There are lots of sweeteners that you can gather or grow on your own. Honey and Stevia come immediately to mind. Both are usable only in some applications however. Processed sugar, however you might feel about it, is ideal for a lot of sweetening needs. Baked goods and sweet tea come immediately to mind. Today I thought I would offer you a bit of knowledge. This is a project that involves a lot of work and only a little yield, so be warned. It isn’t about making tons of your own sugar, but instead is more about understanding what it takes to process sugar. Knowing how to process it yourself is just one more notch in your belt of self-sufficiency knowledge. I don’t expect anyone to do this regularly unless they absolutely have no other choice.
What You’ll Need
- Some sort of grinder, slicer or grating device
- An electric orange juicer
- A percolator top (sized to fit the juicer)
- A large canning pot
- 2 large sugar beets (8 to 10lbs each!)
Starting The Sugar Process
Use whatever method you have to grind, slice or grate the beets into as small/thin of bits as you can. Cover these in water in the canning pot and boil for about an hour. They should be soft and mushy.
Strain the juice and keep the pulp. You are hoping to have about three quarts of juice by this point.
“Purify” the juice with 1/2 Cup of Milk of Lime and a shot of seltzer water. Milk of Lime is calcium hydroxide that has been suspended in water. Look for it in a pharmacy. A small bottle will generally make about a gallon of milk of lime. ‘Lime water’ is the normal use of this substance. Instead of lime water, milk of lime uses less water so that it is a slightly thicker suspension. Only make as much as you are going to need. The seltzer water adds CO2 as would be done in the more commercial processes.
Allow this mixture to rest for about two hours so that the semi-solid particles will settle at the bottom. You then carefully pour off the water from the top. This can be added to the pulp from earlier. The resulting mix can be used to make food items with or simply held as an animal fodder that they will absolutely gobble up.
Cooking Your Sugar Down
Begin to boil off the remaining sugars very slowly and carefully. You don’t want them to caramelize or burn. If done right, in about an hour to an hour and a half, you should be left with a Cup and a half of dark molasses.
The electric orange juicer will need to be set up somewhere by now and the juicer portion removed. The percolator top will be put in its place instead so that all the device does is spin inside. The molasses is poured into the percolator top and everything needs to be carefully closed to make sure you don’t have white sugar flying out of the top.
Turn it on and let it spin. You will want a bowl under each of the two spouts to catch what comes next. White sugar will start getting flung into the bowl of the juicer and black strap molasses will pour out of the spout into a container that you have put there.
When the process is finished, you should have half a cup of black strap molasses and a cup of white sugar. Spread the refined white sugar out on something to dry, as it will be a little damp at this stage and then enjoy as you see fit.
All That Work For a Cup of Sugar?
Yes. Makes you think hard about how much sugar you are using doesn’t it? Cup and a half of sugar related products and it took you several hours and lots of energy. Lots of work for so little gain. Still, it was probably fun and you got to learn something new. If push came to shove, you could process your own beets into sugar now.
And who knows. Maybe you can figure up a way to rig a larger batch for the process. Just about any motor with enough speed to spin at the rate of the juicer will work just as well. If you already have a wood stove or similar going, it could be cooking while you had it going anyway.
Self-Sufficiency isn’t about doing everything yourself, as I have ever said. Rather it is about understanding how to do things for yourself so that if you had to, you can.
Oh, one more little bonus, this isn’t just for beets. The process is exactly the same for Sorghum and Sugar Cane. The only difference is in the grating step. Instead you need to do some sort of roller press to crush the canes and extract their juices.