When sharing preparedness tips, I always feel it is beneficial to point out when an item or skill will also be useful for barter and morale boosting. Stockpiling sugar, and more importantly learning how to make your own, qualifies as both.
There are a multitude of SHTF survival supplies, such as long-term food storage, emergency medical tools, and ammunition (lots and lots of ammo) that belong at the top of the list vying for our prepping budget dollars. While making sugar is not anywhere near the top of the must-do list, the sweet little white stuff is definitely still worthy of inclusion on any preparedness plan.
Storing large quantities of sugar takes up a lot of space and makes stockpiling the valuable barter and morale booster item rather inconvenient to collect. In addition to taking up a lot of space, like the far more necessary flour, sugar is known to attract bugs. When stored in a sealed bucket, the bug problem is essentially solved, but there’s still a storage space issue.
By learning how to make sugar, you can become the post-SHTF sweets king (or queen) without spending a lot of money, welcoming bugs into your prepper retreat, or giving up valuable storage space.
Folks who live in a tropical locale can grow sugar cane, but only if they can afford to also purchase and maintain the expensive equipment necessary to complete the task. While the bulk of the sugar produced around the world comes from tropical regions, about 30 percent comes from colder climates. Sugar can also easily be made from maple trees grown on your own property.
Sugar beets resemble parsnips and look virtually nothing like the white or red beets served as a side dish or with pickled eggs at Easter. The beets used to make sugar are rather elongated and are about the same color and texture as white potatoes. These beets typically grow anywhere that red or white beets are also planted. Long before people used sugar beets to make sugar, they were frequently fed to livestock. They are not fit for human consumption in their natural state. When making beet sugar, there will be a leftover “meat” in the pot, which can be used as a filling mash for most livestock.
How to Make Beet Sugar
1. Collect the beets from the garden and thoroughly scrub away all of the dirt. Wash the cleaned beets in cold water to remove any excess debris you may have missed.
2. Dice, shred or thinly slice the beets and place them in the cook pot.
3. Pour cold water into the pot, but only enough to cover the top of the beets.
4. Bring to a boil and let them simmer just long enough for the beets to become soft and tender, just like you would do with potatoes.
5. Carefully remove the pot from the stove (or campfire) and strain the pulp away from the beet juice using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
6. Pour the beet “syrup,” the mixture of beet juice and very thin pulp you are left with after straining, back into the cook pot.
7. Squeeze the cheesecloth containing the pulp into the pot to recover as much of the beet juice as possible.
8. Allow the mixture to simmer again. Keep the pot on the heat source until the mixture resembles honey and looks fairly thick. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
9. Remove the beet syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. As it cools, the syrup will crystalize.
10. Pour the crystals into a bowl and mash into a powder with a spoon or your fingers.
The beet sugar will look and taste just like the sugar you routinely purchase from the grocery store. Store in a firmly sealed container until you are ready to use in a batch of morale-boosting cookies or to barter. It takes approximately 10 pounds of beets to yield a little more than 1 ½ pounds of sugar.
How To Make Maple Sugar
There are more than 20 trees that can be tapped for syrup. Maple offers the highest yield and some of the sweetest-tasting results. Like beet sugar, no special tools and equipment are required to make the popular baking ingredient, but a candy thermometer will come in quite handy.
1. Gather up some maple sap from trees on your property or from purchased bottles.
2. Pour the syrup into a pot and heat until it reaches about 300 degrees. If the syrup beings to overflow the pot, adjust the heat down just a little. After the overflowing foam dissipates, slowly adjust the temperature back up again until the pot reaches 300 degrees. This is where a candy thermometer becomes useful.
3. Remove the pot from the heat source and stir rapidly for approximately 5 minutes.
4. Pour the maple syrup into a glass container or metal pot and let it cool completely. Do this step very carefully; the syrup will be extremely hot and if spilled on the skin, it will stick to it and burn the flesh.
5. Once completely cooled, the maple syrup will loosely resemble peanut brittle. Break the hardened syrup into a powder by pounding with a wooden spoon or grating it. Store the sugar in a vacuum-sealed bag or in a storage container with a firm-fitting lid.
Approximately one quart of sap is equal to two pounds of granulated sugar. Maple syrup, especially when the syrup is dark in color, will taste differently than store-bought or homemade beet sugar. A lighter maple syrup sugar will typically possess more moisture than sugar made from darker syrup.
Maple trees are tapped in the spring, and it frequently takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. The average tree commonly yields approximately three to four gallons of sap per day and produces about 13 gallons of syrup each tapping season. Not all of the 22 varieties of trees that produce syrup are tapped in the spring. If you have any of the other syrup-producing trees on your property, you should be able to make sugar from tree sap nearly year-round.