Chefbear is back and this time he’s going to share his knowledge on how the smart prepper can store sweeteners for the long haul. As usual, I’m astonished by how much I learn every time he writes a post. Hey Chefbear, when TSHTF you’re welcome to come live in my neck of the woods! We could always use a man with your considerable talents around here.
Hello again ladies and gentlemen, Jarhead asked me if I could try to help everyone understand some options for long term storage sweeteners. I am going to give it a shot and I know I won’t cover everything, so if you see anything I missed just let me know and I will get you the info on it!
OK, meat and potatoes… or rather sugar and honey time! What I will do in this post is explain a few of the options available to the average person for long term storage. I will also explain a few of the different varieties of honey, as some can be used as replacements for other ingredients in your recipes. Before we get into the details let’s talk about how you should be storing these items. As a rule-of-thumb, sweeteners should be kept in a sealed air-tight container, away from humidity or moisture and away from pests (i.e. insects, mice, sweet-toothed children, etc.).
White Cane Sugar – Processed from the juice of the sugar cane, and highly refined to obtain the bright white color. It is a staple of savory and sweet recipes all over the world, and has an almost indefinite shelf life if stored properly.
Raw or Turbinado Sugar – Processed from the same cane juice that makes white sugar. This product is typically not refined or refined very simply. This maintains some of the molasses, which is the other product of making sugar. Raw sugar also has a great crunchy texture which it retains in some cooking methods. Like the white cane sugar it will keep almost indefinitely if stored properly.
Brown Sugar – Contrary to common belief, most brown sugar consumed in the US is actually granulated white sugar made from sugar beets that has molasses added to it. The molasses makes the brown sugar more “hygroscopic”, this means that it will retain and even attract more moisture than regular white sugar. Brown sugar does not enjoy quite the shelf life of the two previous sugars covered, but rarely spoils. The typical problem with brown sugar is that it dries up and gets hard, a simple solution to this problem (my grandmother taught me this trick when I was a kid) is to add a slice of bread to the storage container. A completely air tight container will help prevent this as well, but it will eventually happen. The sugar can still be used for cooking when it is hard, just add a few extra drops of liquid to your recipe.
Honey – There are as many different types of honey as there are flowering plants, so I will break this into sub categories, explain just a few of them and what they can be used for. In general honey is great for long term storage, especially the raw or unpasteurized varieties. Honey is naturally hygroscopic and will help breads, cakes and pastries prevent staling. Honey can also be used as an antimicrobial agent because of its low water activity and some of the chemical properties; hence you can use it to treat cuts ect. Raw honey from your area can be used to treat seasonal allergies, and can also be used for making cures or brine for preserving meats.
Most honey will crystallize, it is still fine for cooking or eating when this happens. You can return crystallized honey to a syrup consistency by soaking the container in warm water until the consistency returns, or you can slowly and gently heat the crystallized honey in a VERY clean, preferably stainless steel pot over very low heat and stir with a VERY clean instrument again preferably stainless steel. The biggest enemy to storing honey, as odd as it sounds, is saliva. A single drop of saliva can destroy an entire 5 gallon bucket of honey. NEVER lick your finger and touch the stored honey, or (yes I have seen people do it… its GROSS) pick up the little bear shaped bottle and squeeze it straight into your mouth, and then to get the last drop lick the end of the bottle! NASTY!
Tupelo – This is the most pure honey, and the most expensive. Because of the purity of this honey it does not typically crystallize like other varieties of honey. It also has the lightest taste of any honey, the color is almost clear-white-yellow and it is very delicate.
Clover Honey – Clover honey is the most common type of honey besides “wild-flower”. It is primarily made from clover pollen, but other types of pollen are typically found in-the-mix. Clover honey has a mild flowery taste, and some subtleties of molasses. It is the generic flavor honey that most people are familiar with.
