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Stephen F. Austin State University

Syrup Making in Newton County (June 2014)

Syrup Making in Newton County
By Jonnie Miller

Excerpts from Crosscuts:

"…During the summer pine-knots would be gathered in wagons and hauled to the cane mill for fuel. The pine-knots would make a good fire under the evaporator that cooked the cane juice into syrup."

The seed cane had to be pulled up by its roots and placed in beds, then covered with straw and dirt to keep it from freezing in the winter. Early in the spring the sugarcane stalks were dug up and carried to the field and planted end to end in long furrows. The cane sprouted at each joint. In late November the cane was cut near the ground, stripped and topped and taken to the cane mill to make syrup. The stubbles were left in the field to come up in the spring and make more sugarcane. It was often said that this second growth made sweeter syrup than the spring planted sugarcane.

The syrup mill was turned by a horse going around the mill while someone fed the sugarcane into the grinder. The extracted juice drained into a barrel, then was carried by pipe to the evaporator. A faucet was turned on at the evaporator to let the required amount of sap into the evaporator to make the syrup. Someone had to stand over the juice while it was cooking to skim the foam off and to test the syrup until it was done. With experience they could tell when it was time to push it to the end of the evaporator where the syrup was let out into one-gallon buckets and sealed. All the time more juice was running into the evaporator.

It took several people to complete the operation; one to keep the horse moving to grind and squeeze the juice, one to keep the fire burning under the evaporator, one to stand over the syrup and stir and one to fill the buckets and place the lid on the syrup.

There was always someone visiting. Some came to drink the juice and some to buy the fresh syrup.

Jonnie Miller