Sugar


Sugar -

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the world relied almost entirely on the sugar-cane for sugar. By 1860, the manufacture of beet sugar had begun to attain commercial importance and it continued to increase thereafter so rapidly and to such an extent that the cane plantations of the West Indies and other tropical countries were in hundreds of cases reduced to a condition that verged closely on ruin. By 1900, the civilized world - omitting China and India, which, though large producers, export only unimportant quantities - was consuming two pounds of beet to one pound of cane sugar.

The pendulum has since swung a little the other way. The repeal of the beet-sugar bounties put competition on a more even basis, and the improved conditions in Cuba, Porto Rico, Hawaii and the Philippines have very largely increased the output of cane sugar. The world's sugar production now averages between fourteen and fifteen million tons annually, of which a little more than half is cane sugar.

In the United States, popular sentiment tends to favor cane sugar in the abstract, but in actual practice the consumer cannot tell one from the other when properly refined - for there is no difference, either apparent or by analysis, in flavor, appearance or composition. As a result of the crude processing of the first beet sugar manufactured here, some prejudice still exists against its use for canning or preserving, but this is now entirely unwarranted.

commercial interests and conditions have made the United States the greatest cane-sugar importer. The country consumes the entire home beet-sugar output - several states, including Colorado, California, Michigan, Utah, Idaho and Wisconsin, producing large quantities of excellent quality - but 90% to 98% of our importations are of the cane product.

The sugar Cane - Its History and Cultivation.

The manufacture of sugar from the sugar-cane probably antedates all authenticated history - reference is found to it even in the Sanskrit of Ancient India. Its present title is derived from the Sanskrit, Carkara, modified by its course through various other languages - the Prakrit Sakkara, then the Persian Shakar and the Arabic Sakkar, the Greek Sakchar, the Latin Succarum and the French Sucre - of which last-mentioned the Anglo-Saxon "sugar" is an easily understood change to better suit the English tongue.

The cane was introduced into Europe from the East by the Saracens soon after their conquests in the ninth century, and it is stated by Venetian historians that by the twelfth century their countrymen were importing sugar from Sicily at a cheaper rate than they could obtain it from Egypt, where it was then most extensively made.

The first plantations in Spain were at Valencia, the industry extending thence to other Spanish provinces and to Portugal, Madeira and the Canary Islands about the beginning of the fifteenth century. From Gomera, one of the Canaries, the cane was introduced into the West Indies by Columbus in his second voyage to America in 1493. By 1518, the Spaniards were operating twenty-eight plantations in San Domingo and an abundance of sugar was manufactured, the island for a long period furnishing the bulk of the European supply. Barbados, the oldest English settlement in the West Indies, began to export sugar in 1646, and as far back as the year 1676 the trade required ships of 450 tons burden.

The sugar-cane is to-day cultivated in every tropical and semi-tropical country. There are several varieties, but that known as "Otaheite" is the most productive - the cane being the juiciest and sweetest. The type grown on the Malacca section of the Malay Peninsula is the largest.

sugar-cane is usually raised by the planting of slips, or buds, and grows to a height of from six to ten feet, in some sections to fifteen feet, with a diameter of from one to two inches. A field of it resembles in general appearance a flourishing field of Indian corn prior to heading.

The cane is generally ripe for harvest at from twelve to sixteen months' growth. It is cut close to the ground just before its flowering time, being then heaviest in juice. The stubble develops new cane, the plants thus continuing, if so permitted, for several years. As however they gradually become weaker, it is customary to plow the stubble out after the second, third or fourth cutting - according to the strength of the soil - and to plant new slips.

The tops are sliced off the cane immediately after cutting and the leaves stripped, only the denuded stalks being transported to the mills. An average analysis of high grade stalks in this condition shows about 72% water, 18% sugar and 10% woody and vegetable matter.

The Manufacture of Raw sugar and sugar Refining.

Two different processes are in use for extracting cane juice - "milling" and "diffusion." The former is the "old" way, but it is still the one most generally employed, except in a few localities particularly suited to the diffusion method. "Diffusion" is used exclusively in treatment of the sugar-beet.

By the Milling Process, the stalks are unloaded from cars or wagons in huge bundles, often weighing five tons or more, into a "hopper," or onto a "carrier," which transports them to a "shredding" machine which tears the cane to shreds, or a "crusher" which crushes the hard rinds. They go next to the roller mills. The first mill extracts probably 60% of the juice. The "bagasse," as the crushed stalks are called, is then sprayed with water and put through a second, and again, after maceration or saturation, through a third mill - after which the stalks are consumed as fuel in furnaces specially designed to utilize them.

