How Sugar is Made

How “Raw” Sugar is Made

I find “raw” to be a pretty weird term for sugar, since all table sugars are “cooked” in a sense — boiled or heated to evaporate moisture. After that it’s mostly a matter of removing the “non-sugar” substances. But as usual I’m ahead of myself.

Sugar processing, as I mentioned below, starts by harvesting, washing and pulping the sugarcane. At that point the cane is pressed to remove the sucrose-heavy juice. The next step is to heat the juice to remove the moisture. Traditionally this was done by boiling, but since long-term boiling is both fuel-intensive and can destroy some of the flavors in the by-products (i.e. the molasses), most cane juice these days is “cooked” in vacuum pans which get the job done at a lower temperature. After many hours the juice turns thick and brown as the residual plant bits brown and some of the non-sucrose sugars caramelize. The finished product is a thick, very low moisture liquid called “dark brown” syrup.