Wild Flower Honey – This is actually a blend of several different honeys, while I am sure that there is a ratio that must be met according to the USDA, I am not sure what those ratios are. Typically from what I have seen from helping my grandfather, most producers mix the little bit of whatever types they have left to make this type of honey. Because it is a blend the color, texture and flavor varies greatly from producer to producer.
Avocado Honey – This is one of my favorites for cooking! Avocado honey is very dark, very thick and more closely resembles molasses than honey. In fact it can be used in place of molasses in many recipes. One of my favorites is what Ma calls the “mild shoo-fly-pie”, because it is lighter than molasses it will not give the same strong, almost smoky flavor that molasses will.
Other varieties of honey I have seen, and had the pleasure of beating my brother for (we used to fight over the honey-combs… not the cereal) include grapefruit, tangerine, lime and orange blossom honeys. I have also seen pumpkin, watermelon; cantaloupe (which is actually a musk-melon, but that’s a whole other topic!), pear, apple, peach and I have even seen squash flower honey. They all have different flavors and slightly different textures; generally they will have subtle flavors of the pollen they are made from.
Molasses – As mentioned earlier, this is a byproduct of sugar production. It is also the main ingredient in making rum. Most people don’t think of this as a sweetener, but it does contain sugar and can be used to make sweet dishes, my favorite would be “shoo-fly-pie”. Also mentioned before, molasses is hygroscopic and can help prevent the staling of baked goods. It can also be used in cures and brines for preserving meat.
I am also going to explain some of the “artificial” sweeteners that are available.
Splenda – As the commercials say, is made from sugar. It is a primarily a chemical called sucralose, one of the chemicals that make sugar sweet. Sucralose and another chemical from sugar called dextrose are both used in commercial curing, along with sugar-free or low-sugar food production.
Stevia- This is actually an herb that can grow in most areas fairly easily. It can be up to 300x sweeter than sugar by weight. There were some studies during the 1980’s that claimed it can cause cancer, most of those findings have been proven false in recent years. Personally I use it, and let’s face it… everything these days can possibly give you cancer!
So it’s yall’s turn! What do you keep in your stocks for baking, cooking and sweetening the coffee? After reading this are you considering making adjustments/additions to your stocks? Are there any sweetener options that I didn’t cover that you would like more information on? As always, if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my abilities! Thanks guys!
Good information. I keep white, raw and brown sugar. I also keep honey, which can be very expensive, So I have have found a local honey producer who sells in 1 and 5 gallon buckets. A 5 gallon bucket is just over $100, so I buy the 1 gallon at $25. Granted I loose the bigger quantity discount, but have to ration my funds.
I used to get honey from my grandfather in 5 gal buckets, it seems to keep longer and not crystallize as easily. Another good thing about purchasing from a local source, is that you are helping to support your local economy not only buy buying from him but also because roughly 80% of the foods grown in the US rely on bees to pollinate them. It is also important to note that this will help you in a SHTF situation because it helps to keep farmers in your area, most folks across the US have their food supplies shipped in from an average of 1500 miles away.
Chefbear, I’d be curious to know your thoughts on storing (long term) Agave syrup and pure Maple syrup.
Agave syrup is a new one to me, I have just recently started using it, but I will try to find more information on storage and get back to you.
Maple syrup on the other hand, should be good to store until it ferments, and even then it can have it’s uses. From what I understand REAL maple syrup, stored properly, should last several years. The type of container will effect the shelf life, I try to buy mine in stainless steel tins. Plastic or glass would be second on the list of best storage vessel for syrup. I have had a “tin” of maple syrup that has sat in the back of my stores for about 5 years, for some reason it just managed to stay put during my rotations… opened it the other day when I made spoon bread and it was fine!
Please follow up with storage/shelf life for the artificial sweeteners. (I LOVE Sweet-n-Low!) I would also like to know about storing syrup ~ both pure maple syrup and sugar free syrup.
Opps~ sorry I didn’t add this to my first post.
Please cover storage/shelf life of Splenda (both white and brown substitutes).