The Diffusion Process recognizes the fact that in both cane and beet sugar juice there are two distinct substances - one that crystallizes and becomes sugar, and another that is gummy and will not crystallize. Crushing the cane in the mill extracts both together and the entire product must be treated and separated afterwards. Diffusion takes out little except crystallizable juice, thus obtaining a liquid that gives a maximum of sugar and a minimum of SYRUP.

For the Diffusion process, the cane-stalks are sliced thin by cutting machines. The beets may either be similarly sliced, or crushed into pulp. The "chips" or pulp go to a series of large tanks called "diffusers" or "cells," where steam or water saturation extracts the sucrose, the liquid being forced from one tank to the other, from those containing the partially exhausted chips to those filled with fresh chips.

The juice obtained by either process is of a sweetish taste and the appearance of sweet cider. It is pumped into tanks called "defecators," where it is first treated with milk of lime and carbon-dioxide, to remove impurities. It then commonly undergoes two or three other purifying processes, by evaporation, through filters, etc., before it is ready for the multiple vacuum boilers, where it is condensed to SYRUP, and the vacuum pans, where it forms into crystals.

Next comes the separation of whatever proportion of uncrystallizable SYRUP is mixed with the crystals. This is now generally accomplished by centrifugal machines - a wide-sided, cylinder-shaped basket of fine mesh is revolved at high speed inside an iron casing, and the SYRUP is ejected by the action into the casing, whence it drains into a receiver. The "cured" sugar left is known as Centrifugal, or "Raw," sugar, or locally as "Brown sugar." The SYRUP of the cane product is shipped as MOLASSES. When the centrifugal process is not used, the Raw sugar is known as Muscovado.

MOLASSES sugar is that obtained by further boiling of the MOLASSES. The uncrystallized residue of this process is known as "Black-strap." It is frequently marketed as "MOLASSES," but is an inferior article.

Practically all of the sugar imported into the United States - whether beet sugar from Europe or cane sugar from Cuba, the Dutch East Indies or Hawaii (the three chief sources), or elsewhere, comes in as Raw sugar to be refined here, being graded in the custom-house according to its response to the POLARISCOPE test (see POLARISCOPE). In refining, it is melted, passed through cloth filters to remove impurities and then through animal-charcoal filters to abstract all coloring matter. The clear SYRUP thus obtained is next boiled in a series of vacuum pans to crystallization. At this point, the process varies according to the market size of the sugar to be produced. For Granulated or Powdered sugar comes a further turbining, etc., and grinding to the desired size. Confectioner's sugar is powdered sugar ground especially fine. For Cut or Tablet, or "Lump," sugar, the melted product is run into frames divided into compartments about an inch wide, the frames after cooling being placed in turbines, where brisk revolving brings out the "first" SYRUP. A cleansing liquid is then added and further prolonged revolving brings out the "last" SYRUP. Next comes the drying in the ovens and, finally, the bars are cut or broken by special machinery into the desired size. The SYRUP yielded in these processes is again melted and further refined into sugar.

The refining of beet and cane sugar is identical in methods, but beet sugar is never sold "raw" as its unpleasant native twang is only dispelled by complete refining - whereas good raw cane sugar (the "second" or "yellow") has so delightful a flavor that large quantities are sold without any treatment other than sieving and grading. One of the best known trade varieties is the light, large crystal kind styled DEMERARA SUGAR (which see).

Cane MOLASSES and the final uncrystallizable residue of cane-sugar refining are also consumed to the last ounce (see articles on MOLASSES and SYRUP).

It should be understood that the foregoing is but a superficial description of the art of sugar-making and refining. In actual practice, much experience is necessary to produce the best results - the supervision of each process, especially those of crystallization, calling for high ability.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture defines sugar as "the product chemically known as sucrose (saccharose), chiefly obtained from the sugar-cane, sugar-beet, maple or palm"; Standard sugar as "white sugar containing at least 99.5% of sucrose"; Granulated Loaf, Cut, Milled and Powdered sugars as "different forms of Standard Sugars," and Massecuite, Melada, Mush-sugar and Concrete as "products obtained by evaporating the purified juice of a sugar-producing plant, or a solution of sugar, to a solid or semi-solid consistence in which the sugar exists chiefly in a crystalline state."

beet sugar.

The discovery of the value of the beet as a sugar producer is attributed to Margraff, a German scientist, in 1747. He was not, however, able to devise a commercially successful method of extracting the sugar and little more was heard of the idea until fifty-two years later, when Karl Archard, one of his pupils, submitted a method of extraction to the Institute of France.

The Institute appointed a committee to investigate the matter and reported favorably on it, with some reservations as to the cost of manufacture. The result was the starting of the now gigantic beet-sugar industry, for within the ten years following several small factories were erected and put into operation.

A great impetus was given in 1810, when Napoleon I offered a prize of a million francs, or $200,000, for the best method of beet-sugar making, and further encouraged home cultivation and manufacture by large bounties. Increased growth and greatly improved methods resulted, but it was many years before its manufacture was brought to the point of equalling cane sugar in quality and appearance - for a long time it held a disagreeably pronounced flavor and was in other respects inferior.

