to grow your own sugar beets. You can't just go to a grocery store or even a farmer's market and buy a few sugar beets. They are either grown commercially or in someone's backyard as a novelty with hardly anyone growing them for any other purpose - why should they? Sugar is still less than a dollar a pound and a lot easier to buy than to make.

But if you're one of those people who like to see how things work and want to make your own to taste or see or experience the process, you will need to grow your own sugar beets.

Sugar beets grow like other beets and the greens are edible just like other beets. The beets themselves grow much larger, though, and much, much harder. Chopping them is the hardest part of making sugar, so you've been warned. A sturdy food processor will help.

But back to growing beets. Plant the seeds in good soil in mid to late spring and keep them moist until they sprout. They prefer cool weather to get started but can handle hot weather as long as they have enough water. Don't overwater them, though.

They will sprout and grow like other beets, as I've said. Harvest a few leaves from them for the table, either raw or cooked like spinach, but don't take too many from any one plant.

Wait until a frost, and ideally, two or three frosts, to dig the large, very firm, white beets. This is when the sugar goes to the roots (beets) and this is what you're after. Scrub them very thoroughly, as it's not practical to pare them. Cut them into pieces, the smaller the better. You may need some help. Use whatever clean tool feels right to you. I have used a meat cleaver, a hacksaw and one time, a small hatchet.

When you have the beets cut or hacked into small pieces, put them in a pot with just enough water to cover by an inch or so. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. And simmer. And simmer. After quite some time, the beets will soften. Simmer another hour or so after they seem "done,", then lift the beets from the liquid. The liquid is sugar water and that's what you're after, so drain the beets over the water to get every last drop. Put the beet pulp on the compost pile or feed it to the chickens or pigs.

Continue to gently cook the sugar water down until it tastes very sweet, then remove from the fire and let it cool for a half hour or so, then pour it into a shallow container. It will thicken as it cools, but will probably not harden. That's okay. Let it set, uncovered, until you can see crystals around the edges and/or the center has cooled and hardened completely. This could take several hours. If it doesnt harden, put it back on the heat and cook a little more. Be careful not to scorch it.

When it's cooled again and hardened, break off pieces and put them in a cloth bag and break it up into small pieces with a hammer or use a strong blender to break it up. You won't get perfect little white crystals. You'll get brownish and sometimes pinkish chunks that will dissolve in hot liquid like coffee or tea.

Homemade sugar is that simple.

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Comments (2)

I'll try this one. Thanks for sharing!

An outstanding article Pat.  Such indepth information...great.

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