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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sugarloaf Mountain is not Sugar Loaf Sweet

 Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
     Sugarloaf Mountain is not Sugar Loaf sweet - its Resemblance ends at the visual level. That Resemblance was first Recognized by the early Portuguese explorers who discovered Rio de Janeiro in 1502 and named Sugarloaf Mountain, nowadays one of the city's major tourist attractions.
     The mountain is only one of several monolithic morros (hills) of granite and quartz that rise straight from the water's edge around Rio de Janeiro. A glass-walled cable car, capable of holding 65 passengers, runs along a 1400-metre route between the peaks of Pão de Açúcar and Morro da Urca every 20 minutes. The original cable car line was built in 1912 and rebuilt around 1972/1973 and in 2008. The cable car leaves a ground station located at the base of the Babilônia hill, to the Urca hill and then to the Pão de Açúcar.
     The name "Sugarloaf" was coined in the 16th century by the Portuguese during the heyday of sugar cane trade in Brazil. According to historian Vieira Fazenda, blocks of sugar were placed in conical molds made of clay to be transported on ships. The shape given by these molds was similar to the peak, hence the name.
     The raw sugar was refined by a series of boiling and filtering processes. When, at the final boiling, it was considered ready for granulation it was poured into a large number of inverted conical moulds. These were usually made of either brown earthenware or sheet iron with an internal treatment of slip or paint respectively, and each stood in its own collecting pot. Over the next few days most of the dark syrup and uncrystalline matter drained through a small hole in the bottom of the mould into the collecting pot. To improve the whiteness of the sugar repeated applications of either a solution of white clay or of loaf sugar dissolved in warm water was applied to the broad end of the loaf. This slowly drained through the loaf readily uniting with any remaining molasses or other colouring matter and removing it to the collecting pot. The loaves were then tapped out of the moulds, dried in a stove room that would have contained hundreds of loaves, trimmed to their final shape and wrapped, usually, in blue paper to enhance their whiteness.
     The moulds, and so the sugarloaves, varied in size considerably ... the larger the loaf the lower the grade of sugar. The grade determined the price, though loaves were sold by weight and the sugar refiner was taxed on the weight of sugar sold. When a new batch of raw sugar was refined the best sugar came from the first boiling. After that, the waste and trimmings from the first boiling were returned to the beginning of the process and mixed with further raw sugar for the second boiling, and, as this was repeated to the end of the batch, subsequent boilings reduced slightly in quality. The finest of the loaves, maybe 5 inches dia and 5 inches high, were extremely expensive owing to the prolonged repeating of the whitening process, as were the somewhat larger double refined loaves from the first few boilings. Lower grades of sugar were more difficult to crystallise and so larger moulds were used, usually 10–14 inches dia and up to about 30 inches  high, with loaves weighing up to 35 pounds. The lowest standard refined grades were called bastards, though an even lower grade was often produced from the filtration scums, usually by a scumboiler at his own separate premises.
Households bought their white sugar in tall, conical loaves, from which pieces were broken off with special iron sugar-cutters (sugar nips). Shaped something like very large heavy pliers with sharp blades attached to the cutting sides, these cutters had to be strong and tough, because the loaves were large, about 14 inches  in diameter at the base, and 3 feet [15th century]...In those days, sugar was used with great care, and one loaf lasted a long time. The weight would probably have been about 30 pounds. Later, the weight of a loaf varied from 5 to 35 pounds, according to the moulds used by any one refinery. A common size was 14 pounds, but the finest sugar from Madeira came in small loaves of only 3 to 4 pounds in weight...Up till late Victorian times household sugar remained very little changed and sugar loaves were still common and continued so until well into the twentieth century...
—Elizabeth David, English Bread and Yeast Cookery

Source : Wikipedia
 Pão de Açúcar in Lights 
Sugar loaves of various sizes, on display in Berlin's Sugar Museum

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