Evaporated cane juice is found in many of today's hottest health food products, but you may not know what this mystery sweetener is and how it differs from plain sugar. Many claim evaporated cane juice holds new promise for those with an eternal sweet tooth who aim to eat healthier, while others argue that "evaporated cane juice" is merely a marketing scam---an elaborate label slapped on regular sugar to fool naive consumers.
The use of sugar cane as a sweetener may date back approximately 10,000 years to New Guinea. Christopher Columbus introduced sugar cane with his arrival in the new world. Consequently, Spain began cultivating sugar cane in the Caribbean and in its various South American colonies. The advancements of modern technology gave rise to new and more intensive refinement processes, thereby producing the refined white sugar of today. Recent health trends, however, have brought a renewed interest in the less-refined form of sugar cane: evaporated cane juice.
Both sugar and evaporated cane juice are derived from sugar cane; the difference between the two is found primarily in the refinement process that each undergoes. White sugar goes through a series of refinement steps that remove color and many nutrients. Evaporated cane juice, on the other hand, retains important vitamins, such as riboflavin and vitamin B, as well as amino acids and fiber that its refined counterpart lacks, thereby providing more nutrients per calorie consumed than sugar.
Evaporated cane juice is not without critics. Some fear that the nutrients provided are minuscule in comparison with the potential adverse side effects. Although evaporated cane juice does harbor more nutrients than sugar, it's important to note that both are still high in sucrose, which when consumed excessively is stored in the body as fat or blood triglycerides. Thus, evaporated cane juice can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation.
Several different varieties of evaporated cane juice products are available. Milled Cane's flavor is similar to a light molasses and comes in fine golden particles. Demerara has a more pungent molasses flavor and comes in a more coarsely granulated form. Muscovado has the most intense molasses flavor of all and is even more finely ground than Milled Cane. When deciding which form to use, consider the texture and flavor intensity desired.
Evaporated cane juice can be used for a variety of applications. In addition to substituting evaporated cane juice for sugar in baked goods, you can also mix it in oatmeal or porridge instead of honey. Evaporated cane juice can be used to sweeten plain yogurt or smoothies. It can also be added to drinks, such as iced tea, coffee and lemonade.