Sugar, being readily available in supermarkets and organic varieties – rapadura etc, from organic suppliers and online, is the most obvious sweetening agent for foods and drinks. Yet sugar cane (from which sugar is extracted) can only be grown in selected temperate climatic areas and soils. In terms of self-sufficiency, growing one’s own sugar cane is impossible for most people (unless of course, one lives in an appropriate part of the globe)….
So we will endeavour to outline some feasible alternatives for sweetening foods and drinks.
In the process it will also, hopefully, make one aware of more natural and less health threatening ways to satisfy one’s ‘sweet tooth’.
That does not mean to say that all these alternatives may be eaten in excess with safety – as with all offending food, moderation is the key.
- The naturally sweet leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a plant cultivated in South America and Asia, have been used for centuries as a sweetener in various countries.
- Stevia, which is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, works best in drinks and desserts such as puddings and pie fillings.
- It won’t lend biscuits, muffins or cakes the proper texture.
- In its pure form, it contains no kilojoules and no carbohydrates, and it won’t raise blood sugar levels.
- Organic gardeners in particular should find stevia an ideal addition to their yield.
- Though nontoxic, stevia plants have been found to have insect-repelling tendencies.
- Their very sweetness, in fact, may be a kind of natural defence mechanism against aphids and other bugs that find it not to their taste.
- Perhaps that’s why crop-devouring grasshoppers have been reported to bypass stevia under cultivation.
Growing stevia http://www.stevia.net/growingstevia.htm
- The food of the ordinary bee.
- Honey is readily available commercially in a variety of subtle flavours according to the type of flower from which the bee has extracted its pollen to make the honey.
- And if you prefer a more self-sufficient approach to obtaining honey then books and online resources on home beekeeping are in abundance in libraries and online.
- In terms of how honey may be used in cooking and eating, besides the usual (such as in tea, on cereals, smoothies, etc.), other suggestions are innumerable.
- Here are a few of the more interesting.
- rub together one tablespoon butter with one cup of SR flour.
- Add one egg and sufficient milk to make a light dough.
- In a saucepan place one cup of water and 1/2 cup honey and bring to the boil.
- Drop teaspoonfuls of the dumpling mixture into the syrup.
- Cover and leave to very slowly simmer for about 20 minutes.
- make up a lemon jelly with agar agar and lemon and leave to reach the thick, but runny, stage of setting.
- Mix together 2 egg yolks, 3/4 cup organic cream and 2 tablespoons honey and add to the jelly.
- Mix well.
- Gently fold in 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff.
- Allow to set in the refrigerator.
- beat 2 egg whites until stiff, add 1/2 cup honey, 2 beaten egg yolks, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind.
- Fold gently.
- Beat one cup of cream until stiff and add to the mixture.
- Fold gently.
- Pour into trays and place in the freezer.
- Honey-based products will take longer to freeze than other similar products.
- Honey may be used to replace sugar in cakes.
- Use 3/4 cup of honey in place of every one cup of sugar.
- It will also be necessary to reduce the liquid in the cake mixture, by one tablespoon per 3/4 cup of honey.
- Honey may be added to bread at a rate of one tablespoon per loaf.
- Mix the honey with the liquid (hot water or whatever) before it is added to the dough.
- Knead well.
- Honey may be used instead of sugar to preserve fruit.
- Use approximately 3/4 cup honey per 2 cups of water added to the fruit during cooking.
- Honey may also be used during jam-making, such as honey-plum jam – place 1/2 kg (1 lb) of washed and stoned plums, 3/4 cup honey and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a saucepan. Simmer for 45 minutes, pour into sterile jars and seal.
- Cough syrup made with honey improves the flavour and enhances its effectiveness.
- Simply mix together equal amounts of honey and lemon juice.
- Store in a jar in the refrigerator and use when required.
- A natural honey drink may be made by combining one cup of honey with 4 cups of orange juice, one cup of lemon juice and 2 cups of water.
- Mix well and serve with ice.
- Honey may also be used to make wine, beer, cider, fruit jellies, milk drinks, fruit party punch, marinating food ( honey, lemon juice , lemon rind, garlic, ginger and water / tamari ) and much more.
