Have you ever read any books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? I read the whole series when I was younger and in the parts she talked about baking sweets, she always had to chip the sugar off a block and then smash it till it was soft.
I'd never heard of that because all the sugar we used was granulated and easy to use. I have no idea when it went from solid bricks to loose granules so here is a bit of its history.
The story goes that the Persians borrowed it from India because it was a sweet not produced by bees and much easier to get. Of course it came from sugar cane and the Europeans did not discover it until they invaded the Middle East during the Crusades in the 11th century. They brought back the "sweet salt with them. It was first recorded in England in 1099 and by the 1300's cost about $100 per kilo in today's dollars so it was a luxury item afforded only by the rich.
In the 1300's, Venice became the first sugar processing center as ships brought the cane from the Near East. At this time, refined sugar was sold in conical block of crystallized sugar also referred to as "Venice Cones". They were made by heating the sugar cane juice to turn it into a sugar syrup. The syrup was poured into a upside down cone where the crystals formed and any extra water could run out.
About the same time, other countries began planting sugar cane in other places such as Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean. In fact, Columbus is alleged to have taken some sugar cane plants with him and introduced them to there in 1493 where its been grown since then. By the mid 1700's, there were around 120 sugar refineries spread around the United Kingdom but they could only produce 30,000 tons per year so it was still quite expensive to purchase. It was often referred to as "White Gold". About the same time, the government began heavily taxing it as a way to raise money until the tax was abolished in 1874 so ordinary people could afford it.
A second source of sugar was discovered in 1747 but it didn't become a major source until the Napoleonic wars when Britain blockaded continental Europe so sugar could no longer be imported. So they turned to the sugar beet and it became the major source of sugar by 1880 in Europe. Britain began using sugar beets during World War I when their supply of sugar became hard to obtain.
Around the mid 1800's, a man developed a machine to make sugar cubes but individually wrapped sugar cubes appeared in Paris in 1908. Granulated sugar sold in loose form in bags showed up sometime late in the 1800's or the early 1900's. Its unclear exactly when but it happened and made cooking so much easier.
Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.
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