This is the time of year when sugar cane is harvested and cane syrup is made. In days gone by, the cane was ground by a mule-powered mill. Now the setup like Clayton Dasher used at the Effingham County Fair last week is powered by an engine.
After the cane is squeezed or ground in the mill, the juice drips into a barrel. It is strained and when a sufficient amount for a batch of syrup is obtained, the juice is poured into a big cast-iron pot with a wood furnace. The juice is boiled and skimmed, stirred and watched closely so as not to scorch.
The syrup is tested on a plate until the desired thickness is obtained. The syrup is dipped into clean washtubs to cool and is bottled when cool enough. In the early part of the last century, it was sometimes canned rather than bottled and shipped often by train. During the World War II years, when sugar was rationed, syrup became the substitute for sugar at meals and in recipes.
Families often held cane-grinding parties. During the gathering, cane was chewed, cane juice drunk and syrup candy was made while the syrup was being cooked. The cooked syrup candy was stretched and pulled like taffy at the party when light and airy, and it was then snipped into bite-size pieces and enjoyed. Some called the syrup boiling gathering a “taffy pulling.”
There are only a few in this county who continue to make cane syrup. They keep the art alive and share the experience for today’s generation.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. Information came from “Ramblings through Effingham” by Daisy Rahn. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: email@example.com.