Note: Mouse over graphics for any comments throughout site. This Site Has Music which can be turned off. (Long ago my grandmother "Mamita Marķa" Maria Collazo would play this on the piano. Memories were good when I was 17.

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sugar cane

Sugar Cane

Christino Oxholm Kissell, Julio Oxholm Kissell, Boiler Operators, Rufina & Lluberas Sugar Cane Mill, Guayanilla. Cristino Oxholm, Julio Oxholm De Leon ("Old Englishman"), Boiler Operators, Cambalache Central, Arecibo. Lucía Kissell Figueroa, Chemist, Cambalache Central, Arecibo.

sugar mill

These are the names of some of the Sugar Cane Mills, which on the contrary to coffee, were able to survive until the mid 1970's: Bueva Vista,
-- San Colombano (founded by Don Arturo Lluberas (1874-1938) being the smallest Sugar Cane Mill in Puerto Rico. It closed in 1978.),
-- Faro,
-- Mercedes,
-- Rufina (was founded in 1901 by Don José Trujillo Pizá (1858-1923) from Palma de Mallorca, Spain and Don Mario Mercado Montalvo (1855-1937)from Ponce, P.R. The lands of the ancient Plantations of San Colombano, Faro y Rufina were absorbed by the new Mill. This Mill closed in 1967, after being one of the principle employers for the Town of Guayanilla during a period of 66 years)
-- and the San Francisco Mill.

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Sugar cane culture dates from antiquity and probably originated in what is now New Guinea. Its cultivation spread along human migration routes to Southeast Asia, India, and Polynesia. The technology for making sugar by pressing out the cane juice and boiling it down into crystals was developed in about 500 BC in India.

In ancient times people satisfied their desire for sweets with honey. In earlier times, sugar was used as a sedative, but today it is associated with a number of health problems. Nevertheless it remains a popular food and flavoring.

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Sucrose is a product of the process in plants called photosynthesis--the formation of carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water, using energy from the sun. Sucrose is the main sugar in the sap of plants. It is present in all green plants, but almost all commercially made sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. The sugar beet is a species of beet that can be grown in temperate or cold climates, where sugar cane will not grow. Sugar is stored in the tapering, white roots of the beet.

Minor sources of commercial sucrose are maple trees, sugar palms (especially date palms), and sorghum.

Sugar cane is a giant, thick, perennial grass cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide for its sweet sap. The plant grows in clumps of solid stalk and has graceful, sword-shaped leaves that resemble those of the corn plant. Mature canes may be 10 to 26 feet tall and 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The color of the stalk ranges from almost white to yellow to deep green, purple, red, or violet.

The sugar from sugar cane is transformed into sugar in two stages. First, the sugar is extracted from the plants, then it is refined.

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From sugar cane. About 13 percent of sugar cane sap is sucrose. During harvesting, the cane stalks are stripped of their leaves and trimmed for easier handling at the cane mill or sugar factory. In the factory, the stalk are washed and cut into short lengths or shredded. The sugar is removed from the canes by milling. In the diffusion process the sugar is separated from the finely cut stalks by dissolving it in hot water or juice. In milling, the juice is squeezed from the rough pulpy mass of the stalks by pressing it between heavy rollers. These are arranged in sets of three. Each set of rollers exerts a greater pressure than the last set. While the cane is passing between the rollers it is sprayed with water to help dissolve additional juice.

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The liquid extracted from the cane is a dark grayish or greenish color and is acidic. Since it contains impurities, it is necessary to use chemicals for clarification. In most instances, milk of lime is added to the raw juice. The juice is immediately heated to the boiling point and then run into settling tanks where the precipitated matter is separated from the clear juice. In order to make a white sugar directly from the cane juice, sulfur dioxide and sometimes phosphoric acid are added to the juice before the milk of lime. The same process is then followed.

The juice is evaporated into a thick syrup and then concentrated by vacuum boiling in several stages. The vacuum allows the mixture to boil at a relatively low temperature to prevent scorching of the sugar syrup. The mixture is boiled until sugar crystallizes out of the liquid, forming a mixture known as massecuite. The raw sugar crystals are then separated from the massecuite by centrifugal machines--perforated, hollow cylinders that revolve rapidly. The syrup, called molasses, is forced out through the holes, but the raw sugar is left inside. Some of the raw sugar is sold as it is, but most of it goes to refineries.

Refining. The extracted sugar crystals are then shipped to refineries. Raw sugar is light brown and slightly sticky because the crystals have a thin film of molasses clinging to them. Refining removes this film and produces white crystals of sugar.

First the raw sugar is rinsed of its brownish film. Then the crystals are dissolved in water and the liquid is filtered to remove impurities. The sugar is then crystallized, and the crystals are separated from the liquid by centrifuges and dried in hot air. The liquid must be centrifuged several times. Other methods of refining involve the use of milk of lime, carbon dioxide, and repeated boiling. The refined crystals are classified and stored in bins to be packaged or sent to market.

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Other types of sugar are produced through slightly different processes than those used for white granulated sugar. Soft yellow and soft brown sugar are made by retaining some of the molasses during processing. These sugars are soft and clingy because the molasses film contains about 35 times more water than does refined white sugar. Other types of sugar include English coffee sugar--large brown crystals with a characteristic caramel flavor. English coffee sugar is produced from successive boiling of refinery liquid. Candy sugar consists of very large white sugar crystals. It is slowly crystallized from very pure liquid during sugar processing and is used mainly by the brewing industry.

Sugar by-products. The major by-products of sugar cane production are molasses, bagasse fiber, and cane wax. Cane molasses is the syrup that remains after the sugar has been crystallized out. They are used mainly as livestock feed. Cane molasses is also used for making alcoholic drinks, particularly rum.

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Bagasse is the cane fiber that remains after the sugar cane has been rolled. It is so dry that it can be used to fire the mill furnaces that heat the sugar boilers. Some of it may be baled and shipped to factories, where it is pressed into building board.

Cane wax is extracted from the dried material that has been filtered out of the sugary liquid during the production of raw cane sugar. It is used in manufacturing.

Sugar cane cultivation did not reach Europe until the Middle Ages, when conquering Arabs brought it to Spain. Columbus carried the plant to the West Indies, where it thrived in the favorable climate and soil.