Tag Archives: sugarcane

From Sugarcane to Sugar, Jaggery and More

Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not, sugar is an undeniably an important part of modern life. Sadly most of us are not aware of what it’s made up of, how it’s made or what it offers to the body. So here’s a sneak peek into the world of sugar and jaggery.

It All Starts With Sugarcane…..

While sugarcane and sugar beets are the two most important sugar crops, cane-sugar undoubtedly dominates the world.  Speaking of sugar cane, did you know it can be processed to derive either sugar or jaggery? Furthermore, syrups like molasses, golden syrup, treacle, cane syrup and so on can also be made. This article will focus on sugar and jaggery.

Manufacture ….

It may not be the chocolate factory that Charlie visited, but the manufacture of sugar is pretty intense. Massively simplified, the process can be understood as follows:



How do you like your sugar? Brown or white? Well, the sugar obtained in the above process is brown in colour (called brown/turbinado/raw sugar) due to the presence of small amount of molasses. No wonder it has a distinctive taste! But most of us are accustomed to the taste of white sugar for which further processing of washing, filtering, decolourization, recrystallization and drying is done.

Jaggery, on the other hand, is an unrefined sugar product and is occasionally called “non-centrifugal sugar,” because it’s not spun during processing to remove the ‘nutritious’ molasses. The process starts out the same, by extracting the juice. The juice is allowed to stand in large containers so that any sediment settles to the bottom. Thereafter it is strained to produce a clear liquid.

The clear liquid is boiled in large, flat-bottomed pans. During this process, the jaggery is stirred and the impurities are skimmed off the top until only a yellow, dough-like paste remains which on cooling gives jaggery.

The Nutrition Profile…..

Jaggery contains more nutrients than refined/white sugar because of its molasses content. Molasses is rich in vitamins and minerals. This is why brown sugar is considered better than white sugar since the latter is stripped of whatever molasses remains.

Not to forget, loads of chemicals are used during the sugar making processes. For example, the step called ‘clarification’ is done by adding calcium hydroxide and bubbling carbon dioxide through the sugarcane juice. However, clarification in jaggery making process is chemical-free since the juice is just allowed to stand and the clear liquid is strained for use.

And let’s not forget the additional processes in converting raw sugar to white sugar will bring more chemicals into the picture. Molasses is a nutritious by-product of the sugar making process, which is usually removed when making refined sugar. Including the molasses adds a few micronutrients to the final product.


It’s definitely better to substitute jaggery or molasses for sugar but it isn’t wise to binge on these sweeteners either. Remember for any food ingredient, you can get the best of it when used in moderation!

Sankranti: Reaping the Health Benefits of the Harvest

Sankranti? Then it’s time for sesame sweets and kite flying. This harvest festival is celebrated across the different regions in different ways as – Makara Sankranti, Suggi, Lohri, Maghi, Pongal, Magh/Bhogali Bihu, Uttarayan, Magha Saaji, Kicheri and so on.

The significance lies in the delicacies prepared to mark the occasion. Let’s have a look at what Sankranti brings to the table for us. Down south, this festival is celebrated by cooking pongal and sharing ellu-bella and sugarcane.

Elite Ellu-bella

Courtesy: Sizzling Tastebuds
Courtesy: Sizzling Tastebuds

It is a blend of white sesame seeds, roasted peanuts, dried coconut, jaggery and roasted Bengal gram. No doubt it’s a nutrient treasure trove. Take a look

  • Dried coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds provide the much need fats essential to combat the dry, cold winter.
  • While sesame seeds provide zinc, copper and vitamin E-like compounds, coconut provides lauric acid that keeps illness at bay by making the immunity strong and mighty.
  • Sesame seeds and peanuts are winter harvests that keep the body warm. Winters are the time of heart trouble and these two foods do their part by promoting heart health as well.
  • Jaggery gives the much-needed energy boost and the Bengal gram adds the protein power.

Maybe not exactly as ellu-bella, but across all the regions, sesame and jaggery are feasted on during this time and now we know why.

Sweet Benefits of Sugarcane

Munching on sugarcane naturally cleanses the teeth, strengthens gums and gets rid of bad breath. Apart from the extra energy you need to keep the body temperatures up and going, sugarcane is rich in flavonoids that have antioxidant action (attack and destroy chemicals that harm our body). It is also a superfood that protects the liver!

Courtesy: Cook with Smile
Courtesy: Cook with Smile

Sugarcane is the bumper harvest of this festival. Since it cannot be stored for long, it is preserved as jaggery and sakkare achchu (sugar figures).

Promising Pongal

Another popular delicacy of this festival is pongal or kichadi which is a blend of rice, dal and ghee. This nourishes the body with ample amount of energy, protein and good fats. The sweet version of Pongal is made by adding jaggery.

As Sankranti is a harvest festival, each region celebrates by cooking, sharing and eating the local harvest. Local and seasonal foods are always healthy. As a matter of fact, you will notice that all the delicacies prepared for this festival are perfect for the winter – to keep your energy levels high, body warm and immunity at its best.