Back To Basics: How To Make Sugar At Home

One of the best bartering products when SHTF is undoubtedly going to be sugar.

It will also be a great product to have in order to make treats that boost morale and lend a sense of normalcy to life, which will be crucial to survival.

The problem is that storing large quantities of sugar is a challenge. It’s bulky, takes up a ton of space, and is a bug magnet.

Even if you stockpile the sweetness, you will still eventually run out, but what if you knew how to make your own? It’s really not that difficult and there are a couple of ways that you can do it. For that matter, as part of your homesteading way of life, you could make your own just so that you know where it’s coming from.

Today we’re going to tell you how to make sugar at home. As a matter of fact, we’re going to teach you about two types, based on what our ancestors used to make.

Old Days. Old Ways. But The Food Never Tasted Better.

Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a tropical climate and have a ton of expensive equipment, you won’t be able to grow sugar cane, the crop that yields about 70% of table sugar in the US. You can, however, grow sugar beets, which is used to produce the other 30% of the sugar that you buy.

You can also make maple sugar from maple syrup.

How to Make Beet Sugar

Not surprisingly, beet sugar is made from sugar beets. These aren’t the same as the red or white bulbous beets that you’ve eaten as a dinner side or with pickled eggs; sugar beets actually look more like a parsnip or daikon than they do their sister beets. They’re elongated and have a similar coloring to white potatoes and sugar beets grow well in a variety of climates just like all beets do.

Sugar beets were originally grown to feed livestock but aren’t really fit for human consumption. Here’s one of our favorite things about sugar beets – after you make the sugar, you can still use the leftover meat of the beet as a hot or cold mash for your livestock. No waste!

small sugar

Beet sugar is super-easy to make, too. No special equipment is required and it doesn’t take a long time to do it.

  1. Scrub your beets to get all dirt and debris off of them.
  2. Thinly slice, dice or shred the beets and place them in a pot.
  3. Add just enough water to cover the beets.
  4. Heat to a boil then simmer long enough for the beets to become tender and soft.
  5. Remove from heat and strain the beet pulp out of the juice using cheesecloth.
  6. Return the syrup to the pot.
  7. Hold the cheesecloth full of pulp over the pot and squeeze as much water as possible out.
  8. Simmer until it becomes thick, honey-like syrup, stirring frequently, then remove from heat.
  9. Place in a storage container and allow to cool.
  10. As it cools, the sugar will crystalize. Remove crystals and smash into a powder with your fingers so that it looks like table sugar.
  11. Store and use just like you would regular sugar.

See how easy it is to make beet sugar at home?

Just FYI, you can expect to get about 17% of your original beet weight in sugar. To do the math for you, you’ll need about 10 pounds of beets to yield 1.7 pounds of sugar.

How to Make Maple Sugar at Home

Maple sugar is deliciously reminiscent of the syrup that it’s made from; it has that beautiful, sort of smoky maple flavor. Chances are that you’ve had maple sugar at least once in your life. It’s frequently sold as candy in the shape of maple leaves.

Maple sugar is great for baking, eating, or just adding to your tea. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked. You don’t need anything too specialized but you will need a candy thermometer and a heavy-bottomed pan.

  1. Start with about 3 gallons of pure, organic maple syrup.
  2. Heat on medium high until the syrup reaches 290-300 degrees, which is between soft crack and hard crack stages. If the syrup starts to overflow, just reduce heat a bit then turn it back up after the foam settles.
  3. Remove from heat and stir vigorously for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour into a heat-resistant container; it’s going to be extremely hot!
  5. Allow to cool completely.
  6. Break into chunks and grate into a powder.
  7. Store as you would standard sugar.

One quart of syrup will yield about 2 pounds of granulated sugar. If you live in an area with maple trees, you can draw the sap directly from the trees and make your own syrup. Making maple sugar is a great skill to have for survival because it’s easy and requires very little specialized equipment other than a tap for the tree.

Just FYI, darker maple syrups tend to yield a moister sugar than lighter-colored syrups do. Since maple trees are tapped in the spring when the sap is running, you need a tremendous amount of sap, about 40 gallons, just to make 1 gallon of good syrup.  Just to give you an idea, an average tree yields about 3-4 gallons per day and a little over 13 gallons per season, total.

Because you can tap the tree without seriously damaging it, maple syrup and maple sugar are both wonderfully sustainable foods that can be used in a number of ways by a survivalist. It’s also delicious to eat even when things are going wonderfully!

