What is Agave Nectar
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Agave Nectar, or sometimes also referred to as Agave Syrup, is a honey like syrup that is derived from the Agave plant. The agave nectar is sweeter than honey, but has more of a neutral taste. Agave nectar is approximately 1.4x sweeter than table sugar, thus making a preferred alternative for those trying to cut calories as well. Another distinguishing feature of agave nectar is its low viscosity, making it an excellent sweetener to use in cold beverages because it mixes with greater ease.
Agave nectar is produced in Mexico for thousands of years from various types and strains of the Agave plant. The most common form of Agave used to make the nectar is the Blue Agave, the same Agave that is used to make Mexico’s famous tequila. When making Agave nectar the center stalk of the plant is what’s used. The leaves are hacked off so just the center which is called the piña is left. The piña is crushed and filtered so only the juice remains. The juice is then heated for a period of time so that the starches within the plant can turn to sugar. After the juice has be transformed into a sugar, it is then condensed into a syrup via dehydration so that it can be used. The syrup will range from a light golden color, to a dark brown, this is due to the inherent minerals contained within the Agave nectar. There are concentrations of iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, all which play a role in the coloring of the each individual batch of Agave nectar. Light Agave nectar has a mild, almost tasteless flavor, and is a great for use in delicate dishes, baked goods, and other recipes where flavor is not desired. Amber Agave nectar has somewhat of a caramel flavor, and is ideal for a wide variety of uses. It is an excellent "straight out of the bottle" syrup, and is the most comparable to honey. Dark Agave nectar has a stronger caramel taste, and a delicious and distinctive flavor.
Agave Nectar has many different uses-
Most often Agave nectar is used in the same ways that one often uses honey. Although it does not offer the same flavor enhancing qualities, it does offer more sweetness by volume. Agave nectar has also gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to the increase in the number of people who are practicing veganism. Honey is considered by vegans to be a byproduct of bee’s thus disqualifying it from use. As where Agave nectar is completely plant derived, it has become quite a popular sweetener for those seeking an alternative to honey and conventional processed sugars.
Agave nectar as a finished product is abnormally high in fructose, much more so than high fructose corn syrup, so for those who are weary of the effects that fructose may contribute to health, Agave nectar may be a product that is not ideal. Conversely though, Agave nectar is expressed quite low on the glycemic index, making it a possible alternative for those who may have diabetes. Also since it imparts more sweetness than regular sugar gram for gram, it is an excellent product to use while being calorie conscience.
Agave nectar is used quite often in culinary applications, but when doing so most chefs reduce the total quantity of moisture in the recipe doe to the water content of the Agave nectar. Another point when using it in baking is to reduce the temperature of the oven by 25°F
Agave nectar may not be for everyone but it defiantly can be a great substitute for those who are not able or willing to use sugar or honey. It’s cost effective and readily available. It can be found in most grocery stores, but specialty stores and organic and health food stores are going to carry a greater selection.
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