This, my friends, is a sugarloaf. In Portuguese, we call it a pão de açucar. Until late in the nineteenth century you’d find one in every household, but they virtually disappeared from family larders when granulated and cube sugars were introduced.
There are records of sugarloaves existing as far back as the twelfth century (in Jordan). They’ve been traced to Italy in 1470, to Belgium in 1508, to England in 1544, to the Netherlands in 1566 and to Germany in 1573.
And guess what? You can still find them in Germany.
Where little ones are used to make a traditional Christmas drink, feurzangenbowle.
The form of sugarloaves wasn’t decorative, it was practical – and derived from the process itself.
Here’s how it worked: after the cane juice was repeatedly boiled and filtered, it was poured into conical molds of earthenware or iron. Each mold stood above its own collecting pot. Over the next few days, most of the dark syrup drained through a small hole in the bottom of the mold into the pot. Then, to further whiten the product, repeated doses of loaf sugar dissolved in water (or sometimes white clay) were poured into the broad end of the mold. This slowly drained through to a small hole in the narrow end and thence into the collecting pot, taking any remaining molasses, or other dark coloring matter along with it. The loaf was then tapped out of the mold and, viola, a sugarloaf.
It was then wrapped, generally in blue paper to enhance the whiteness.
The molds, and hence the loaves, varied considerably in size. The smaller the loaf, the higher the quality of the sugar.
Now look at this:
Note the similarity to the images above?
Okay, now you know why Sugarloaf Mountain is called Sugarloaf Mountain.
She’s made of quartz and granite, stands on a peninsula that protrudes into the Atlantic Ocean and soars 396 meters (1,299 feet) above the harbor.
A glass-walled cable car, with a capacity of sixty-five passengers, runs between Urca Hill and the peak of the mountain every twenty minutes.
It was originally built in 1912, re-built in 1972 and again in 2008.
And riding it is an experience one never forgets.
Leighton - Monday