It’s easy to make both beet sugar and maple sugar at home and they both have their uses. Maple sugar does taste differently so you may wish to use it when you’re looking specifically for that flavor profile. Beet sugar tastes just like plain white sugar so you can use it just as you would cane sugar.

When SHTF, sugar is going to be a primo product because of the luxury of the crop. Those who have it or, even better, know how to make it, will certainly benefit from both the time and effort. Plus, you won’t have to worry about drinking your tea unsweetened no matter how bad things get.

In post-disaster times, a little bit of comfort or luxury may very well go a long way.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • Hi, I live in Florida and although we grow a lot of sugar cane, I have never thought of making my own sugar. Cane syrup is what it is mostly used for, could you also include how to make sugar from sugar cane? thank you for very much, all your articles have so much useful information.

    • I am also interested in making my own sugar at home from my sugar cane I grow at home in Tanzania, East Africa. Please send me an article on how to do it from sugar cane if possible.

      Yonah Bajile

    • me too

    • I’m sorry for the late response, but I didn’t see this post 5 years ago. As for your idea – if you can get get the syrup, just slowly boil it down to the granules/crystalization for pulverizing it into sugar. If you can get it to that first step (syrup), then it’s easy to get it into sugar.

  • Where do you get the seeds to grow non-GMO sugar beets? Most sugar beets are GMO now thanks to Monsanto.

  • How about directions to make sugar from stevia, or how to use it as a sweetener?

  • Great idea and well worth the trying,but where can one purchase sugar beets ?

  • Don’t forget the plant Stevia! It’s much better for you than any of the artificial sweeteners and you can grow a plant at home. Don’t use the stevia sold in stores because too many unhealthy things are added before you get it. You can steep the leaves and flowers for a liquid sweetener or just drop a leaf in your unsweetened tea. You’ll have to take it out of your drink before it makes it too sweet. And it’s natural 🙂

  • how does one store sugar beets?

    • When I was stationed in Germany (1957-60) we lived on a farm that used
      sugar beets to feed live stock. They stored the beets outside on the ground in layers with straw and animal manure between each layer. The winters were much like central Pennsylvania and this system worked very well. Good luck.CCM

    • You just put the in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

    • Hi I live off grid too in upstate New York been thinking of sugar for survival in next depression that’s coming so I can make my wine, i m single too I had to point that out mountaineer girl born and raised on dairy farm likes to hunt and fish you just sounded like every man’s partner

  • What are the names of these particular sugar beets? The article talking all about making the sugar, but nothing on what kind of beets are needed. Please advise. Thank you.

    • they are sugar beets. Thats their name.

  • You can also make a very nice syrup from Birch sap. Just tap the trees the same way as you would a Maple tree. The syrup isn’t as strong and sweet as Maple syrup having a more subtle and delicate flavor. I would imagine that it might take more Birch syrup than Maple syrup to make the same amount of sugar.

  • It be of some interest to readers of this specific article. That during WW II, the British government ordered that sugar beet be grown and harvested to help eek out the very scarce sugar ration to the people of the nation at war. Sugar beet, renders about 17% sugar after the crop has been processed. Even today, the British government is aware of the national need for sugar and we still have such sugar beet processing plants in operation as commercial concern. But also people may not be that aware of what this plant & it’s crop looks like. So in the longer term preparedness sense, you could learn about the cultivation, you already have the processing information and keep your planted patches as innocent looking as possible.

    But from any preparedness perspective, we Brits have some rather hard lessons to learn about our food supply chain. The UK relies on over 80% of foodstuffs being imported. This was seriously exposed during both World Wars. At one stage, civil servants went to Churchill with a very nasty report written by agro & food scientists (Dr. Magnus Pike being one of them), warning that at one stage of WW II, the UK national food reserve went down to only SIX months stock. To give readers some useful perspective, please read up the Repeal of the Corn Laws (which allowed the UK to import grain to meet the severe bread shortage). This will give you some good food for thought, about how a government needs to ensure adequate food supplies. But also, you are not alone in the problem solving (through preparedness) of how to address the longer term issues of continued food production.

    I hope that readers will find this of some use, in seeing what they need to do. That their government (seems) to not be doing. I welcome replies to this posting.

  • You can fix sugar beets and eat them just like regular beets. We did when I was kid.

    • Dear Great Grey,
      Nice to see the Queens English spelling for that colour here!

      Alas, due to the macinations of the big agro-giants, what you may have eaten in childhood, is no longer bred for seed and growing

      Whilst the other beets may been for eating (and still a). I would have considered that there would be far too much roughage for the human disgestive system to handle. This is WHY it is fed to other domesticated mammals, such as bovine and equine species.

