Updated from a 2007 post, with new photos, links, and a new printer-friendly recipe.
We have an elementary school science teacher in the family, so there is no excuse for the ignorance I am about to confess to you.
A few months ago, Ted and I found a jar of hard-as-a-rock brown sugar on the pantry shelves. (This is not the embarrassing part. Well, okay, it is embarrassing, but not from a science point of view.)
How could we get that solid sugar out of the jar? Chip away at it with a knife? Dangerous. Melt it in the microwave? Hot sugar -- very dangerous.
And then I remembered that there was something which, when placed in a jar of hardened sugar, would restore the sugar's moisture and fluffiness.
Eureka! I put a slice of whole wheat bread into the jar, sealed the top, and left it overnight. In the morning, the bread was hard as a rock, but the brown sugar was light and fluffy, completely restored to health.
To me, this was a miracle. How did the moisture pass from the bread to the sugar? Would something else (an apple? a damp paper towel?) do just as well? I can't explain how or why, but I can tell you that the bread really works. (Science teachers and other readers, please help.)
Brown sugar is nothing more than granulated, usually refined, white sugar with molasses added, or containing residual molasses from the refining process. Light brown sugar contains 3.5 percent molasses; dark brown has up to 6.5 percent. The darker the color, the stronger the taste. You can make your own brown sugar.
Substitute one cup of firmly packed brown sugar for one cup of granulated sugar in most recipes. Use the light brown for peach cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting and gluten-free pumpkin spice bars; dark brown for brown sugar pound cake and brown sugar peanut butter cookies; and whatever you've got for salmon with brown sugar mustard glaze, barbecue sauce, and brown sugar bacon waffles.
And do keep a slice of bread handy, just in case your carefully stored, fluffy brown sugar decides to turn to stone.
Sweet and spicy tomato jam
Adapted slightly from Small Bites: Tapas, sushi, mezze, antipasti, and other finger foods by Jennifer Joyce, this condiment will spice up anything from cold shrimp to rotisserie chicken to grilled vegetables. It will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Makes approximately 2 cups.
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
1-1/2 lb peeled tomatoes, chopped (I use POMI)
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch ground cloves
Place the oil in a large saucepan (I used a nonstick 3-quart pan with a lid). Over medium-low heat, add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for 1 minute until just starting to turn golden. Add the vinegar and allow the mixture to sizzle for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the remaining ingredients, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until the jam has thickened. Allow to cool completely before serving, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
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