In recent years, a lot of negative press has been heaped upon sugar. It’s not all bad news. In fact, there are some surprising alternative uses for sugar. It’s easy to see it as just a sweetener for our food and drinks, but sugar is so much more.
Are there different types of sugar?
When you think of sugar, it’s most likely the sort that is refined simply because this is the type that is most commonly sold. This sugar consists of small white grains and is used in baking or to sweeten tea and coffee. However, there are so many different varieties of sugar. For instance, there’s:
- Table sugar: this is the most common and its grains are small or medium sized.
- Extra fine sugar: unknown in many countries – Spain, for example – but there are various English-language recipes for sweets and puddings that refer to it as an ingredient. Its grain, as the name suggests, is extremely fine and small.
- Sugar glass: it’s just common table sugar that has been ground to a fine dust. Like icing sugar, it can be sprinkled on cakes or sweets because it becomes invisible.
- Pearl or nib sugar: composed of round grains that are bigger than those of traditional sugar, pearl sugar is popular in Northern and Central European countries. You can find it in German and Scandinavian bakeries and is the secret ingredient in real Belgian waffles.
- Sugar crystals: these grains are much bigger than common sugars. It can, nonetheless, be found in supermarkets and is often used specifically for decorative or aesthetic reasons. Sometimes, it’s marketed as coffee crystals for the purposes of hot beverages. Its grains are not uniform in shape and only a very small pinch of crystals is required. Bear in mind, too, that it does not dissolve as easily as other kinds of sugar.
- Invert sugar: some argue that invert sugar shouldn’t be categorised with other sugars because of the process that is used to create it. It’s not pure sucrose, as it’s mixed with other types of sugar. All of these sugars are heated together to make a liquid (syrup). The most common use for this sugar is in mass-produced sweets, as it keeps pieces of candy tender for longer.
“It’s like an apothecary without sugar”
This adage refers to how apothecaries realised the advantages of using sugar to cure certain diseases and illnesses. There’s some evidence that it was used to treat problems of the respiratory system and that it was an effective treatment for injuries. Wherever the truth may lie, many people agree that sugar has some medical and curative properties, especially because it makes the medicine go down more easily.
When mixed with a lot of water, it produces syrup which can be enhanced with healing essential herbs. These will then be used to ease flu and colds. If you mix the syrup and herb blend with strong alcohol, it can lower a fever.
To pharmacists, it was indispensable and they always had a ready supply. Historically, these professionals used to work from home and, in a pinch, could use some of the culinary supply if they needed a bit of sweetener for a remedy.
Surprising alternative uses for sugar
When a child has problems sleeping or is in pain – perhaps due to vaccinations during the first few months of life – you can prepare a safe solution of one part sugar to four parts water and administer it before the immunisations.
Sugar is effective in killing the bacteria that causes pain in injuries, cuts or ulcers. Just rub a pinch on the wound and let sit.
Burnt tongue soother
We’ve all done it. We’ve all got a bit too eager about that first sip of morning coffee. If you burn your tongue when rushing to drink tea, coffee or soup, pop a sugar cube or a teaspoon of sugar into your mouth and let it dissolve slowly on your tongue.
If you’ve added too much spice to a sauce or condiment, just add a teaspoon of sugar. You can even use it to reduce acidity in a hot tomato base. Magic!
There’s no need to buy expensive products. Simply mix some sugar with a bit of olive or almond oil and create a magnificently effective exfoliant that will eradicate dead cells. You can use it on your face and body.
If you like a bit of lippy, you know that one of its more annoying tendencies is to disappear as soon as you move your mouth. One sip, an imperceptible lick or the slightest kiss and – poof! – it’s gone. Want it to stick around for longer than five seconds? Just rub a bit of sugar on your lips after you’ve applied your lipstick. Leave it for a few minutes, then lick it all off. If there’s a yummier solution, we’d like to hear it.
Grubby mitts cleaner
This is a brilliant tip for anyone who works with grease or oils (mechanics, maybe) or for a post-painting cleanse. Add a bit of sugar to your soaped-up hands and wash as usual. The grains create an abrasive that removes stubborn substances.
To two tablespoons of vinegar and a tablespoon of water, add three tablespoons of sugar. Spray it lightly in the dirt around the plants. The sugar nourishes the stems and the vinegar prevents bacteria from taking over.
Coffee pot cleaner
Fill the coffee ground holder with sugar and let it stand for 3 minutes – just as if you were making coffee. Rinse clean with plenty of water.
Greasy stain eradicator
Devastated by grease or oil stains on your favourite trousers, skirt, duvet cover or curtains? Don’t fret. Make a simple paste of sugar and water. Apply directly to the stubborn stain and let it rest for at about an hour. Wash as usual and…voila! It’s vanished and you’re all smiles again.
Put your freshly baked biscuits, cakes or cookies in a sealed container with a few sugar cubes. Miraculously, this little trick makes them last longer by staving off the stale. You can even use this method to keep grated cheese soft and fresh.
Well, what do you reckon? Are you surprised that there are so many alternative uses for sugar?
Images courtesy of Uwe Hermann, David Eccles, Betsy Weber, Jody Mcintyre, goodmami, Javcon 117, Joel Kramer.