As far as Splenda, I have seen shelf lives of 4-5yrs on commercial sucralose and dextrose. The “granulated” or “brown-ulated” (as Splenda sells it) should have shelf lives similar to their “natural” counterparts. The “brown-ulated” version is actually a blend of Splenda and brown sugar, store it like brown sugar and it should keep for quite some time.
Sweet & Low is saccharin, according to their web-site, it stores for several years in the conditions I listed in the article above.
The big issue here is the sugar free syrup, this is a fairly new item on the grocery store shelves. The problem is, that since some of the chemicals used in the manufacture of these types of products are fairly new it is hard for the average consumer to find out how long they will last, other than what it says on the label. However, I have fired off an email to a friend of mine who is a chemist (specifically a food chemist) about the sugar free syrup shelf life. As soon as I hear back from him I will let you know!
I just heard back from my friend, he says that because of the chemicals used in the production of the sugar-free syrup you should stick to the manufacturers use by date. He told me that he would be very cautious about using it more than a couple months past that date.
(I asked him about the pancake syrup, if that’s not what you had in mind let me know and I will correct my question to him)
I store bulk raw sugar and brown sugar in mylar in 5 gallon buckets – I have quart mason jars for smaller amounts so I don’t have to hit the buckets as often. I also keep about 2 gallons of honey in mason jars.
The biggest thing we did to prep sweetener? We quit using it as much as possible. We used to have a bad sweet tea habit. That’s ~50lbs per year for that one habit.
If we get a craving for something sweet, we stock pre-sweetened Country Time Lemonade and Kool-Aid. It has a couple year shelf life. It gives us a beverage we wouldn’t typically have post-SHTF and we don’t need to stock extra sugar for it. Instead of using honey on bread/biscuits we use fruit to sweeten.
Reducing dependence of sugars is a great idea & using fruits as the substitute is excellent as well.
Based upon some past posts I’ve read here and another survivalist blog from you, it seems you have some knowledge about this type of stuff so, I have a quick question for you – isn’t it much better on your body (liver, kidneys etc) to not use artificial & real sweeteners?
Inquiring minds want to know ~
There is a flaw in your question, the human body NEEDS sugars to work. These can come from complex carbohydrates, such as starchy vegetables or grain, but there is a place in every diet across the globe for simple carbohydrates. The debate about artificial sweeteners and health will probably never be 100% resolved, either way. However, whatever “harm” can come from natural sugars, especially those in fruits and vegetables, is far outweighed by the benefits of the vitamins and minerals they provide you with. Not to mention important things like antioxidants, phytosterols, fiber, and a list of other good stuff so long I don’t care to list them all here!
Most of the stigma surrounding artificial sweeteners is based on studies where MASSIVE amounts of the chemicals were given to lab animals. In some cases as much as 50,000 times what you would be getting in a single serving at a time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could possibly down 50k servings of Saccharin in a day! Even if I wanted to! There are options such as Splenda (as mentioned in the article it is derived from sugar, so technically it is natural) which can satisfy the “sweet tooth” without the chemicals used in artificial sweeteners, and the benefits of reduced calories and storage space.
Sorry about that Chef! Maxwell Smart(ass)
I should have been more clear – refined sugars & man made sugars. Point 2 – excessive consumption of the same.
I see a lot of fat people waddle in & out of Starbucks or the local inconvenience store with their sugar fixes in hand. Excessive sugar creates pear shaped people & was wondering about the effects beyond these stellar exteriors.
Speaking of – my mother-in-law was excited yesterday because she thought the Super Bowl was an extra helping of ice cream. Gotta love the great American diet!
I hope that wasn’t calling me a smart ass, I am, but my reply was not intended to seem that way. If it did, I apologize it was unintentional.
Prepared N.D.- is correct, moderation is the key to everything when discussing diet. It could even be taken further than that and you could say that almost anything should be used/enjoyed in moderation.
