-: raw honey, maple syrup, molasses/treacle, malt syrup :-
The natural sweeteners listed below come in syrup rather than granulated form. You can use them to sweeten a cooked dish or in baked food but you may find that much of the natural flavours are lost through the heat. Further natural sweeteners are pricey compared to other sugars which is one reason many everyday cooks choose not to use them in their everyday cooking. They taste best when eaten raw, simply drizzled over yoghurts, pancakes, porridges or ice-creams. Alternatively, add a teaspoon of these natural sweeteners in a salad dressing and it will transform the entire taste of the salad.
Raw, unheated honey retains many of the plant nutrients and vital enzymes, particularly amylase which helps breakdown the complex starches present in many grain based food, such as breads, porridges and waffles. Honey is made up of 55% fructose which makes it similar in chemical make-up to that of isoglucose. The key difference being that whilst honey is a natural food prepared by bees from plant pollen and contains a number of natural nutrients and enzymes, isoglucose is an artificial, patented, industrial sugar containing no naturally occurring nutrients or enzymes.
Honey is more expensive than traditional sugars – and rightly so. The bees have gone through so much effort to produce this amazing sweetness every consumer of honey should savour every mouthful!
To produce maple syrup the sap from the tree has to be heated. As such it can not be defined as a “raw” ingredient. Traditionally prepared maple syrup does, however, retain many of the plant’s nutrients especially the darker varieties harvested in late spring. Traditional maple syrup can not be rushed or mass produced which is why it is so expensive – but utterly equisite and delicious.
Molasses, referred to as treacle in the UK, is the sweet dark syrup that is a by-product of sugar refining. It retains much of the sweetness with the added benefit of supplying a high concentration of plant nutrients. It is second only to date sugar when it comes to the level of nutrients and anti-oxidants. Molasses have a deep flavour that works brilliantly with some dishes, especially some of the breads featured in the recipe section.
Malt grain syrup
Malt grain syrup is a lot less sweeter than any of the other sweeteners described above for the simple reason it does not contain any fructose. Rather it is a disaccharide made up of two glucose molecules. According to Sally Fallon and Mary Enig it has been used for thousands of years particularly in oriental cooking. Traditional methods involve sprouting barley grains (known in brewing as malted grain), kiln-drying the grains, grinding them into a powder, dipping the mixture into an acid solution and heating the resulting mixture up until a syrup has formed. Malt syrup contains little of nutritional value. It’s one real advantage being that it does not contain any fructose.