Types Of Granulated Sugars

Buying granulated sugar and its close cousins is really a very simple matter. Buy a brand you know you can trust and be certain the package is clean, dry and has no insect infestation. There's very little that can go wrong with it.

GRANULATED: Granulated sugar does not spoil, but if it gets damp it will likely cake up or get lumpy. If it does, it can simply be pulverized again until it regains its granulated texture. Granulated sugar can be found in varying textures, coarser or finer. "Castor/caster sugar" is a finer granulation than what is commonly sold as table sugar in the U.S. and is more closely equivalent to our super fine or berry sugar.

POWDERED, CONFECTIONERS, ICING: All names refer to the same kind of sugar, that is white granulated sugar very finely ground. For commercial use there is a range of textures from coarse to ultra-fine. For home consumption, what is generally found is either Very Fine (6X) or Ultra-Fine (10X), but this can vary from nation to nation. Not all manufacturers will indicate the grind on the package. Sugar refiners usually add a small amount of corn-starch to prevent caking which will make it undesirable for use in sugar syrups or solutions where clarity is needed.

Powdered sugar is as inert as granulated sugar, but it is even more hygroscopic and will adsorb any moisture present. If it adsorbs more than a little it will cake up and get hard. It's difficult to reclaim hardened powdered sugar, but it can still be used like granulated sugar where clarity in solution (syrups) is not important.

BROWN, LIGHT & DARK: In the United States brown sugar is basically just refined white sugar that has had a bit of molasses or sugar syrup and caramel coloring added to it. Dark brown sugar has more molasses which gives it a stronger flavor, a darker color and makes it damp. Light brown sugar has less molasses which gives it a milder flavor, a blonder color and is slightly dryer than the dark variety. For storage purposes you may want to just stock the dark variety. Light brown sugar can be made by combining one fourth to one third white sugar to the remainder dark brown sugar and blend thoroughly.

Both varieties need to be protected from drying out, or they will become very hard and difficult to deal with. Nor do you want to allow them to become damper than what they already are.

There are granulated and liquid brown sugars available, but they don't have the same cooking qualities as ordinary brown sugars. They also don't dry out and harden quite so readily either.

RAW, NATURAL, & TURBINADO: In recent years, sugar refiners have realized that there is a market for less refined forms of cane sugar in the U.S. and have begun to sell this kind of sugar under various names and packagings. None of it is really raw sugar since it is illegal to sell it in the U.S. due to the high impurities level in the truly raw product. All of it has been processed in some form or fashion to clean it, but it has not been subjected to the full refining and whitening processes of ordinary white table sugar. This leaves some of the natural color and a mild flavor in the sweetener. All of these less refined sugars may be stored and handled like brown sugar.

Outside of the United States it is possible to buy truly raw sugar and it can be found under names such as "muscavado", "jaggery" (usually a raw palm or date sugar), "demerara" and others. With all of the molasses and other impurities retained it is quite strong in flavor so would not be suited to general use, but there are recipes that call for it. In spite of moisture and impurities it can be stored like brown sugar since its sugar content is high enough to inhibit most microbial growth.


All granulated sugars have basically the same storage requirements. They need to be kept in air tight, insect and moisture proof containers. For powdered, and granulated sugar you might want to consider using some desiccant in the storage container if your local climate is damp. Since brown sugars and raw sugars are supposed to be moist, they do not need desiccants. Shelf life is indefinite if kept dry, but anything that you intend to eat really should be rotated over time. Time has a way of affecting even the most durable of foods.

I've used brown sugar that was six years old at the time it was removed from storage and, other than the molasses settling somewhat toward the bottom, it was just fine. A friend to whom I gave a bucket of the brown sugar finished it off three years after I gave it to her which was nine years after it was packaged and it, too, was fine.

Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan, athagan@sprintmail.com
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.

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