by Suzanne Crocker
Making sugar beet sugar requires time, patience and a reasonable amount of trial and error.
15 pounds of sugar beets could produce up to 5 cups of sugar – if all goes perfectly OR about 1 litre of syrup
- Wash and peel sugar beets to remove ALL the dirt. This is a time consuming process, as sugar beets have lots of bumps and crevices.
- Slice peeled beets as thinly as possible and put into a large heavy pot.
- Cover sliced beets with water. Boil, covered, for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Strain out the sugar beets RESERVING the liquid in a separate pot.The cooked sugar beets can be eaten as is, mixed with mashed potatoes or other mashed root vegetables (such as turnip, carrots, beets) or they can be boiled a second time with new water to extract even more sugar or syrup. The cooked sugar beets can also be frozen to be used later. If you have more sugar beet pulp than you can deal with, it makes great livestock feed if you know any friends or farmers with chickens or pigs.
- Boil the reserved liquid. At this point you need to decide if you want to make syrup or sugar.
Syrup is the easy part.
- Let the reserved liquid boil down until it turns brown and has a syrup-like consistency. It will reduce in volume to about 1/8th. This may take hours.
- Putting the reserved liquid in a slow cooker for a couple of days with the lid off, also works.
- Store in a mason jars with good lids at a cool temperature (root cellar or fridge).
To make sugar, this will take some trial and error, as it seems like every batch is a bit different.
- Let the reserved liquid boil down a bit, but not so long that it turns brown or thickens.
- Line a large glass lasagna pan with a generous amount of parchment paper such that the paper comes up the sides of the pan. Be careful not to tear or rip the paper.
- Ladle approximately 2 cups of liquid into the pan to form a thin layer in the bottom of the pan.
- Place pan in a very low heat oven – as low as it will go.
- Check after 1 ½ hours and then every 15 minutes thereafter.
- At some point (between 2 hours and 8 hours) it will start to turn brown and bubble up. The ideal time to remove it from the oven is when the colour is darker than a golden brown, but not yet dark brown and when the entire layer has foamed.
- If correct, when cooled it will resemble a very thin layer of sponge toffee.
- Once cooled, turn parchment paper upside down and gently peel off the ‘sugar’.
- Place pieces of sugar into a clean coffee grinder and grind to a powder.
Sugar needs to be kept dry and best stored in an air tight mason jar with a good lid at room temperature. Over time it will start to harden slightly (like brown sugar) but can easily be broken up with the back of a wooden spoon or sifted through a flour sifter.