Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Piloncillo or Panela = Unrefined Whole Cane Sugar

I was walking through our local grocery store (Meijer) the other day and saw a bulk bin of Piloncillo.

Never one to refrain from learning a new food (new to me), I stopped to explore.  Further grocer information about these cone shaped hard crystallized whatevers turned out to be small chunks of unrefined whole cane sugar for $1.99 per pound.

Not one to trust anything on first try, I only purchased three "cones" for about $.60.

I found that there are many names for this product including panela, rapadura, chancaca, papelon, panocha, atado dulce, gur, jaggery, nam oy or empanizao.

Why the cone shape?  There are actually many forms in which this can arrive and it depends largely on the mold used by the maker.  Watch how this natural product is traditionally made here:

The cones are very hard.  I read that in many cultures they hit these pieces of sugar with river rock to break them into smaller usable pieces.

Not wanting to risk breaking anything in our home I skipped the rock smashing and went for a fine grater we have and achieved a decent amount of sugar (think tea or coffee addition here -- not baking or jams).  If you try this you will notice a very strong -- but pleasing -- aroma of molasses as you grate the larger piece of sugar.

For larger quantities I decided to use our Vitamix dry blend container and it quickly pulverized the cone within a few seconds into a fine readily usable sugar.  I don't know that I would attempt this with an everyday blender.

Why Panela?  It isn't processed.  The vitamins, minerals and molasses are not removed and it contains natural proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid.  Typical brown sugar has been processed and then had some molasses added back in to regain its brown color.

You probably won't want to use this for everything, but it is a great replacement for traditional brown sugar.  Look for it at your grocer, world market, or here.

2 comments:

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