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Nathan Kurz

Refined Organic White Sugar

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We making sorbets and ice creams on a small commercial scale near San Francisco, and have recently had a few batches turn out badly due switching to organic sugar. For a flavor like Sweet Potato, the molasses note is fine, but for something delicate like Spearmint it's a cloying overtone.

I'm looking for a supplier for refined organic white sugar, and I'm starting to doubt that it even exists. The organic sugars I've found are a tawny off-white, and have a distinct molasses odor to them. Does anyone sell an organic sugar that is a straight substitute for standard white sugar?

Thanks for any leads!

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Good luck ... I don't even necessarily want "white" organic sugar ... I'd just like it to be ground up a bit finer so it would dissolve better in baking. I'd also like it to be consistent ... one bag I get is coarser, the next less so. The finest grind I've found is from Florida, but I can't get it up here on Vancouver Island in bulk. The bulk available is from Paraguay or Brazil. We use it mainly for muffins, banana bread and brownies, so a stronger flavor isn't an issue and I always mix the sugar in with the wet ingredients no matter what the recipe indicates.

One thing that coarser sugar is very good for, though, is sprinkling on the top of fruit pies.

Susan

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I don't think sugar can be both refined and organic. At least not cane sugar. Possibly, you could find white beet sugar that is organic, since beet sugar isn't refined with charcoal. From here:

To maintain its organic integrity, organic sugar is only minimally processed or not refined at all. Since bone char is not on the National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char. In fact, the technical directors of both Imperial Sugar and American Sugar Refining told us that organic sugars are only milled and never go to the refinery where the bone char filters are located.

A common processing aid, lime, is used as a clarifying agent in organic cane sugar processing, removing cane fibers and field debris. Since lime is on the National List, it can be used in organic sugar production. However, because the lime itself is synthetic, no organic sugar processed in this manner can ever be certified 100% USDA Organic; the maximum certification it can receive is 95% certified organic. Consequently, any sugar-containing product made with organic sugar can achieve only a 95% certified organic rating.

Aha, you would need to turn to European sources for organic beet sugar:

Today in the United States, all organic sugar is produced from sugar cane. According to Ruthann Geib, the Vice President of the Sugar Beet Growers Association, there is no organic sugar beet production in the United States at this time. Clarke noted, "There are no technical reasons preventing the production of organic beet sugar; it has been done in Europe."

Edited by plk (log)

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I don't think sugar can be both refined and organic.

Thanks! I've seen that link, but I've also seen things that say the opposite. Here's from a 1995 article that states that there are not yet any refined organic sugars on the market, but that there is nothing to stop them from being produced:: "According to Snyder, there is also nothing in sugar's processing steps that is inherently against organic standards, practices or traditions."

The article goes on to detail which ways in which organic approved practices can be made to work even for sugar cane. I was hoping that since then this niche has been filled.

Aha, you would need to turn to European sources for organic beet sugar:

This would agree with what I've found. I've corresponded with Tradin Organic, a Dutch company whose website lists organic ICUMSA 45 sugar (which should be refined white), but they stopped responding to my email once it was clear I was looking for 50 lb bags and not 50 ton container loads. I was hoping they might have an American distributor, but haven't found one yet.

Thanks for the research, and keep posting the leads and links!

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Oh I agree it's possible, but since that updated article I referred to is from Oct 2007 (updating a '97 article), I don't think that niche has yet been filled. I'm surprised that Florida Crystals hasn't developed anything yet.

This got me curious and I started to wonder what people are using to make organic ice cream, since it obviously exists.

Ben and Jerry's: Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Syrup

Stonyfield Farm: Naturally milled organic sugar, organic rice syrup

Strauss Family Creamery: organic sugar

So, Ben and Jerry's gets around the refining problem by using organic evaporated cane juice syrup (I believe you can get this from Florida Crystals). It should start off using the same raw ingredients as what ends up as refined sugar, but I wonder if it tastes the same in the end product. Stonyfield appears to do a hybrid sweetener, I guess because of the problem you mentioned with the molasses taste. And who knows if the sugar Strauss is using is refined or not.

Spreckles Sugar Company makes beet sugar that they call "all-natural," but I don't know what that means. Apparently not "organic." http://www.spreckelssugar.com/

The Dutch sugar sounds promising -- I wonder if they'd send a sample. Too bad you can't get it in a smaller quantity.

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I'm surprised that Florida Crystals hasn't developed anything yet.

There is an interesting overview of Florida Crystals organic sugar here: http://naffs.mytradeassociation.org/2008clarke.pdf

It includes the snippet that FLORIDA CRYSTALS ORGANIC SUGAR "May be considered to be a fine grain turbinado sugar", which agrees with my impression of most organic sugars.

[Evaporated cane juice syrup] should start off using the same raw ingredients as what ends up as refined sugar, but I wonder if it tastes the same in the end product.

