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Apr 17, 2009 12:10 PM

Palm Sugar -- Now I know why

I used palm sugar for the first time when we were cooking from Pure Desserts. That book uses a number of off-the-beaten-track sugars.

Anyway, when I went to one of our asian stores to buy the palm sugar, there were a few kinds. I wasn't sure what was right so I bought one kind that came in a jar and another hard kind that came in disks.

When I went to use it, I found that the jarred stuff was softer. You could scrape it out with a spoon. The stuff in disks you had to grate. (Although it wasn't that hard and wasn't really difficult to do.)

So I thought, why would I want the disks when the jarred stuff is easier to use?

Now I know why. The jarred stuff is moldy. Definitely not usable.

But the disks are doing just fine on my shelf.

(Maybe I should have refrigerated the jarred stuff. I kind of doubt if that would have prevented the mold though.)

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  1. I've had my jarred soft stuff for a year -- and no mold. I haven't died from it yet, but now you've got me nervous. I figured it was like honey -- lasts forever.

    1. I was reading about palm sugar in “Cradle of Flavor” just last night. Evidently cane sugar is very different, in both look and taste, depending on where it comes from. The soft, moist stuff in a jar, he says, comes from Thailand. Most of those that come in disks, also used in Thailand and in Vietnam, are milder and less complex in flavor. But he says that all of them should be stored the same way: tightly wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dark, dry place “such as a cupboard.” Oseland claims it will keep for two years and, although it may lose a lot of moisture and become very hard, it’s still usable. He says nothing about refrigeration. And doesn’t mention anything about the possibility of the jarred version becoming moldy. Maybe the one you bought had already been sitting around for a very long time or had been stored under less than ideal conditions?

      5 Replies
      1. re: JoanN

        Or maybe you accidentally dipped a spoon into it that had some other organic material on it?

        1. re: JoanN

          this and jaggery are sort of like maple syrup - high moisture artisanal sugars, except in the totally dried out forms and not always totally pure - I understand these can mold at room temp eventually once opened just like maple syrup. I think I would be careful and always use a clean spoon and probably refrigerate, as with maple syrup, once opened.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Actually, I'm really fanatical about using clean spoons. According to my SO who is not-so-fanatical (and who I have to monitor in the kitchen!) Of course, it's always possible that there were undetectable molecules of something on a spoon.

          2. re: JoanN

            My jar did come from Thailand. If the jarred stuff is more complex, I think I would buy another jar and take my chances.

            1. re: JoanN

              I think the jarred stuff I have had a deeper color than the disks. And I do think the flavor was stronger. So that is a good reason to use the jarred stuff -- at least for me because that's what I would be looking for.

              I will have to look at Cradle of Flavor if it talks about this.

            2. The mini tub of it that I have suggests that you refrigerate it and use within one month so I think its really not for keeping very long once you open it, but then this actually had standing liquid on it so it may be different from what you bought. Good stuff though.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sally599

                Was there a wax layer on top of the soft stuff?

                1. re: paulj

                  Nope. No wax layer. Is that common?

                  1. re: karykat

                    Interesting. I recently opened a new jar and it had large spots of a white covering about a third of the top. I wasn't sure if it was a mold or something and I dug it out. Maybe it was wx?

                2. I bought the palm sugar discs to make Thai curries and I really like it -- I used to sub brown sugar.

                  IMO, palm sugar is the perfect balance to the heat of chilies, garlic, etc. and the sourness of shrimp paste. It's light and almost citrus-y (rather than molasses of brown sugar) and adds flavor more than white sugar.

                  I haven't been grating mine -- just hacking off smallish chunks and stir into simmering sauce once the coconut milk is in the mix. It seems to melt just fine. And I spose I should seal up my palm sugar -- it's lying on the counter in its open bag (oops!) (but hey, my fermented black beans haven't seen the refrigerator)

                  1. I use granulated Heritage Palm Sugar from Big Tree Farms in Bali. Expensive, but super easy to use, great flavor, lasts forever.