January 29, 2011

Brown Sugar Bargain

I scored on organic brown sugar the other day. I got six, 24 ounce packages for fifty cents each, because the contents were hard as rocks.

The price was just too good to pass them up, and I figured I could do something with them. I've put rock hard brown sugar through the blender before, and was willing to do that again if need be, but figured I do a little research first. Turns out there are several ways to soften brown sugar.

The first is with heat, either in a microwave (30 seconds on high) or conventional oven (250 F, watch carefully).  Heat will soften it again, though apparently once the sugar cools, it will harden again.

I don't have a microwave and anyway, I wasn't too keen on having it harden again. So I opted for another method.

The way to return brown sugar to its original softness is to add moisture. That can be done like I did in the photo on the left.

I put it in a bowl, covered it with a wet dishtowel, and then zipped the whole thing in a 2 gallon ziplock bag. I left it sit on the kitchen counter until the next day, and then uncovered it to check on it's progress.

It was mostly soft, with a few small hard lumps, so I let it sit a few hours longer. Then I put it into a glass container, pleased with the result.

There are a number of ways to keep it soft too:
  • store in airtight container
  • store it in the fridge
  • use one of those terra cotta brown sugar discs or bears
  • put an apple slice in the container (works for cookies too)
  • put a piece of bread in the container (this is how I keep cookies moist and chewy)
  • put a marshmallow in the container (haven't tried this! Someone let me know how it works!)
For longterm storage, brown sugar can be kept in the freezer. I confess I don't have enough room in mine, but since it doesn't really go bad anyway, I'll just use the above method to soften it when I need to.


Kathy said...

Score! I use the bread-method myself and have had wonderful success with it. Now if I could just come across the bargain you did...

Lynda said...

You did good! I love brown sugar. So, when can we expect the oatmeal cookies?

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

To be honest, I don't think I have ever come across sugar that wasn't rock hard. I only buy it maybe once a year or two. Now I don't have to beat it with the hammer.

Nina said...

I've always worried about the bread turning mouldy. I've always used the slice of apple method since it just seems to dry up. The marshmallow method sounds interesting and fun. That does presume one has marshmallows though - a rarity here. We used to have a dog who would sneak into the pantry to steal and snarf down bags of marshmallows - from high shelves no less. I got out of the habit of purchasing them unless I had a reason to do so.. not so much these days.

Leigh said...

Kathy, I've only used the bread method to keep cookies moist and found it works great. Will have to try it with the brown sugar now.

Lynda, LOL. Oatmeal cookies coming right up!

Jane, I admit I've avoided brown sugar in the past because of not knowing what to do with it. My method was to pulverize it in the blender! I do have a few favorite cookie recipes that use it though. Besides, at that price who could pass it up?

Nina, from my experience of using bread to keep cookies soft, it dries rock hard before it has a chance to mold. I've never tried the applies because we don't always have them around. Bread though, we always have. Marshmallows, we never have! Too funny about your dog.

Laura Jeanne @ Getting There said...

What a great deal! About two weeks ago I found some hard brown sugar at the back of my cupboard. Like you, I don't have a microwave, so I opted for the wet cloth method. I was surprised how well it worked. And to think in the past, I used to throw brown sugar out if it went hard!

Renee Nefe said...

what a great deal! I'm going to have to try one of the cookie softening methods though. With our arid climate we end up with cookie bricks pretty quickly.

The Apple Pie Gal said...

Sweet deal :) I use the terra cotta discs and they work wonders!

Woolly Bits said...

I knew about the apple or bread - but never heard the marshmallow thing:)) I don't buy them though - I read that in most is gm corn, so I don't really want to try the stuff.... I have been looking for an original recipe (one that uses the plant "marshmallow") to make them for years, but couldn't even find one on google - only hints that this was the origin of the sweet... I usually don't have problems with brown sugar, because it doesn't last all that long for me (I use it in most baking)- but then there are never any bargains to be had over here either. putting in the freezer sounds like a waste of good space to me though?

Leigh said...

Laura, isn't it amazing how easy it is? I've passed up deals like this before but never again.

