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I recently transferred a batch of home-made vanilla extract to a smaller bottle. I shook out the vanilla beans left in the original bottle into a container with white granulated sugar as there was a lot of extract and seeds left on them. The extract is vodka-based and contains about 35% ABV.

The end result is that this container of sugar is completely soggy and wet now, and I'm wondering how I can safely store it. From what I've read, dry sugar has an indefinite shelf-life because it is hygroscopic, creating a dry environment where nothing bad can grow. This is obviously no longer the case here. High sugar content seems to play a role in the shelf life of fruit preserves but the bigger factor there is probably sterilisation before canning.

How can I safely dry out this wet sugar mixture?

Should I toss it if it's been sitting at room temperature (with a fine mesh top) for 24 hours?

Is storing sugar when wet a Really Bad Thing?

Will the alcohol inhibit the growth of anything that might survive the high sugar content?

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    You could regard jam, or the tasteless, purified types of honey as just very wet sugar, and they keep even once any seal is broken. In fact a strong sugar solution is a preservative. – Chris H Mar 14 '16 at 15:26
  • I had a bag of sugar get wet while it was in my car (bad seal) ... it wasn't quite as bad as yours (I had a lot of large clumps where it got wet. I put it through a colander, and problematic chunks into heavy syrup. From the sounds of it, you're not even watered down that that point yet. – Joe Mar 14 '16 at 16:20
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You shouldn't have any problem. Bacteria need sufficient water to survive, a few drops wetting the sugar are not sufficient for them. As far as I'm aware, even old-style jam (1 part fruit to 1 part sugar, boil some of the water out) is shelf-stable.

Even if you are close to the limit, it's still not too concerning. The good news is that, when you preserve something with sugar, and get a bit too low on the sugar, it's not bacteria that colonizes it first, it's mold. The mold can be toxic on its own - but it's nicely visible.

So, as long as you don't have a sticky mass and see mold growing on it, the sugar should be safe. It can be hard to work with though - we have an old question on getting lumped-together brown sugar out of the container, if you need it.

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Apparently, there is little danger in wet sugar. Sugar producers recommend drying it first and then warming it in low-heat oven for 10-15 to get rid of the lumps. You can shorten the drying time by adding some absorbent to the container with sugar, e.g. a cork or a piece of dry bread.

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