I've tried some evaporated cane syrup products, and in my experience they taste even more like molasses than the organic sugar. They are fine sweeteners, but definitely have a distinct color and flavor.

Spreckles Sugar Company makes beet sugar that they call "all-natural," but I don't know what that means. Apparently not "organic." http://www.spreckelssugar.com/

Off the topic of organic sugar, but there is an interesting link from that page to a comparison of sugar cane and beet sugar: http://www.spreckelssugar.com/CIALetter111607.pdf

(spoiler) Chemistry wins, and they conclude that sucrose is sucrose, regardless of source.

The Dutch sugar sounds promising -- I wonder if they'd send a sample. Too bad you can't get it in a smaller quantity.

I'd be interested to hear about it if you do. I was corresponding with Hendrik Rabbie (firstname at tradinorganic.com). He was pleasantly helpful, but said the minimum for ordering their sugar was 10000 lbs, and 40000 lbs for the organic glucose powder I was mostly asking him about.

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... the minimum for ordering their sugar was 10000 lbs, and 40000 lbs for the organic glucose powder I was mostly asking him about.

Another idea, if you want organic glucose, I've seen references to an organic glucose syrup from Cargill Sweetness Solutions. I don't see it on their website, but they apparently had it at the All Things Organic (ATO) show in Chicago last year. http://www.cargillsweetness.com

Here's the article.


Edited by plk (log)

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Have you looked into the organic evaporated cane juice sugar?

My son is allergic to refined sugars, including the raw sugar and organic sugar but seems to be fine with the oecj above. It substitues very well, at least in my experience, for cookies and cake. Whole foods carries it.

Maple sugar (just boiling down the pure maple syrup) works pretty well when substituting for brown sugar/sugar in some cookies. The taste is quite mild and much like brown sugar rather than the overpowering maple taste.

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Another idea, if you want organic glucose, I've seen references to an organic glucose syrup from Cargill Sweetness Solutions. I don't see it on their website, but they apparently had it at the All Things Organic (ATO) show in Chicago last year. http://www.cargillsweetness.com

Here's the article.

Thanks for the glucose lead --- I had not found that earlier and it might be quite helpful in the future. I think I've found good source for organic glucose syrup solids and organic dextrose: http://www.ciranda.com/pdf/tapioca.pdf

They sent me samples promptly, and though they'd really prefer to sell by the full pallet, they are willing to sell by the 50 lb bag to help get us going ($1.90/lb for 35 DE Organic Tapioca Syrup Solids, $1.70/lb for Organic Tapioca Dextrose).

(For those not up on the naming conventions, glucose syrup is a lot like corn syrup, but not necessarily made from corn. The Cargill syrup is made from wheat, the Ciranda is made from Tapioca. Glucose Syrup Solids is the dried version of this syrup, sometimes called Atomized Glucose or Glucose Powder. Glucose Powder (to the despair of those who paid attention in chemistry class) is not the same as Dextrose, which is a simple sugar. Glucose Syrups are rated in Dextrose Equivalent (DE) --- basically, the higher the number, the sweeter the sweeter the syrup. Dextrose, by definition, is 100DE.)

Have you looked into the organic evaporated cane juice sugar?

Yes, considered and tried. It's a nice sweetener, but is not a good substitute for white sugar in cases where color or purity of flavor is a priority. I'm not sure how your son would be allergic to organic sugar and not to this, though.

Rice syrup is very sweet, and has different, milder taste than cane sugar... maybe you can try that and let us know how it works out?

I tried some from here: http://www.barryfarm.com/sugars.htm

I'd hoped it was going to work, but it had a sharp aftertaste. Possibly it was spoiled, or possibly this is just the way it tastes. This does remind me that I should check out the Briess organic rice syrups, though:

http://www.briess.com/foodbev/productsorganics.shtml

Rice syrup is not really a substitute for white sugar, though it might be a useful ingredient.

Thanks for the suggestions! Keep them coming!

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Hain's does organic powdered sugar.

“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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A couple more companies to try for organic beet sugar: Danisco in Denmark and Sweden (product info here), and Suiker Unie in the Netherlands.

I'm really impressed with the lengths you're going to to get an organic sugar that tastes right. I guess you're going for a USDA label of 100% organic ingredients?


Edited by plk (log)

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I don't know either, but he seems to tolerate the evaporated cane juice in cereals and such, just as long as we don't over do it.

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A couple more companies to try for organic beet sugar: Danisco in Denmark and Sweden (product info here), and Suiker Unie in the Netherlands.

Thanks, and I shall check those out to see if they have any US distribution!

I'm really impressed with the lengths you're going to to get an organic sugar that tastes right. I guess you're going for a USDA label of 100% organic ingredients?

