Walt's Look Around: Sweet tradition of syrup making in the South - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Walt's Look Around: Sweet tradition of syrup making in the South

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Leo Beatty of Louin in Jasper County is out in his cane field early this morning, along with helpers Larry Smith of Louin, and Tobby Taylor and his dad, Buddy Taylor from Morton. The goal, strip and cut sugar cane. Enough to fill a 120 gallon kettle cooker.

Leo uses a cane mill that his grandfather used to use years and years ago for the same purpose, crush the cane and extract the juice. He says he walked by this piece of machinery all of his younger life. And every time he saw it, his dad would have another story about old timey syrup making. And those stories grew up with Leo and got him interested in making syrup himself.

Leo Beatty: If it hadn't been for daddy's stories about them making syrup the cane mill would probably still be sitting right where it's been since the early 1900s.

Walt: In no time at all after the big kettle had been filled with sugar cane juice and the propane burner under it had it up to a pretty good boil, people began to appear out of nowhere, to see what was going on.

Leo Beatty: And 'course, word will spread that I'm cooking syrup. And people will come by just to see it. Come by to taste, drink some of the juice, reminisce about the old days when they can remember when their parents or grandparents were cooking syrup. It's a time people get together and remember the past.

Walt: John Ashley of Brandon was one of those who stopped by, and remembered how syrup was made before the mill was powered by electricity and the cooker by gas.

John Ashley: I remember a lot about it. I remember there were mules pulling the grinder and I remember down the hill that there was a cooker and my great uncle Lynn was the cooker, my granddaddy was in charge of the juice and my job was to keep the mules going and to keep the cane chews away.

Walt: Kettle cooking is new again. This was the way syrup was made before the more familiar evaporator pan was invented. Leo knows it's about ready when the syrup is thick enough to start forging, as he calls it. It hops as it boils. And after an all day cooking, near dark, a little better than 18 gallons of sweet cane syrup emerges from the 120 gallons of syrup they started out with this morning. But it also occurred to me that some sweet memories were cooked all day long as well.

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