Sugar Curiosities - Cassonade

By Bento, Luis San Miguel
Posted on 2009-05-31    Last edited on 2010-03-16

"Cassonade" is the name of a yellow soft sugar produced actually in Belgium. This sugar is a transformed sugar as areado sugar produced in Portugal and amorfo sugar produced in Brazil. The technology used to produce this kind of sugar probably was introduced in Europe by the Portuguese after  traveling to China in the XV century. From Portugal this technique was introduced in Brazil. In the XVII century this sugar, produced in Brazil, was transported to France in wood boxes ("caisson" in French). From this fact the sugar was named "cassonade" (Fig.1).


Figure 1: Photocopy of "Histoire Naturelle du Cacao et du Sucre"

This kind of sugar is produced by boiling a syrup at labile zone supersaturation where spontaneous crystallization occurs. Then the concentration of massecuite  is increased and the temperature is raised to around 105 C. This massecuite is then strongly agitated and through a transformation mechanism a powder sugar is produced. In old times the production of this sugar was completely manual. Later the agitation step was made mechanically in a open pan with agitating paddles (this pans where named "areadores" (from "areia" that means sand in Portuguese). Other form of agitation was through an open screw conveyor. In the beginning of the XX century a sugar refinery in Lisbon introduced a process using vacuum pans to produce the massecuite and vacuum crystallizers (crystallizers Roux Ollier from France) to process the sugar transformation. This process, modernized, is used nowadays in Portugal and Belgium. In Brazil the atmospheric boiling is still in use.

It is not clear the reason of the expansion of this technique to Belgium. The only connection,and a possible explanation, is the fact that in the years 20's of the last century the Technical Director of the Lisbon refinery was a Belgian. Possibly this sugar technologist introduced the modern way of producing areado sugar in Belgium giving to the sugar the same name as the existing one, "cassonade".


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