Self-Sufficiency Series

Monday, February 20, 2012

Storing sugar

A reader named Elaine asked a question about long-term storage of granulated sugar, and I figure I'd share it on the blog since it's an excellent question.

She wrote: How does one store sugar without it forming one solid block? I recall using a mallet to break the sugar into smaller lumps and filling the sugar bucket during WWII. Will storing sugar in the metallized bags prevent the clumping?

Right now sugar is cheap and readily available. Like so many other things, of course, it would become priceless if it were unavailable.

We have a lot of sugar stored away, so much so that I thought about devoting a 50-gallon food-grade barrel to it. We decided against this for two reasons, and kept our sugar in either 3.5 or 5-gallon buckets as always.

Reason One, sugar can harden. While there are steps to take to reduce this possibility, if hardening occurs I'd rather it happen in five gallon amounts instead of 50 gallon amounts.

Reason Two, sugar absorbs odors very readily. Our food-grade barrels used to hold strong-smelling stuff (anchovies and olives) and no amount of scrubbing will remove the odor. Though we have thick plastic bag liners in the barrels, the odor might still affect the taste of sugar.

Anyway, sugar in its crystalline form can store almost indefinitely (at least 30+ years). The key components for successful storage is keeping it dry, cool, and dark.

The biggest enemy of sugar is moisture. Even humidity can make it go hard. Thankfully, as Elaine pointed out, this can be remedied by breaking it up with mallets or running it through a grain grinder. Nonetheless, that's a pain in the patookus, so just keep it dry and you shouldn't have a problem.

I've read that sugar should not be stored with oxygen absorbers. Why, I don't know; but that's what I've read.

All this storage advice applies only to white refined crystalline sugar. "Raw" sugar is less refined and has a shorter shelf life. While I like raw sugar very much and often use it, we only put away refined sugar for long-term storage.

The paper packaging in which sugar is sold is not suitable for long-term storage. It will absorb moisture. Whether your buy your sugar in 10-lb. bags (expensive!) or 50-lb. bags from a wholesale grocer (cheaper!), re-package it by pouring it into a clean, DRY bakery bucket. Use a Mylar bag if you wish (Mylar bags will provide another barrier to moisture). Make sure the gasketed lid is on securely, then store in a cool dark place. Resist the urge to open your long-term stored sugar very often, as that may introduce moisture. I keep our long-term stored sugar in out-of-the-way places, whereas the frequent-use sugar is stored in an easy-to-reach place (my canning closet).


Sugar is an essential part of home food-storage. In addition to the "comfort" factor, it provides calories and carbohydrates. Honey is a superb sweetener and will store for literally thousands of years (Egyptian tombs!), but it's far beyond our price range, so we'll stick to crystallized refined sugar.

25 comments:

  1. The oxygen absorbers will causer the sugar to harden. I once re-canned some sugar that had someone else had canned in #10 cans with the oxygen absorbers only an hour before and the sugar was already hard on top and we had to break it up.

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    1. I too have read not to put oxygen absorbers in with granular sugar - BUT - I have not found anything about a moisture absorbing element???

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  2. Just a comment regarding buying in bulk. It is not always cheaper. We bought some sugar at Sam's Club the other day in Southern Missouri. And the 10 lbs. bag priced cheaper than the 50 lbs bag. It's not always the case but we have found this to be the case with other products, so before we buy we check the per oz. cost that they usually post with their products.

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    1. I have found this to be true also. You do have to watch when you buy bigger.

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  3. Oxygen absorbers give off heat, therefore they will cause the sugar that is actually touching them to somewhat melt into a syrup form.

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  4. Speaking of sugar, didn't you mention you might try to grow sugar beets? Any more thoughts about doing that? Keep us posted.

    Anchovie infused sugar! Mmmmmmmmmm

    Terry
    Florida

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  5. I hadn't realised that raw sugar has a much shorter shelf life than white crystallised sugar. Thank you for adding that info. I will now use my stored supplies of raw sugar and leave the white in my buckets.

