Smiling African American Father and little son while cooking in kitchen. Black family have fun while baking at home

From the dedicated farmers who produce it to the folks who enjoy it, real sugar makes this time of year a little sweeter.

This holiday season, we’re celebrating sugar’s irreplaceable role in our Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa celebrations and the sweet sugar traditions it brings to our festivities.

When sugar beet fields transform into snowy scenes, you know the holiday season has arrived. And while sugar cane fields may not see too much snow, the real sugar they produce helps bring a little magic to our winter festivities. From sugar beet and sugar cane fields to the frosting on our gingerbread houses, our industry is proud to add that extra touch of cheer to your holiday traditions.

Heart of the Festivities

No holiday would be complete without delicious meals shared with family and friends. Classic tastes of the season allow us to relive cherished memories and create new experiences to treasure together. Real sugar helps us enjoy our time-honored family traditions by playing an important role in all our favorite holiday foods.

Sweet potatoes are a popular and delicious item on every holiday menu. This versatile vegetable has been enjoyed at Kwanzaa celebrations since the holiday’s inception in 1966, and puts a delightful twist on the traditional potato latkes enjoyed at Hanukkah. These delicious pancakes fried in oil and often sprinkled with sugar symbolize the miracle of Hanukkah and have been a tradition in Jewish families for centuries. A sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows is a showstopper at any Christmas dinner. The rich flavor of brown sugar perfectly complements the sweet potatoes to give this beloved dish its memorable flavor and rich texture.

When it comes to side dishes, no meal would be complete without cranberry sauce. This holiday classic pairs exceptionally well with any meat or on your leftover sandwiches for days after the big meal. The first recorded mention of this tart and tasty sauce was in a 1796 cookbook called “The Art of Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, thought to be the first cookbook by an American author. Cranberries, tart due to their high acid concentration, become palatable thanks to real sugar. Sugar cuts the sour taste and balances out the flavor for a sweet and delicious ruby sauce that has been brightening holiday tables ever since.

The “Magic” of Real Sugar

And of course, no memorable meal is complete without a dazzling dessert. Few things are more crowd pleasing than a good old-fashioned apple pie—or a pie of any other type for that matter. Pies were a part of the English cuisine before settlers set sail for America and quickly became a part of American culture.

With a little help from real sugar, making a perfect pie is a piece of cake. When it comes to producing a uniformly browned pie crust that is flaky and tender, it’s all about the glaze. When a glaze of sugar, milk, and egg yolks is brushed on top of the pie, the sugar will caramelize before the crust itself, giving the pie extra color and a beautiful, burnished look. Real sugar also impedes gluten development, resulting in a more tender pie crust that melts in your mouth. For pies with fruit fillings, sugar is your secret weapon for preventing soggy crusts. Simply mix equal parts sugar and flour and sprinkle it on your pie crust before adding the filling. This protective layer prevents liquid from making the crust soggy.

Sugar doesn’t just stop at producing a delicious pie crust. It also helps thicken the pie’s filling. Fruits contain pectin, a natural substance that thickens when cooked with sugar. This results in a perfectly cooked filling with a consistent texture. When it comes to taste, sugar provides more than sweetness in a pie. It also balances and enhances the flavor of fruits in fruit filling. While you are busy putting the finishing touches on your Christmas feast, don’t forget about Santa! Sugar cookies, the bearded icon’s favorite treat, were invented by the German Protestant settlers of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in the 1700s.

The irresistible taste and fluffy texture of today’s sugar cookies are a direct result of real sugar! When sugar molecules meet water molecules, they form a strong bond. This union of water and sugar creates a tender texture. Baked goods get their shape and structure from proteins and starches, which firm up during baking and transform soft doughs into well-formed cookies. But because they build structure, proteins and starches can potentially make baked goods tough, too. The sugar in cookie dough snatches water away from proteins and starches, which helps control the amount of structure-building they can do and results in a more tender treat. The best part of any sugar cookie is the mouthwatering frosting. That same union of sugar and water that keeps baked goods soft also keeps frostings from drying out too quickly.

Giving & Gratitude

The sweet family tradition of leaving out a plate of scrumptious sugar cookies for jolly old Saint Nick began in the 1930s. Times were hard during the Great Depression and sharing these treats with Santa was a way for parents to teach children to think of others and show their gratitude for the gifts they were fortunate enough to receive on Christmas.

There is truly much to be grateful for this holiday season and gratitude is the best way to celebrate. December is also National Giving Month and supporting local communities is deeply rooted in the fiber of the American sugar industry. Whether it’s through sugar donations, baked goods or meaningful financial contributions, this industry is dedicated to lending a hand to those in need and making their holidays a little brighter.

From the sugar family to yours, we wish you the happiest of holidays filled with love, laughter, and sweet sugar traditions to share with family and friends all year.

Laura Rutherford

About the Author

Laura Rutherford graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2004 with a degree in Political Science. She is a shareholder in American Crystal Sugar Company and a member of the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association (RRVSGA), the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers (WABCG), and the American Society of Sugarbeet Technologists. She is on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Industry Biotechnology Council and has published articles for the WABCG, the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association newsletter, and the British Sugarbeet Review magazine in Cambs, United Kingdom.

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