I cannot speak to whether or not there is a true link between processed sweeteners and health issues relating to the kidneys/liver, because I am not a doctor. However, I would assume that stress on different systems in the body as a result of obesity (possibly caused by over consumption of said sweeteners) is a real possibility.
Lighten up Chef – that was a very famous line from Get Smart and since I was delivering the line as Max to the Chef, I am the smart ass.
I apologize for having you apologize to me and apologize to Prepared ND for thinking I was not apologizing to him but expect him to apologize to me for ….. I’m lost now ….
People seem to be so overly sensitive & wound so tightly these days …. anybody know where I can get some sugar coated Prozac?
If you eat a well balanced diet you shouldn’t need it. I believe using no sweetener is optimal, but for most of us, it’s not practical. If I told clients to cut out all sugar permanently I believe I would end up in a body bag. We’re hard wired to crave salty and sweet foods – it’s a survival mechanism.
If you add extra things to your diet that are above and beyond what is required your body is going to have some additional wear and tear as it has to get rid of these substances somehow – or it’ll be stored as fat. That’s why some doctors refer to vitamins as “expensive urine”. Usually the dose is well above what is needed and you end up passing most of it through your urine.
My gut says there is a cumulative effect to even small doses of sugar, but I haven’t ran across any long term studies to support that. My best advice is to moderate and pay attention to what you eat.
Fruit has been used for thousands, if not millions of years as a sweetener.
Great advice on reducing the need for sweeteners, might as well try it while you have a choice!
Another good thing about the drink mixes, most of them contain a large amount of vitamin C. Here in my neck of the US the best option for V-C “in the wild” is pine needles, you can make a tea out of them but it’s not the most tasty thing out there. They also contain a variety of electrolytes, which are always a good thing!
Hey Jarhead… Thanks, I swear man you are gonna give me swoll head with compliments like that! If you or Ranger Man are ever in VA let me know, there is always roo at my supper table. When TSHTF you guys are welcome down here too! Be happy to have like minded folks with yalls skills/talents on my side when the “chips are down”!
* I use a lot of stevia… favorite brand is Stevita out of Arlington, TX.
* I do like the minimally processed organic sugar you can get at Costco these days. It has a nice, smoky flavor.
* Splenda (sucralose) is deadly… proven to trash your immune system. It will shrink your thymus and number of red and white blood cells by 40% in a relatively short amount of time. Compare it to injecting chlorine into your veins… it is chlorinated sugar.
* Nutrasweet (aspertame) is also deadly. Compare it to injecting a dose of formaldehyde into your veins when you use it. It has proven to cause all sorts of autoimmune and neurological diseases… and the ones caused by aspertame don’t respond to current medicines.
This was a great column! My partner and I were talking about this very topic JUST before I found it!
I’ll be back to read it more slowly when I have time tonight.
Good stuff. What is causing so much obesity and diabetes is the high fructose corn syrup(HFCS) that has found its way in to so many processed foods. HFCS is a slow toxin to our liver. Just look at a can of baby formula. It is loaded with HFCS. This is criminal IMO. Unfortunately, regular sugar is bad for us as well. Would recommend no regular soda, fruit juices, ice cream, and this includes orange juice. Of course sugar in moderation is the way to go as discussed above. Diabetes and hypertension is completely reversible if one can cut out sugar and HFCS in their diet. Best
Hi , Can you help me on, how to storage long term xylitol? I have granular and is just birch no additives.. help please… thank you so much! Laurene
Store it like sugar. Avoid moisture. It has an indefinite shelf life, i.e. it won’t ever go bad, but it does begin to lose flavor after a few years. My advice would be to buy two years’ worth and use it. After you use half of it, buy another year’s worth and rotate stock. That way you’ll always have 1-2 years’ worth stored without a chance of it starting to lose flavor.
Wow fast reply ! Thank you I will put in mason jars with no oxygen absorbers and dry vacuum seal the jars (seal a meal mason attachment) . And rotate to use oldest first. This sound right? No oxygen absorbers ? Thank you for this site !! Laurene