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Sugar can syrup derives from a type of grass known as sugar cane: a plant typically found in some tropical regions. Over time, the crop has become a highly sought-after export, and it is used in a wide variety of products ranging from sugar to rum. Sugar cane syrups may be homemade or manufactured, so your first choice will be to decide whether you want total control of taste and texture or whether you want more assurance of a quality product. If you choose a manufactured syrup, important factors to think about include taste, nutritional value, and desired use. Additives and cooking processes often dictate the quality of these syrups.
Producers create sugar cane syrup by boiling juice found in sugar cane. Pure sugar cane syrup has a highly sweet taste, so you may want to consider the concentration of sugar cane juice if you have a preferred sweetness level. Many manufacturers also add various other sweet flavorings to their syrup products, such as fruit bits.
In general, sugar cane syrups should be as smooth as possible. A smooth texture indicates that the syrup has adequately undergone the process of skimming. This process consists of taking out juice impurities that rise to the surface during boiling. Removal of these substances can bolster taste.
The more sugar cane syrups are refined, however, the fewer nutrients they tend to have. Boiling typically takes away nutritional value from sugar cane extract. Some individuals do argue that sugar cane syrup is a slightly better health alternative than high fructose corn syrup, since the latter contains more of the fat-building sugar fructose. Beneficial sugar cane syrup also contains less of a potentially health-harmful substance called carbonyl.
Certain additives can further enhance taste, so you may want to check ingredient labels for these substances. Lemon juice and baking soda in particular are used for the process of skimming and for removal of any potential salty tastes. As for color, quality sugar cane syrup tends to have a yellowish or light brown color. A specific variety known as ribbon cane is darker brown and has a more complex and less sweet-intense taste.
You may choose a sugar cane syrup product based on its specific intent as well. If the syrup is simply poured over another food like pancakes, an overly thick syrup may not be desirable. Syrup may also be used as additives in recipes, in which case a strong-tasting syrup or a solidified, molasses-type syrup might be preferable. If you want the taste of sugar cane syrup in a drinkable form, you might consider a soda made from sugar cane syrup. Cookies and candies may also contain sugar cane syrups.