Panela is an unrefined food product, typical of Central and South America, which is basically a solid piece of sucrose and fructose obtained from the boiling and evaporation of sugarcane juice.
Common Spanish names: chancaca, papelon, piloncillo, panocha, rapadura, atado dulce or empanizao. In India and Pakistan a similar product is made which is called gur or jaggery. In Brazil, it is known as rapadura.
Economics of panela
The main producer of panela is Colombia (about 1.4 million tons/year) , where panela production is one of the most important economic activities, with the highest index of panela consumption per capita worldwide. Panela is also produced in Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia. In Colombia, the panela industry is an important source of employment with about 350.000 people working in nearly 20.000 trapiches (panela farms).
The sugarcane plant is processed in a large press, to obtain the juice, which is cooked at very high temperatures. The panela can be manufactured in disc-shaped pieces or in cubic pieces of cake form and is usually gold or brown in color.
Besides sugar, panela also contains large amounts of proteins, calcium, iron and ascorbic acid.
The main use of the panela is in aguapanela which is one of the most widely drunk beverages in Colombia. Also it is used as a sweetener and in the preparation of desserts. Since it is a very solid block, most Colombian homes have a resistant river stone (la piedra de la panela) to break the panela into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Known as piloncillo in Mexico, it is most often seen in the shape of small truncated cones. Many Mexican desserts are made with piloncillo, such as atole, capirotada, champurrado and flan. It is also made blending different spices such as anise, cayenne or chocolate.
In Peru, chancaca is used in typical food such as "champus", "picarones", "calabaza al horno" and "mazamorra cochina". In Costa Rica it is used in preparations such as "tapa de dulce" and "agua de sapo".
In the Philippines, panocha or in Filipinized term panutsa is traditionally used as an ingredient for "latik" and "kalamay".
The city of Palmira, Colombia on 30 November 2009 broke the world record for the largest and heaviest panela, with one that measured 10 feet and 20 inches and weighing 715 kg. For this purpose 70 tons of sugar cane were needed, and 90 people worked for 28 consecutive hours. This panela is the equivalent at 1210 regular 510 gram panelas. The record has not yet been registered by the GWR.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Panela