The Province of Negros Occidental and the Island of Negros as whole has been known for its centuries old sugar industry. History credits the British Nicholas Loney, originally based in Iloilo, for kickstarting the sugar industry in the Island. However, it was the French Yves Germain Gaston who is credited for the massive planting of sugar. Sugar was originally basically and primordially produced in the backyards by heating sugarcane juice in big metal containers until it dries up to form sugar in the surface. This kind of sugar is the rawest kind of sugar to be produced which is called muscovado sugar. These big kawas later gave way to the sugar horn chimneys whose ruins the locals call simboryo. For much of the Spanish era, this kind of sugar was the one being exported to other countries. Its was only in the early part of the 1900’s that sugar refineries was built in Negros with a lot of those remaining still functioning like the world-renowned Victorias Milling Company.
Didn’t I mention healthy sugar, right? Of course, we are not here to talk in depth about the history of sugar or the history of Negros but to talk about the health benefits of sugar. We have heard many times of the negative effects of our white sugar and even brown sugar to the body so is there any word of vindication from my part? Unfortunately, no. The sugar I am talking about is none of these nor am I talking about the more expensive honey but of that primordial sugar I was talking about, sugar that built mansions and the high society of Negros and that is muscovado sugar. I say primordial because it only involves heating sugarcane juice and drying it up and nothing else, no chemicals like those involved in brown sugar nor carcinogenic bleaches involved like those in the production of refined sugar, what we know as white sugar. The sounds of it, it is primordial but now, it has been modernized yet without compromise, still the chemical-less process but now cleaner and sediment-free.
What is muscovado sugar? Muscovado is a pure unrefined cane sugar that did not go through the process of centrifuge and has no-add on chemicals. The strong but pleasant flavor can be attributed to the presence of molasses which was not removed in the process. Fresh sugarcane juice is used for manufacturing muscovado sugar which is healthy because it just takes on the natural color and retains the nutrients from the sugarcane. The process is just simply boiling the sugarcane juice just to remove moisture. The characteristics of muscovado is that it is brown in color, moist but unspoilable and a fine quality sugar. Muscovado sugar lasts longer and does well when exposed to high temperatures which means, it does not easily get burned when used in cooking. At room temperature, muscovado can last up to 9 months but it can last as far as two years when stored at 20˚C.
The nutritional qualities of muscovado is comparable to honey as stated in a chart above albeit cheaper and highly available. Muscovado sugar has 15 calories per 4 grams and is proven nutritionally rich for it retains all natural minerals and vitamin content of fresh sugarcane or those inherent in heated sugarcane juice. This kind of sugar, mostly those from Negros Island, is specially cooked under controlled temperatures which now utilizes high-tech equipments to make sure it is burn and sediment-free. Unlike conventional sugar, it is free from any harmful chemicals like phosphoric acid, formic acid, sulphur dioxide, preservatives or any flocculants, surfacants, bleaching agents and viscosity modifiers which makes it good for the health conscious.
Unlike conventional sugars which must be added to a food item for use, muscovado is a food item. How can I use muscovado sugar then? Negrénses are coffee lovers and so muscovado is perfect for coffee because muscovado can neutralize the strong taste with just a few teaspoons. Muscovado is also perfect for your morning cereals and also for baked foods. For baking enthusiasts out there, muscovado is a perfect substitute for commercial sugars and will improve the taste of the cake. Rum cakes, brown breads, corn breads are just few of the many products which it can be of much use. In fact, the secret to the distinctive taste of coffee products in local coffee shops and cake shops is their use of muscovado. What is the best muscovado sugar around? That’s reserved for another blog but for now, why not buy muscovado sugar instead of the conventional sugars you buy in your grocery days? I assure you, it will be good for you and you will like it.