I don't know if we are going to aim for 100% organic. It depends on whether we can find suitable organic stabilizers, or find ways to do without them. Right now, our best sorbets are dependent on citrus pectin, agar, or gellan, for which I haven't yet found certified organic substitutes. For ice creams and gelato, we've got some stuff that works without stabilizers, but there is still room for improvement.

I'm not even sure we will pursue organic certification at all. I think the difference between most approaches and ours is that I'm obsessed with making great ice cream, and would like it to be organic if possible. Most organic products seem to have those priorities reversed. I like the goals of the organic movement from a sustainability perspective, and the certification would be a definite plus for marketing, but I'd rather make something truly excellent than something officially certified.

The company, by the way, is Scream Sorbet. We have a small website up at http://screamsorbet.com. We are hoping to start selling at a couple Bay Area farmers markets later this month, expanding over the course of the year. We're concentrating on sorbets from in-season fruits and vegetables, but will be doing some ice creams and gelatos as well: if ice cream shops can sell sorbet, I figure we are allowed to sell ice cream.

Thanks again for the research!

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A couple more companies to try for organic beet sugar: Danisco in Denmark and Sweden (product info here), and Suiker Unie in the Netherlands.

Thanks, and I shall check those out to see if they have any US distribution!

I'm really impressed with the lengths you're going to to get an organic sugar that tastes right. I guess you're going for a USDA label of 100% organic ingredients?

I don't know if we are going to aim for 100% organic. It depends on whether we can find suitable organic stabilizers, or find ways to do without them. Right now, our best sorbets are dependent on citrus pectin, agar, or gellan, for which I haven't yet found certified organic substitutes. For ice creams and gelato, we've got some stuff that works without stabilizers, but there is still room for improvement.

Have you checked out this company for organic stabilizers? They provide excellent customer service and technical support as well as free samples. Check out their FAQ page here. They respond to email requests very quickly. Good luck.


Edited by Beanie (log)

Ilene

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A couple more companies to try for organic beet sugar: Danisco in Denmark and Sweden (product info here), and Suiker Unie in the Netherlands.

Yep, I can buy Danisco organic refined white beet sugar in my local supermarket here in Stockholm. Not that that is any help to you...

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Nathan, your ideas sound great! I'd certainly buy your sorbet or ice cream. I hope you can get that Danisco sugar.

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not to be off topic or anything but ..I am confused and would love someone to enlighten me...

how come something "organic" can not be "refined" ?

I thought "organic" was just raised or grown with out chemicals or hormones ect... "refined" is a process of ..well refining things!


why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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It can be, but the way cane sugar is currently refined in the US is by using bone charcoal. And as it says in one of the articles I quoted above, "Since bone char is not on the National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char." Organic cane sugar in the US simply doesn't go through the refining process. That leaves a sugar with a molasses flavor, which is a great product, but not something that works in every application. Sugar producers could develop a different refining process that is organic (and I'm sure there's a market for it), but they haven't. Beet sugar is not refined by using bone charcoal, but there is no organic beet sugar being produced in the US. So if you want to make something with refined organic white sugar, right now that means getting beet sugar made in Denmark or something. Or changing your recipe and using a different organic sweetener.


Edited by plk (log)

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[Have you checked out this company for organic stabilizers? They provide excellent customer service and technical support as well as free samples. Check out their FAQ page here.

I had come across their site, but had not seen their organic starches the first time through. They seem very relevant. Starches seem generally looked down upon as ice cream stabilizers, but we've really been pleased with the texture from our Sweet Potato gelato. We've joked about adding Sweet Potato to all of our flavors just to get the texture --- perhaps one of their starches will produce a similar effect. I've exchanged email with them, and apparently samples are already on their way. Thanks for the links!

Yep, I can buy Danisco organic refined white beet sugar in my local supermarket here in Stockholm. Not that that is any help to you...

Not directly helpful, but the first direct confirmation I've had about its availability. Have you used it? Does it seem to be the same as other white sugars in color and flavor?

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Yep, I can buy Danisco organic refined white beet sugar in my local supermarket here in Stockholm. Not that that is any help to you...

Not directly helpful, but the first direct confirmation I've had about its availability. Have you used it? Does it seem to be the same as other white sugars in color and flavor?

I have a bag in my pantry. Indistinguishable from my ordinary white sugar, exactly the same.

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I inquired of Roger's Sugar, one of, if not the, main players in Canada, and was told we have no growers of organic sugar beets yet, although it could be done. Are there any in the States?...

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I found what might be a source of Organic Refined White Sugar in the US:

http://www.licious-sugar.com/

They are a Brazilian Company owned by Aref Trading, and claim to have USDA Organic Refined White Cane Sugar available for sale. Mostly they import directly from Brazil in large quantities, but as of recently they have a US distributor with small quantities available.

I've yet to get any samples in hand, but they sound promising.

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