The Unrefined Flavor of Muscovado Raw Sugar
The three sweetened victims of the fact of the case were muscovado sugar, together with the more anemic looking turbinado and Demerara types. Putting raw sugar like an angry timberwolf center attacking a growing village of ice hockey goalies, Reader’s Digest Canada slams the facts of the matter down to so many words: “…[Y]ou wouldn’t want to buy [raw sugar] since it contains yeast, mold, bacteria, dirt, bug parts, and other undesirable stuff.” Meanwhile, the value of sugarcane crops in the state of Florida exceeds that of all the agricultural corn, soybean, peanut and tobacco operations in the state, combined tax and all.
Anything that sweet can be easy to swallow.
Muscovado originated out of the early plantations of the tropical Americas. Produced in varieties dark or light, this sugar cane juice product gets a respectable bill of health from its devotees, brandishing a full slate of vitamins the equal of wheat grass juice. Vitamin A, four B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, and phytonutrients make up this natural balance of nutrition and avoiding the wild chemical processing used to produce the white. As a sugar — specifically, a brown sugar — expect its flavor to run chiefly as that of molasses accented with something of a smoky taste.
A well-proportioned regard for muscovado can take into account its centuries-old production. Following are some samples and key notes in the history of sugar production in the New World and some details of how the muscovado was produced.
In the South America, production began on Brazilian coasts around Bahia and Pernambuco in 1516. Commercial production followed in 1550 once mills had been constructed by Portuguese land grant recipient sharecroppers. By 1660, production favored Barbados and the West Indies, and by 1700 Barbados and Guadalupe were poised with a paramount supply and capacity to deliver the best price due to closer proximity to Europe, certain trade monopolies, and slavery. However, by the mid-18th century, slavery was a factor involving the Dutch East India Company and its seizure of Pernambuco from the Portuguese.
In North America, colonial Jamestown couldn’t produce the crop effectively as of 1619. Production was perhaps discouraged by this failure, as not until 1758 was the first sugar mill established on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, on a plantation. But sugar as a crop was not planted until 1771 by Jesuit missionaries without success, and not until 1841 did sugar production boom in Louisiana under John Randolph, becoming the largest production center in North America with lesser rivals in some southern states spanning from Florida to Texas and up to Missouri. The Civil War decimated sugar production and soon Hawaii and Cuba were to scuttle any effective competition from continental America.
But for the cause of sugar in Cuba, slavery ended there in 1886 while the American continent went on to buy 82% of the free island’s annual crop. Its arrival by import was in the form of muscovado sugar lumps that hit the grinder at grocers, granulated with a portable type of mill.
Brazillians made sugar only out of sugar cane that had been produced from a second boiling. A dark molasses from the first boiling was referred to as“muscovado macho,” and not preferred. The lighter molasses from the second boiling was called “muscovado batido”. Batido was exposed to clays to whiten its coloration. The macho muscovado was, however, used to produce azúcar de espumas by some operations, notably in Mexico. Sometimes molasses that was in excess from the second boiling was used to make additional sugar.
Barbadians regarded the molasses-based muscovado sugars as “peneles,” and their muscovado had once emanated from the major hub of sugar production in the Americas from the Caribbean island of Barbados, distinguished from other sugar primarily by being moist. Another way of asking for muscovado was to call it by the common name of “moist sugar”.
Today, this hub has since shifted for this niche item, some believe to Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar.
Muscovado sugar today has only 11 calories rather than the 15 calories of white sugar per teaspoon. The difference is due not only to the raw sugar’s natural origin and nutritive state but also to added Kalmansi lime and coconut fruit (0.2%) used to produce consistent results for the thickening process, after what it becomes poured into cups to dry before being beaten into the consistency of brown sugar. This is natural application is not a refinement procedure but rather a matter of convenience to ensure that the sugar does not foam while heated during the thickening phase.
The finished product differs in its shade from lighter to darker, although identified by its golden yellow color. As a natural product it lacks refinement, containing traces of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium.
In Asia, muscovado was long called “poor man’s sugar,” although that perception could be changing with some to a niche market of profitable demand and a more health-conscious prize. In Britain, its regard qualifies it as a specialty sugar.
Muscovado today is used much as it ever was, particularly as sugar. As The Kitchn’s Dana Velden writes, its uses are suitable to many a dessert and also with coffee and yogurt. That means that muscovado should also make a great smoothie. Her stated preference concerns sophisticated flavor combinations such as ice cream or gingerbread cookies.
But with practical regard for the flavor, there lies the mystery. Whatever the type of raw sugar, expect more flavor from muscovado. For example, if turabino is available then it may be possible to catch a glimpse of the closer-to-the-cane version that is muscovado.
Muscovado is not your ordinary sweetener. Expect much more than the vacant sweet tingle of common white sweet crystal — and something thick to its substance due to its unrefined fabric. Be brave and consider what muscovado would go deliciously with so as to make the first sample the best possible experience. The rich history of this darkest of popular raw sugars makes a sort of capitalist case, “from ignominy to popularity,” regarding the latter-day reflux of its resurgent popularity that currently rides on the raw, healthy vibe that pursues for muscovado a deserved, dignified niche on the grocery sugar shelf.