Pancakes, muffins, breads, cakes and cookies are favorite foods anytime and definite morale boosters in emergencies. Sugar, in a variety of forms, is a critical ingredient in making these foods. Cooked cereals are pretty blah-tasting without something sweet on top. To enjoy these foods, it’s important to store sugar. It’s simple to plan quantities based on how much you use. Here are some ideas.
• White sugar stores for a very long time. In fact, according to the C&H Sugar website, “Sugar, properly stored, has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth. Moisture makes granulated sugar hard and lumpy. Once this happens, there is no way to adequately restore it. Always store granulated sugar in a covered container in a cool, dry area.” White sugar can be purchased in No. 10 cans or buckets for long-term storage.
• Brown sugar stores well in original bags as purchased from the grocery store, if stored in a cool, dry place. According to C&H, brown sugar has an indefinite shelf life, but for best flavor should be used in six months. However, I have not noticed any significant difference in flavor if brown sugar is stored longer. I like to store as much brown sugar as I can get through in about two years.
For easy rotation, date bags and stand them up in a shoe box so the oldest bag can be taken from the front and new bags can be added in the back. Brown sugar can dry out and become hard. After opening, transfer a bag of brown sugar to a sealed container to maintain moisture until it is used up. If brown sugar becomes hard, simply add a half slice of bread to the container for a day, which moistens the sugar nicely.
• Powdered sugar can be stored in original bags in a cool, dark place.
• Honey stores for a very long time. It does, however, need to be rotated as it will eventually darken and develop a stronger flavor. If left indefinitely, it will actually turn black. Pure honey crystallizes and is much easier to melt in smaller containers. If honey is purchased in bulk, simply transfer it to pint canning jars or empty jam jars. Crystallized honey should be melted at low temperatures. Overheating it causes it to become too thick when cooled.
• Maple syrup stores for at least a year in a properly sealed container and stored in a cool, dark place, according to Cornell Sugar Maple Research and Extension Program.
• Jams and jellies store for a number of years if stored in a cool, dark place to preserve color. If you have old jam, add it to cooked cereals, which adds new and fun flavors and uses it up quickly.
• Agave is becoming a popular natural sweetener used in cooking. Pasteurized agave produced by C&H has a shelf life of two years from the date it is packaged. Check with the manufacturer of the brand you want to store for reliable shelf life information.
Deciding how much sugar to store takes a little guesswork. Estimate how much of each variety of sugar is needed based on how much you think you use and date everything. Over a year, watch for which ones were used up too quickly, and which were overstocked.
Mixes for making baked foods can also be stored for emergencies. These are certainly convenient, however, they are more expensive. Watch expiration dates to make sure mixes are used in time. If planning emergency supplies of food for three months to a year, it may be more cost effective to plan fast recipes made from scratch.
There is nothing like something sweet and yummy in times of stress. Baked foods are truly comfort foods and always bring smiles, especially important in emergencies.
Leslie Probert, a graduate in home economics from Brigham Young University, has been a popular speaker and is co-author of "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition," with more than 400 fast recipes. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org