Corn syrup has been a staple of American kitchens for well over 100 years and is the basis for such popular favorites as pecan pie, fudge and candy. It is formed after the separation of the starch from the corn. The starch is broken down and treated with enzymes to form corn syrup, which consists of dextrose, or glucose, and other sugars, such as fructose. There are several different types of corn syrup and they appear in nearly every processed food sold in the United States.
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High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
There has been a lot of controversy about HFCS since the mid 2000s. Scientists have split on their opinions of HFCS—some say it is nutritionally the same as sugar, while others blame HFCS specifically for problems such as obesity and diabetes. It is used in products that used to contain sugar, like soft drinks and cereals, since it is specially formulated to emulate the sweetness of cane sugar but at a lower cost. It is sweeter than regular corn syrup due to the amount of fructose, which is manipulated to bring the sweetness in line with sugar. Sugar is a 50 percent fructose/50 glucose ratio, while HFCS is produced at either a 42 percent fructose or 55 percent fructose ratio. Most colas contain the 55 percent fructose HFCS.
Light Corn Syrup
This type of corn syrup is called light, or white, corn syrup due to its clear color. It has a delicate sweetness and typically contains some vanilla for flavor. It is used in recipes that require sweetness without a lot of flavor, like jellies and jams. Along with dark corn syrup, it is about 75 percent of the sweetness of sugar of HFCS. It does not crystallize in the cold like sugar syrup does.
Dark Corn Syrup
This dark brown syrup is made from white corn syrup with the addition of some refiner’s syrup, a form of molasses made from cane sugar. Caramel flavoring and coloring also contribute to dark corn syrups color and distinctive taste. It is a prime ingredient in pecan pie and is present in many baked goods, where it imparts moisture along with sweetness.
Corn Syrup Solids
This is dehydrated corn syrup, with up to 97 percent of the water removed. It is added to many foods to inexpensively enhance the natural sweetness and mask saltiness without changing the liquid content. It is also used in flavoring powders, like those on flavored potato chips.