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Exterior of an old colonial building in New Orleans, Louisiana

Sugar around the world: Louisiana

16/11/2023 By Kay Sandhu in Recipes N America

The next stop on our around the world tour is the US state of Louisiana. Located in the country’s southeast, on the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana has a long history with sugar. In this blog, we will explore Louisiana’s links with sugar, and how this has influenced its cuisine and beverages.

The oldest sugar-producing state in the US

Sugar first arrived in Louisiana around 1751. Louisiana is, in fact, the oldest sugar-producing area in the US. The story goes that New Orleans planter Etienne DeBoré first cultivated sugarcane in the state, planting the crop in what is now Audubon Park in the city of New Orleans. In 1795, DeBoré mastered the crystallisation process and sold granulated sugar commercially, turning it into a precious local commodity. To this day, sugar remains an important commodity for Louisiana. In 2022, sugarcane contributed $4 billion to the state’s economy.

Ground view of sugarcane roots growing in a crop field with blue sky above

Louisiana is one of the largest producers of sugarcane in the USA.

With 11 sugar mills, Louisiana now produces approximately 20% of sugar grown in the US. In 2023, sugarcane production stood at approximately 13.9 million net tons, a 13% drop from the previous year that can largely be attributed to drought. On average, the sugar growers of Louisiana harvest 15 million tonnes of sugarcane and produce 1.6 million tonnes of raw sugar annually. Though sugar beet is grown in more northern US states, sugarcane is grown in Louisiana, due to warmer climate conditions.

Louisiana’s culture and cuisine

Louisiana’s Creole cuisine is a style of cooking that blends multiple influences and cultures, including French, in a nod to the state’s history as a French colony, West African, Native American, Caribbean and Spanish. Creole cuisine is shaped by the people who inhabited the state prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

This blend of influences and cultures has left Louisiana with a varied cuisine, while the state’s long history with sugar means the product is an important ingredient in many of its dishes and beverages. Due to its abundance, raw sugarcane is a popular sweet treat to chew on.

Sugar in Louisiana dishes

Cajun flavours and foods are central to Louisiana dishes. In Cajun and Creole seasonings, sugarcane syrup may be added to enrich the flavour and colour. This syrup looks like molasses but is a little thinner in consistency. Alternatively, brown sugar or cane molasses may be used.

Smoked duck is a popular dish. The duck is brined and glazed before it is smoked. This glaze is made from soft brown light sugar and soy sauce, both of which impart colour and balance out the flavour.

Barbecue rack of ribs cut up next to a white pot of barbecue sauce

Crystalline cane sugars and cane sugar syrups are used in making sauces and marinades and seasonings, including cajun.

Sugar is an important ingredient in Texas Barbecue, a fact we wrote about in our around the world blog on the topic. Louisiana, a state that borders Texas, also has its own barbecue traditions. Louisiana BBQ sauce is a staple ingredient that blends tomato, vinegar, cayenne pepper and dark cane muscovado sugar with treacle to give it a tangy yet rich and sweet flavour. Meat marinades are also typically made with cane sugars and molasses.

Sugar in Louisiana desserts

French in origin, Beignet are square-shaped pieces of fried dough that are dusted with powdered sugar and served warm in cafes and restaurants throughout Louisiana.

Beignets with powdered sugar on top sitting on a white plate

Sugar is used as a powder to enhance the appearance of sweet treats and desserts, such as Beignet.

Another Creole sweet treat, praline was first brought to New Orleans in the 1700s by French nuns. It is made from dark soft brown sugar, pecans and butter before being cooked and dried. This popular confection can be bought at markets or made and enjoyed at home.

Sliced bananas in a skillet pan with caramel on top and a scoop of white ice cream

Sugar is used in the making of caramel and to colour different dishes and desserts, like Bananas Foster.

Bananas Foster is a dessert that hails from New Orleans. Invented in the 1950s, it brings together bananas, rum, butter, brown sugar and spices. The ingredients are sautéed and flambé, if the cook is up to the task.

Sugar-enhanced drinks and snacks

The city of New Orleans is renowned not only for Creole cuisine, but also its vibrant night life and live music scene. At the heart of this, is the city’s bar and cocktail culture. When in New Orleans, order a Gin Fizz. Invented in the city in 1887, this drink comprises gin, gomme syrup (a sugar syrup combined with natural gum arabic), lemon juice and soda water.

Selection of three different types of cocktails in glasses

Sugar enhances the sweetness, changes the texture and improves the flavour of cocktails, balancing out the astringent ingredients to give a balanced drink. Left to right: Gin Fizz, Sazerac and Grasshopper.

Another cocktail with New Orleans origins is Sazerac. This combines rye whiskey, absinthe, sugar syrup and bitters. Cognac may be used in place of the rye whiskey, while Bourbon may replace the rye whiskey and absinthe.

Another popular beverage in this part of the American South is the green-hued Grasshopper cocktail. Traditionally an after-dinner drink, the Grasshopper contains mint-flavoured crème de menthe, chocolate-flavoured crème de cacao, cream and, in some recipes, a little liquid sugar.

In a part of the world where sugarcane generally grows successfully, sugar was always going to form an essential part of the local dishes and drinks.

Our high-quality pure sugars enhance the taste, texture and appearance of food and beverage products in all the world’s cuisines. To learn more about our pure sugar products, contact our Customer Services Team. For more sugar news and Ragus updates, keep browsing SUGARTALK and follow Ragus on LinkedIn. 

Kay Sandhu

Kay ensures that our customers’ orders are delivered, on time and in full.

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