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Dec 6, 2006 08:39 PM

Raw Sugar ... Does it really taste any different?

Does raw sugar really taste different than "regular" sugar?

Is it somehow better for baking? Cooking? Beverages?

I know that I will use Chinese rock sugar for certain recipes because at least to these taste buds there is a difference.

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  1. I think so and I am not a super taster by any means. I just use it in my coffee as I am not a baker at all. I just use Demerrara sugar though instead of Sugar In The Raw because it's half the price.

    1. yes I believe the taste is better-I use Sugar in the Raw from Maui,Hawaii, but the Demerrara sugar which is from Guyana is great too-where do you purchase the Demerrara sugar-any places in NYC or Brooklyn?

      1 Reply
      1. re: marlie202

        I find Demerrara in the Latin sections of many grocery stores. I am in Queens so I find it fairly regularly. I think the brand name is La Flor that I buy.

      2. It tastes different, yes. You can use it for baking, but it also has a different moisture content and crystal structure, which might affect the results of a recipe that calls for refined sugar. I would never substitute it into a recipe where the chemical properties of the sugar were critical (almost all confectionary and many baked goods).

        1. Raw sugar is what's left after blackstrap molasses (mostly used for animal feed) is spun off by centrifuge from a thick syrup called massacuite made from boiling cane juice. It still contains some molasses and minerals and most is sent off to be refined into plain white sugar, such as Domino.

          Raw sugar is an inexact product because the amounts of minerals and molasses left will vary. It is very hard to use in baking because of the differing moisture content and it's heavier than white sugar, lighter than brown sugar. The ones you buy in the stores will all be different depending on the brand.
          My family has been in the sugar cane business, farming and mill, for generations and I always use demerarra in coffee and for some other uses. I generally buy it commercially because the sugar I can get straight from the mill is way too strong for my taste. We could barely stand the smell of the mill when we were kids.

          7 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            Thanks for the very interesting post.

            1. re: MakingSense

              I thought there was some FDA regulation that prevented the labeling of this product as "Raw Sugar," which is why it is labeled as "Sugar in the Raw." MakingSense, do you know anything about that?

              Also, I love blackstrap molasses. :)

              1. re: Non Cognomina

                "Sugar in the Raw" is a trademarked brand name for one type that is sold both loose and in packets that you often see in restaurants. I think Starbucks uses it and it's sold in supermarkets alongside other brands.
                There are all sorts of variations of the same thing including demerrara, turbinado, radidura, sucanat, panela, jaggery, muscavado, piloncillo, etc. available in different countries where cane is grown and processed.
                The differences among these are the amounts of trace minerals, molasses and moisture in the product. Some are more refined than others. Each is a product that is from some point in the production process between pure cane juice (squeezed from the cane) and pure sucrose (white sugar like in a bag of Domino.)

                I don't know very much about blackstrap molasses other than that we sold it as animal feed and that the smell of it at the sugar mill is vile. I always assumed that what is marketed for home use was refined further to remove impurities.
                We did use Steen's Syrup for pancakes, waffles, general cooking. Aso a brand called Br'er Rabbit. There are other cane syrups as well that are probably refined versions of molasses.

              2. re: MakingSense

                I was just having a discussion about this process the other day, and I thank you for clarifying the bit about molasses, which is the part we didn't understand. Am I to conclude that raw sugar is then always from cane sugar, or can it come from beets as well? How about molasses (I've never heard of beet molasses, but there are lots of things I haven't heard of).

                1. re: Marsha

                  Coming from a different plant, beet molasses probably tastes quite a bit different from cane molasses. I suspect most it goes into animal feed or other industrial uses.

                  Sugar beets grow in temperate climates, such as North Dakota, and processing is very industrial. While most cane sugar is processed in a similar manner, it has a history of being processed on a small scale. Latin American style panela can be produced in a jungle shed, with a primitive cane crusher and open pan of boiling syrup - not like the traditional New England maple sugar shack.

                  A product like 'sugar in the raw' must come from more modern industrial plants, but it aims, in one sense or other, to copy some qualities of the primitive tropical cane sugar. It may be possible to produce quality 'sugar in the raw' from organic beets, but selling the virtues of such a product to Whole Foods customers would be difficult.


                  1. re: paulj

                    All of these processes remove sucrose from a plant product. In doing so you get some byproducts such as molasses and you can get intermediate products that you might call "raw sugar" before you get to pure sucrose.
                    There have been products which you would call "raw sugar" long before sugar mills were industrialized so they cannot be called attempts to copy anything. It is a natural stage in sugar production. Piloncillo, canela, etc. are traditional, even artisanal, products available in many countries where refined sugar is easily available in markets as well.
                    Sugar producers are now marketing raw sugar as a specialty item because they can get premium prices for it among consumers who are willing to pay the high prices for a niche product. These products have always been available in specialty markets and in some sections of the US, but they were not a generally agreeable taste to many Americans.
                    Beet and corn sugar have nothing to do with the production of the "raw sugar" that you find for consumer use.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Wikipedia article on Sugar beet mentions as sugar beet syrup that is used as a sandwich spread in Germany.

                      A quick read of McGee's On Food and Cooking suggests that the production of beet sugar and cane sugar is essentially the same.


              3. A variant on the Chinese 'brown candy' is the Mexican piloncillo. This is sugar with a lot of the molasses left in, and cast into large pieces. In Mexico they generally cast it in cones, 2 to 6" long. I've seen Columbian versions in large hockey puck shapes, while in Ecuador it is sold in bricks.

                You have to either grate this form of sugar, or dissolve in water forming a molasses flavored syrup or beverage.

                If you can read Spanish, the Wikipedia page on panela covers to topic well
                the English content is a bit different