Ark of Taste
Traditional Cane Syrup
In an effort to save his frozen crop of sugarcane, in 1910 Mr. C. S. Steen, of Southern Louisiana, started collecting sugarcane juice to create syrup. Cane syrup is an aromatic syrup perfect for drizzling over hot biscuits or pancakes. It is also used as a sweetener for baked goods, as a meat glaze or as flavoring for beans. Not only is the finalized product of cane syrup a southern food tradition, but also is its method of production.
Originally, to create the cane syrup, Mr. Steen peeled the sides of the cane, revealing the juicy, sugary pulp. The cane was then brought to a syrup mill, where the cane juice was mashed with larges animal-powered rollers, and hearted with a cordwood fire. 7-10 gallons of raw juice boiled down to one gallon of syrup. Today, this intense process is mechanized with equipment that cuts the sugar cane, strips off the leaves, and loads it onto carts that carry it to a mill where the juice is boiled into syrup.
Traditionally, in the southern US, cane juice had more edible uses beyond syrup. The juice, rich in sugar, was fermented into a beer and was also turned into rock candy, which poor families used for cooking. Unfortunately, this rich food tradition is at severe risk. Today there is only one producer of the traditional pure cane syrup left.