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When I purchase sugar the bags are often brick hard.

  • How does this happen?
  • Is the sugar 'damaged' some how?
  • Is it safe to use?
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2 Answers 2

This happens when sugar is exposed to moisture. I've noticed this frequently happening when sugar is shipped on a refrigerated truck, then stored at room temperature, allowing some condensation to form. Whether the sugar is "damaged" or not depends on what you want to use it for. If you're going to put it in coffee, or otherwise dissolve it, it should be fine. If you want to sprinkle it over a donut, it probably won't work.

Whether it's safe or not is a much harder question to answer, as it would depend entirely on how it was exposed to moisture. If it's from humidity or condensation, it should be fine. If it's from something being spilled or splashed on the bag, who knows?

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Sugar refineries in the US are located in the South-East (Fl, La & Ga) which are all very hot and humid during the summer months. This climate allows for some moisture to condense in and around the bags. Add to that sugar is packaged for transportation in tightly packed bags, stacked on pallets, with pallets on pallets then stuffed into cargo vans and the slightly moist sugar becomes hard packed. It is completely safe to use just break it up a bit.

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If it's a single rock-hard block, how do you "break it up a bit" enough to smoothly sprinkle or cream with butter? –  Jefromi Sep 6 '13 at 19:39
    
As I read OP's original question (and my revision) the sugar inside the bag is not 'brick-hard' but rather the bag of sugar is. I have encountered this situation regularly but have never encounter a 'brick-o-sugar'. However, I would estimate that such a brick could be broken down with a meat tenderizing mallet and then spun in a food processor to restore the original sugar crystals. Larger 'chunks' could be dissolved in a small amount of warm butter then added to the remaining volume of soft butter for creaming... –  Cos Callis Sep 6 '13 at 19:49
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Dissolved sugar won't cream butter. –  sourd'oh Sep 6 '13 at 21:43
    
If it's just the outer layer that's gotten hard, you can use the same trick as with bags of ice -- hold a couple of feet off the ground, and drop it. Roll it over, and drop it again. The shock from hitting the floor will do a much more even job than a mallet, and is less likely to break open the bag. You can then pour it through a colander to get the worst of the chunks out, which you can take a mallet to, or use them for making a syrup or other use that doesn't need the sugar in granular form. –  Joe May 15 at 12:57

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