- delicate flavour.
- It’s much simpler to flavour honey than make jam.
- Heat 1 cup honey until runny.
- Add 1 cup fragrant rose petals (must be chemical free), white bit cut off.
- Leave with lid on for two hours.
- Heat with lid on until runny, strain, bottle – or repeat with more petals if it’s not fragrant enough.
- 1 cup sliced citrus, 2 cups organic honey.
- Heat both together until honey is runny.
- Take off the heat.
- Leave for an hour.
- Reheat, strain when honey is runny.
- Pour the still runny honey into a jar. ( Honey will thicken as it cools ).
- Keep honey in the refrigerator.
- Note: this honey will be runnier than it was before the citrus was added. It should last at least several weeks, and hopefully longer.
- Sweetness may be incorporated into foods by adding organic dried fruit, fruit juice, or whatever form of fruit you have available like bananas.
- Here are a few suggestions for using dried fruit to make cakes and sweets, and for making sugar-free jams.
- Sift together one cup of organic flour and one teaspoon each of bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.
- Mix in 3/4 cup coconut, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 1/2 cups grated carrot and one cup of sultanas.
- Beat together 4 eggs, 1/4 cup organic coconut oil, one teaspoon organic vanilla powder and 1/2 cup of water.
- Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a cake pan and bake 45 minutes in a moderate oven.
Fruit Bliss Balls
Mix together one cup each of minced sultanas and raisins, one cup of coconut and 1/2 cup crushed or chopped nuts.
Roll into balls in coconut.
Jams Without Sugar
For those people who prefer their jams totally free of added sweetener ( sugar, honey or whatever ), here is a recipe for making jam with glycerine.
- Wash 1 kg ( 2 1/4 lb ) of fruit ( peaches, plums, apricots, or whatever is in season ) and remove the stones if necessary.
- Place the fruit in a saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water and simmer until the fruit becomes tender (about 30 minutes).
Add 170 g ( 6 oz ) of glycerine and continue simmering for about 20 minutes.
Pour into sterile jars and seal.
These jams do not have sugar to preserve them, so must be kept stored in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible.
- Sugarless jams have a pureed fruit consistency and are of course not as sweet as sugar or honey based jams, though fruit has a certain amount of its own sweetening agent in the form of fruit sugar. Many people find that jams without sugar are quite sweet enough for their taste.
More DIY Natural Sugars
- Simple garden sugar beet can be turned into a type of unrefined sugar.
- First cut the tops off the sugar beet.
- Remove the juice from the beet by pressing it in a cider press, mangle, or whatever.
- Boil this extracted juice until all the moisture has evaporated.
- The remaining residue is an excellent unrefined sugar and ideal natural and nutritious sweetener.
- The sap of the sugar maple tree provides a source of natural sweetener. Although it is advisable to explore the technique for extracting maple sap and turning it into syrup more thoroughly via suitable resource books, online or professional advice, the technique in brief, is as follows.
- During late winter the tree is ‘tapped’ to extract its sap. This involves inserting a small hollow tube into the tree trunk to allow the sap to drain into a container.
The sap is then boiled via a process unique to maple sap to eventually become maple syrup.
- To turn this syrup into sugar the mixture is boiled to threadlike consistency, allowed to cool for a few minutes, then stirred.
- The crystallising syrup then turns into a sugar.
A particular species of sorghum (sweet sorghum) may be grown and used to make sugar via a process similar to making sugar from sugar cane. Sorghum prefers to grow in warm to hot weather (on average at least 24 C / 75 F). Once harvested it is crushed to extract its syrup. This crushing process needs to be done with a special crushing mill or pestle and mortar. The resulting syrup is boiled to remove the moisture and leave unrefined sugar.
A thought if you are shopping in town for a sweetener…
- As little as 1 teaspoon of the common herbicide paraquat, which is used on sugarcane crops, is a known toxin.
- A healthier, more natural high.
- Those little blue, pink, or yellow packets contain ingredients such as aspartame and sucralose (which can lead to headaches and even depression), and a recent study links sugar substitutes to weight gain.