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  6. Hello Patrice,
    My husband and I just bought property in North Idaho near Sandpoint. We will be coming out your way this spring.
    Rebecca Haney
    Leesburg IN

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    1. Rebecca, I deleted your second post because I didn't want your email visible. I'm sorry to say we're several hours away from Sandpoint, but I think you'll really like the area -- it's beautiful! Happy moving.

      - Patrice

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  7. i got lucky i guess when i was shoppping for sugar to put on our stock shelf..i found dominoes granulated sugar in the yellow sealed buckets with handles (like the coffee containers for folgers or max.house) on sale at our military commissary...a very good sale too. they stack very well, and i dont have to repackage any of them and the containers are reuseable after opening as well.

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  8. In Colonial times sugar was purchased in a solid cone wrapped in paper. A grater of file was used to scrape off sugar as needed.

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  9. That is how we store our sugar too in 5 gallon buckets. Have had no problem with it that way.

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  10. Thanks for your post, I store sugar the way you suggest but never know if I am doing it right.

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  11. I'm curious about how much you all store, and how you rotate your stash?

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    1. Not sure off-hand how much sugar we have, about 200 lbs perhaps. I don't rotate any of it except the bucket we keep for immediate use.

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  12. found a blog by Earthineer sharing their success with storing dry beans, rice, wheat and oats in clean soda bottles with bay leaves added to prevent bugs. What are your thoughts on storing sugar in these 2 liter containers using the same method for storage? I love the idea of bay leaves protecting against bugs and/or hatching eggs.

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    1. Clean soda bottles should work fine, but I have my reservations about bay leaves. Bay leaves are excellent repellents... unless the bugs are already IN THE BOTTLE. If the bugs are already in the bottles, bay leaves won't do anything to them except offend them with a strong odor. It's not like the bugs can escape OUT of the bottle to get away from the smell. Nor will the bay leaves harm the bugs -- they're still capable of reproducing and eating the stored food.

      However food-grade diotomaceous earth or oxygen absorbers will both make the environment lethal to bugs, either through dehydration (DE scratches the bug's protective outer waxy coating, so it dehydrate to death) or through oxygen deprivation.

      If you don't want to use either of these options, then try this: fill your clean dry soda bottles with the stored food, then put the bottles in a deep freezer for about a week. That ought to do it.

      My $0.02 worth...

      - Patrice

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    2. I seal my two liter bottles with packing tape after filing them to store.

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  13. Silica Packets will help ward off any moisture problems with your long term storage sugar.

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  14. I read that you can put a little rice in with your sugar, its supposed to absorb the moisture and help keep your sugar from hardening, I havent tried it yet in my storage but i do put it in my salt shaker and its helped a lot.
    Crystal

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  15. I recently was given in excess of 200 lbs of "Mexican cane sugar" packaged in 50 lb bags. It is slightly tan in color. Does this mean that it is a raw sugar and doesn't have the shelf life of the white? I took it to add to my long term food storage.

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  16. I was recently given a large amount of Mexican Cane Sugar. It is packaged in 50 lb bags. It is slightly tan in color. Does that mean that it doesn't have the shelf life of the white granulated? I accepted it with the idea that it would be excellent to add to my long term food storage.

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  17. I recently was given in excess of 200 lbs of "Mexican cane sugar" packaged in 50 lb bags. It is slightly tan in color. Does this mean that it is a raw sugar and doesn't have the shelf life of the white? I took it to add to my long term food storage.

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    1. I'm not familiar with Mexican cane sugar, but it does indeed sound as if it's less processed than white sugar. No worries, though; just put it among your short-term storage and use it first.

      - Patrice

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  18. I have a Food Sealer and put the 5 lb sacks in a bag, removed all the air and now they are vacuum sealed and good for years.

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