Environmentally Friendly Sugar Production

The other day I was searching to see how the ‘syrip’ is made here in Norway. I was wondering if it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or not – If you have seen King Corn or Food Inc, you will understand why I do not want to have HFCS in my life. So I looked up the brand of syrup we have in Norway – Dan Sukker, which is Danish (in the States the common brand in Karo Corn Syrup). And wow! I am so over the top impressed with Dan Sukker (who is a selling name under Nordic Sugar) – They have the most amazing set of goals for there company for becoming even more environmentally friendly then they already are. By 2030, they want to be 100% off of fossil fuel, they are looking into taking there sugar beet root waste and turning it into biomass fuel, there water use in 90% from the beets as they have a high water content(75%), and they make sure to reuse the water up to 20 times, and they have no genetically modified materials. I could go on and on, if you want to read all about there good doings, feel free to here.

So, the photo above is of sugar beets in the ground – that is where your table sugar comes from (unless you eat cane sugar). So lets see how that happens, the photos below and how to are from Dan Sukkers site.

Delivery of sugar beets. After being harvested, the beets are transported to sugar factories. Spot checks. The beets are spot checked on arrival. The grower is paid according to the quantity of clean beets and their sugar content. Washing. The beets are weighed and tipped into large piles. From here, they are transported to the beet washer to remove stones and gravel.

Cutting. To extract the sugar, the beets are cut into cossettes – thin strips resembling french fries. Diffusion. To extract the sugar from the beets, the cossettes are run through water warmed to 70°C. The pulp that remains after the sugar has been extracted (beet pulp) is made into animal feed and other products. Purifying the sugar juice. The warm sugar juice (raw juice) contains roughly 15% sugar, but also contains 1-2% impurities (non-sugars), which must be removed. This is done using lime.

Thin juice is reduced to thick juice. The sugar juice, now a thin, pale yellow liquid, is called thin juice. The juice is placed in an evaporator, which boils away the water to make the juice thicker. The resulting liquid, called thick juice, contains approximately 70% sugar. Crystallisation. The thick juice is pumped to large boiling stations, where tiny sugar crystals form in it.

Centrifugal spinning. The thick, brown juice, which is now called massecuite, is spun in a centrifuge to separate the white sugar from the brown syrup. The syrup is returned to the boiling station and boiled again until there is no more sugar left to extract. Molasses. The remaining product is called molasses. Its sugar content is too low to yield any more sugar. Molasses is used for making animal feed, yeast and spirits.

Ready for use. Finally, the sugar is dried and stored in a silo. The silos are completely full after the beet campaign, but will gradually be emptied during the year as the sugar is sold to shops, industries and on export. [There is a video on the site– showing the process, sorry it is not embedable.]

So I think that that is so cool! I would love to tour one of there factories! So now we know how the sugar is made, but back to that syrup. “Syrup (sugar syrup) is obtained as a by-product when white sugar is produced from beet or cane sugar in a sugar refinery.Syrup is a viscous sugar solution where some of the sugar has been broken down into glucose and fructose.This combination of different sugar types prevents crystallization, while the very high sugar content (approx. 80%) guarantees a long shelf life.” Fructose (fruit sugar) which is naturally occurring in plants is not to be confused with HFCS. So that is good to know, so now when I make my homemade marshmallows (recipe to come soon) I can eat them with ease knowing there is not hidden corn in them! The only problem I have now is that the syrups come in plastic. But there sugar is in just paper.

Knowing that my sugar is made in Denmark (around 500 km or 300 miles away) is great, it is local to Scandinavia – and that is a goal of mine to have local foods. Now if you are thinking wow local is not another country.. Norway is smaller then California, so I think that since we are such a small place having a product like sugar from within Scandinavia is great – however I would want my milk, eggs, ect to be literally local.

Now if you are not sure about you sugar or would just rather skip the commercialism and make your own – then guess what! I is possible! I think that once I have some growing room, I might have to give it a try! How cool it would be to say I made this sugar from scratch! So I have been doing some research and found a recipe to share – from all I have read this seems to be the best one, simple and straightforward.

First grow some sugar beets or buy them from a local farmer. If you are going to grow your own, make sure to read up on it. Wash the beets very well and peel them. Then over a large pot shred them with a cheese grater (this is supposed to be messy, apron recommended), then place pot in sink and rise off greater into pan to get all the juices. Fill pan till all shreds are floating. Boil on high, then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Strain water through cheesecloth, keeping the water large bowl – make sure to squeeze out as much water as you can. You can compost the beet pulp or find other uses for it. Then return the water to the stove, simmer and stir till reduced to syrup consistency. Then remove from heat and cover with cloth overnight. The next day you will have many crystals, break them with mallet to be desired size and use the same as table sugar. They will not be pure white. If you try this, let me know!!

So there you have it, how to produce your own sugar and the great local sugar I have been eating and did not even know it was from such a green company!

3 Responses

  1. EcoCatLady February 27, 2011 / 17:10

    Holy Moly! I had no idea one could actually make sugar! I generally try to avoid sugar because I’ve heard such terrible things about the environmental effects of sugar cane farming, but you’ve made me think that maybe with a little research I could find sugar that wasn’t evil. I usually use locally produced honey instead, which is another great option because it helps to support the bee population.

  2. fonda February 27, 2011 / 18:04

    I know! So exciting! We use local honey too, but for cakes, pancakes, brownies, ect – honey just doesn’t taste right to us in those. But tea, coffee and whatever I can I try to use honey – honey is such a nice rich taste.

    Let me know if you try to make your own- I think it sounds so simple! I am going to see if I can find any locally, but if not and I need to grow I need to wait till I have a garden area that is not my window sill. 🙂

What do you think?