Muscovado is a type of partially refined to unrefined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavour, and dark brown in colour. It is technically considered either a non-centrifugal cane sugar or a centrifuged, partially refined sugar according to the process used by the manufacturer. Muscovado contains higher levels of various minerals than processed white sugar, and is considered by some to be healthier. Its main uses are in food and confectionery, and the manufacture of rum and other forms of alcohol. The largest producer and consumer of muscovado is India.
The English name "muscovado" is derived from a corruption of Portuguese açúcar mascavado (unrefined sugar). The Indian English names for this type of sugar are khandsari and khand (sometimes spelled khaand).
There is no legal definition of muscovado, and no international standards for it such as Codex Alimentarius or Protected Designation of Origin. This has led to manufacturers calling various sugar products "muscovado", and has led to confusion between muscovado and brown sugar, and even with jaggery.
The earliest known production of crystalline sugar began in northern India, after the introduction of sugarcane by Austronesian traders from Island Southeast Asia at around 1000 BCE. However, the exact date of the first cane sugar production is unclear. The earliest evidence of sugar production comes from ancient Sanskrit and Pali texts. Around the 8th century, Muslim and Arab traders introduced sugar from medieval India to the other parts of the Abbasid Caliphate in the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, North Africa, and Andalusia. By the 10th century, sources state that every village in Mesopotamia grew sugarcane.
Sugar production was an important trade in the British Empire. Sugarcane was produced in British colonies in the West Indies, India, Mauritius and Fiji, and in other territories including Cuba, the French West Indies, Java, Brazil, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Réunion and Louisiana. Sugarcane production often involved slavery or exploitative indentured servitude. Raw sugar was shipped to Europe or to New England where it was refined or distilled into rum, much of which was re-exported at higher prices. Sugar refineries were also established in Bihar, in eastern India.
Raw sugar was brought to port in a variety of purities that could be sold either as raw sugar direct to market for making alcohol, or as muscovado exported sugar refineries such as those in Glasgow or London. In the British Empire, raw sugars that had been refined enough to lose most of the molasses content were termed raw and deemed higher quality, while poor quality sugars with a high molasses content were referred to as muscovado, though the term brown sugar was sometimes used interchangeably.
Muscovado is made from the juice of sugar cane that is evaporated until crystallisation occurs. The viscous suspension of crystals and mother liquor (molasses) is called massecuite. In the 19th century several techniques were used for sugar production. Muscovado is today produced by three main methods:
- The manual production method is to crystallise (granulate) massecuite by cooling it in pans and continuously shearing it by stirring with a large spatula (typically used in India) or by pressing it with the feet (typically used in Africa).
- The industrial centrifuge method invented in late 18th to early 19th century, in which massecuite is crystallised using a centrifuge to separate a crystal-rich mush that is drained of its molasses in a vessel under gravity.
- Modern industrial methods using a spray drier.
Total global production is 10 to 11 million tons annually by 20 nations. The largest producer is India (58%), followed by Colombia (14%), Myanmar (9%), Pakistan (6%), Brazil (4%), Bangladesh (3%) and China (3%).
In India, most khand (muscovado) is produced by 150 small to medium scale private manufacturers overseen by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. These producers use traditional chemical-free organic manual shearing methods, each operating between 100 and 120 days per year with a typical capacity of between 200 and 350 tons of sugar cane per day. The largest producing states in India are Maharashtra (58%), Bihar (6%), Karnataka (5%), Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (6%).
In the Philippines muscovado may be generated by any of the three methods. In the past, muscovado was one of the prominent export commodities of the Philippines, especially from the Negros region from the 19th century until the late 1970s.
The production of muscovado in the Philippines, Barbados, and elsewhere had experienced a long period of decline when large mills took over sugar production from small farmers with small mills. In recent years an increased consumer interest in healthy and organic foods has revived interest in muscovado, creating a new market for small mills.
When produced under regulated conditions muscovado is nutritionally richer than sugars,[better source needed] and retains more of the natural minerals in sugar cane juice, as shown in the following nutritional analysis (per 100 g):
- Total mineral salts 740 mg max.
- Phosphorus (P) 3.9 mg max.
- Calcium (Ca) 85 mg max.
- Magnesium (Mg) 23 mg max.
- Potassium (K) 100 mg max.
- Iron (Fe) 1.3 mg max.
- Calories 383 kCal
Food and confectionery
Muscovado is used as an ingredient in food and confectionery, and as a sweetener in hot beverages. It is very dark brown and is slightly coarser and stickier than most brown sugars. Muscovado takes its flavor and color from its source, sugarcane juice. It offers good resistance to high temperatures and has a reasonably long shelf life.
Muscovado sugar can be substituted for brown sugar in most recipes by slightly reducing the liquid content of the recipe.
The use of khand in India in making sweets has been traced to at least 500 BC, when both raw and refined sugar were used.
Along with gur, khandsari unrefined sugar is India's traditional sweetener, commonly used in traditional recipes for masala chai (spiced Indian tea), eating with roti by mixing with melted ghee, traditional Indian sweets that require sugar such as kheer (Indian rice pudding), gur or khand chawal (sweetened rice) or laddu.
Muscovado is often used to sweeten coffee.
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