Renee we have that problem too. I learned the bread trick from my grandmother. She used it for her homemade doughnuts too. :)

APG thanks for that! I love some of the terra cotta shapes. They would make a nice gift I think.

Bettina, I just happen to have a couple of those old fashioned marshmallow recipes! One uses gum arabic though, so unless you have access to that, the other might be the best option.

1st recipe:

1/4 cup dried marshmallow root
1-3/4 cups refined sugar
1-1/4 tablespoons gum tragacanth (or gum arabic)
2 cups water (plain or flavored with orange flowers)
1-2 egg whites, well beaten

Make a tea of marshmallow roots by simmering in one pint of water for twenty to thirty minutes. Strain out the roots and add enough water to return amount to one pint. Heat tea with gum in double boiler until gum is melted. Sift in sugar and mix well. Add stiffly beaten egg whites. Remove from heat and continue to beat for 5 mins. Pour out on flat surface, cool, and cut into pieces.

2nd recipe:

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 tbsp powdered marshmallow root

Whip egg whites until almost stiff. Whip in vanilla and then sugar, 1 tsp at the time. Lastly, add the marshmallow root powder and continue whipping. Place teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet and bake at 325F/163C for about an hour.

These used to be used medicinally, as throat lozenges for coughs. I've never tried to make them, but have marshmallow seed to plant this year.

Mama Pea said...

Thanks for sharing the damp cloth method. That seems the way to go for me. I had something kinda strange happen a while back. I had a bag of rock hard brown sugar on a back shelf in my little pantry that I kept avoiding. One day I reeeally needed brown sugar so pulled it out. It had magically softened by itself! 'Splain that one!

Michelle said...

I've never even SEEN organic brown sugar; I'm so jealous!

Jen said...

brown sugar is just molasses and regular sugar. you can make it yourself as you need it and never suffer from hard sugar again.

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, never look a gift horse in the mouth! That's pretty neat. The damp towel trick certainly is easy. It just requires a little advance planning.

Michelle, it's found it's way on our grocery store shelves, but the price is more than I'm willing to pay. That same bag retails for about $3.50 or more. It was a great bargain.

Limette, that's true! And I usually do use granulated sugar and a glug of molasses when a recipe calls for brown sugar. However, this organic brown sugar only cost me 2 cents per ounce. I can't buy regular non-organic white sugar at that price, let alone the cost of the molasses. It was definitely a good purchase for the price.

Bootzey said...

I wish I had read this earlier. I just threw away a bag of rock hard brown sugar

Anonymous said...

Hi Leigh!
Great idea and great score! I'm always looking for tips to store my food! :)

Woolly Bits said...

cool, thanks Leigh - I am going to give that a try! have to grow more plants first though....

luckybunny said...

Great post and very useful! I've used the heat method before, but I'm writing all this down because I've run into a wee bit of hard brown sugar in my time too!

~Deb~ said...

way to go getting the deal on the organic sugar! I am a wee bit envious, I admit it. Good post about how to soften it too, I have had to soften brown sugar more than once in my life but for those who don't know and either pull out the hammer or throw it out this will be a great tip. I love reading your posts your writing is amazing!

Leigh said...

Serenity, you never have to do that again! :)

Rain, thanks! And isn't that the great thing about blogging; the ideas and tips we can learn from one another!

Bettina, when you do give it a try, please let me know how it turns out! I'll be planting my marshmallow seeds soon, and plan to give this a try myself.

Luckybunny, I have never tried the heat method but probably would have the other day if I'd had a microwave. :) I'm glad to know about several alternatives. Hopefully though, mine will stay soft!

Deb, thank you! Your comment makes my day. :) I've passed up quite a few other deals like this because I didn't know what to do with rock hard brown sugar. Never again!

Joseph and Emma said...

50 cents / bag is quite a deal! I would have done the same. The nice thing about granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, and maple syrup is they never really do go bad. Molasses seems to have a pretty short shelf life, but you can buy the rest in bulk and significantly reduce your costs by storing over time. This is of course assuming you have room to store it. Especially if buying in bulk, you can store it in a food grade 5 gallon bucket and pop it in the garage. I know my pantry can't hold much more!

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