Sugar Cane Syrup
Another yearly event was making sugar cane syrup. This probably goes back to the time that Marie's father used to do this. When he passed on he left the big cane grinding machine in the yard and a 300 gallon vat in a shed. Since the copper vat was not useable, John had a 300 galloon vat made of wood and stainless steel to use. Lucius found a syrup temperature thermometer that could be used in testing the boiling juice in the tank. This was done after about 300 gallons of the strained juice was boiled down to about 30 gallons of syrup, and was turning a light orange color. For a year or so wood and pine knots were saved to boil the syrup, but when the wood did not produce enough heat, Jim and Lucius had burners prepared, and propane gas was used. To run the cane grinder, Jim hooked up his tractor to the mill by jacking up the right rear wheel, and then put a big broad belt from the wheel to the grinder wheel. The tractor had to be run in reverse to do this. To have enough sugar cane on hand, each family raised a big crop of Louisiana Blue sugar cane and cut it and hauled it over to where the grinding and boiling took place. The grinding started about 5 AM and the syrup juice was strained and put in the big vat by 11 AM. It was boiled until 5 or 6 PM until it spun a thread and was ready for canning. It had to be stirred with big wooden paddles constantly to keep it from burning. At first we used metal quart cans, like you see in stores, but this was expensive. So we decided to use glass quart and pint canning jars, which were readily available in each of our homes. This was where the ladies took over and canned it, and it ended up in about even amounts for each family as well as for those friends who did not participate in raising cane. As a yearly family event it was "The Event of The Year" because nearly all of the family and friends participated. As a bit of humor, even the Highway Patrol stopped by now and then and thought we were doing something illegal, like making a batch of something to drink. A reminder if you ever attend one of these functions. Do not drink too much of the raw juice. (Smile) During the day, each family made cakes, sandwiches, and drinks for those there, and for those who stopped by to see what was going on. The syrup was not for sale because it would require a business license, and if it was for sale, it would have too high a price for anyone to buy.