Though the industry was destined to grow to such proportions, it is interesting to note that not even the example and attitude of Napoleon satisfied the scoffers of his generation - they could not believe that the homely beet would ever vie with the tropical cane as a sugar producer. The literature of the times contains, for example, a humorous caricature, published in 1811, ridiculing the emperor and his son, the little King of Rome. Napoleon is represented as sitting in the nursery squeezing a beet into a cup of coffee and near him is the King of Rome putting another root to his mouth - his nurse telling the youngster to "Suck, dear, suck! - your father says it's sugar!"

After the downfall of Napoleon the industry languished for many years, but improvements were made from time to time, especially in Germany, and then France also took the matter up again with renewed energy, both nations stimulating manufacturers by liberal government bounties. Later, Russia, Austria, Hungary and other European countries entered the field. Up to 1860 the annual product amounted to only about 150,000 pounds - but by 1889, Europe was manufacturing 1,800,000 to 2,000,000 tons a year. To-day the world's output averages between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 tons.

The cultivation of the sugar-beet was first taken up in the United States in 1880, American interest having been developed by the exposition of machinery and processes at the World's Fair in Paris in 1878. Congress called for a report on the subject and, following its receipt, farmers in several states added the sugar-beet to their crops - receiving for a time encouragement in the form of bounties by the Federal Government and various State Legislatures. In the beginning, inexperience and want of adequate machinery told heavily against success, but these drawbacks were soon surmounted and the annual United States output now averages more than 400,000 tons.

The beets used for sugar making are raised from specially grown and carefully selected seed, for their value depends not on their size but on the density of their juice - sugar factories generally paying the grower according to the sugar percentage in an average of his crop. The white elongated type is generally conceded to be the best producer and a root weight of from fourteen to twenty-four ounces as the most generally satisfactory.

The beets are as a rule transported by wagon to the mills, there to be washed, sliced and placed in the diffusion tanks.

In some parts of France and Germany, the labor of carrying the beets to the mills is avoided by a system of underground piping from the beet farms to a central factory. Each district has a diffusion apparatus to extract the juice, which is then treated with a small quantity of lime and pumped into pipes leading into large vats in the factory.

One hundred pounds of the best Silesian beet-roots will yield an average of about ten pounds of sugar - about half of fine quality and the balance of minor grades.

The value of the crop is increased by the fact that the pulp after the extraction of the juice is still an excellent cattle food.

Other Sources of sugar.

The general assumption is that only plants such as the sugar-cane, beet and sugar-maple will yield sugar, but in fact a great many others contain it, frequently in considerable quantities. To extract and manufacture crystallized sugar at a price which the general public is willing to pay, requires, however, a plant easily cultivated, bountiful in crop and possessing a large percentage of sugar in a form that lends itself readily to crystallization, and, so far, only the sugar-beet and sugar-cane have responded to the test well enough to interest the civilized world.

The sugar obtained from the sap of the North American Maple tree is omitted from this consideration. It is a decided commercial success - the "crop" is not only always sold to the last ounce, but a great abundance of imitations are marketed in its name - but it is too limited in quantity to enter into calculation as a general sugar product. Its delicate flavor classes it rather as a natural confection (see article on MAPLE SUGAR AND MAPLE SYRUP). The product of the sugar Palm is also thoroughly desirable, but the total output is comparatively small.

From time to time numerous fruits, grains and vegetables have seemed to offer commercial possibilities - a fairly good sugar can, for example, be obtained from bananas; sorghum a few years ago was hailed as the coming American sugar crop and for a short period did keep several factories busy; the juice of the birch tree has been used in Scandinavia and Scotland, and both Europe and America have experimented with the sugar-melon, etc., but none of these has lived up to first hopes, nor reached the point of competition for the general market.

sugar as a Food.

sugar was formerly dealt with rather harshly by medical experts, it being charged with injury to both teeth and stomach. It is now generally acknowledged as a food item of great value. Used in moderation, it has been proved that it is a flesh and bone builder for children and important as a substance for supplying energy under conditions of continued physical strain - for soldiers on long marches, etc.

This endorsement by physicians is particularly directed to the pure sugar itself - eaten plain, dissolved in water or contained in chocolate, etc. It does not extend to an extensive diet of sweetened articles such as pastry.

The United Kingdom is the greatest per capita consumer, averaging about ninety-three and a half pounds annually for each member of the population. The United States comes next with about eighty-two pounds. Then, in the order named, are Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Germany and France. The smallest per capita consumption is in Italy, with only about seven and a half pounds, and the Balkan Peninsula, with less than seven pounds.


Arround Sugar in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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