      I would advise against testing such by consuming it. Unless you have excellent sanitary hygiene facilities to hand & a good (large) supply of toilet tissue. Drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes for the 1st few hours. Charcoal biscuits, after 4 to 6 hours, should help matters. Also clear all those necessary appointments for the day you try it and possibly a few days following! (At least you know something is working properly;-)) !).

      • You don’t eat the peels! That’s like eating tree bark!

  • How long can maple syrup, or for that matter, corn syrup as well, be stored? Does it freeze?

  • Approximately how long should I cook the beets before it becomes tender? And also at what temperature should I let the syrup cook before taking off the heat to let cool.

  • Several times I have ordered prepper stuff from a “survival” website, and twice I received packages that have been ripped open, and my receipt was missing. My latest being a cross bow. How do I urge the vendor to make sure the package is securely wrapped? Also, I have been talking on the phone with my mother, and all of a sudden, we hear male voices talking as if in an office (phones ringing in background). WTF?! What can I do?

  • Thanks for this. I’m collecting survivability stuff. One question: wouldn’t you want to use a colander instead of cheesecloth to strain the beet pulp? Wouldn’t you get more uses out of it for less time and soap spent in cleaning?

  • I love this article on how to make ‘sugar’…sugar is great as an antibiotic IF it is done properly. Sugar is a SIMPLE carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates broken down to have simple linear bonds. Still only 4 calories per gram. Period.

    The problem with sugar and simple carbohydrates is that if ingested alone or on an empty stomach causes the pancreas which is already an over achiever to produce enough insulin for an entire thanksgiving dinner. This causes LOW blood sugar. The brain and spinal cord have to have blood sugar for energy. Complex carbohydrates make great blood sugar/glycogen but simple carbohydrates cause the pancreas to produce too much insulin which instantly gobbles up all the calories in glycogen to take to fat storage. Leaving a human with no energy to use for brain power and coordination. This is worse than being drunk out of one’s mind from alcohol.

    People that fast should NEVER drive. People that fast need a few courses on how their body works. Fasting is dumb and dumber I am serious! You lose high mitochondrial muscle before ever losing fat stores. Huge survival thing for animals. The first muscle to go is the heart which has the most mitochondria per cell than any other muscle in the body. Karen Carpenter, famous anorexic died of heart failure. she was clinically OBESE. As are POWs and every animal that starves. They may look skinny but they are mostly composed of fat stores. Body fat is over 30 %. A survival mechanism of all animals.

    Muscle gets dumped. I am disturbed by prepper sites promoting weight loss foods for their prepper pantry. You’d better hope to have your own fat storage for survival! GMO foods are bad bad bad. Most don’t have a clue about GMO. About fluoride! Chemtrails! How to grow food in the soil? First Aid? CPR?

    Sugar is on the bottom of the list of needs. Quit eating sugar and you will YOU WILL not want to eat sweets. Just stop. Not necessary one little bit except for cooking, preserving and doctoring cuts. Not at all something to worry about having to have when SHTF.

    Cleaning and hygiene. I’d love to have a talk about this subject. Get over hygiene. Get over smelling like tooth paste and soap. Those smells TRAVEL and even humans are able to detect smells of hygiene. Forget taking baths and showers everyday. Once a month works just fine. Even once per year. Your natural smell is unique and most people have no idea what they normally smell like.

    Cleaning eating utensils and pots is important. Our immune system is OVERLY sensitive unlike our pet dogs…..we have to be aware of bacteria and how to keep sensitive foods such as proteins BELOW 40 degrees, or cook and eat right away. Dehydrating is one of the best skills to learn to preserve food. Lots more types of foods than beet pulp to put away that is for sure..

  • Most commercial beest are GMO. Home gardeners can rarely find small amounts of ANY GMO seeds because they are so expensive. But if you’re worried about GMO, Baker Creek Seed only sells open pollinated varieties–no hybrids–no GMO. They sell sugar beets. When you let the beets ripen when the soil is cold, around 38 degrees, the beets will convert more of the carbohydrates to sugars. Beets will store for 4-5 months anywhere that is cool but above freezing. I live in Washington state (zone 5) and store my beets in pits in my garden that have been lined with several inches of straw, covered with about a foot of soil, and a tarp over the top to keep out excess moisture. Never had a problem with this. But if you have rodents they could get into the pit and eat your beets.

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    • Hello.

      Thank you for your feedback. You can address your question to our colleagues at [email protected]

      Alex, from Survivopedia.

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