«

»

Print this Post

Raisin’ Cane and Making Syrup — An Ol’ Florida Tradition

Terry Mercer with a nice row of purple ribbon cane

Terry Mercer with some of his purple ribbon cane.

Sugarcane is a crop that many folks eat at every meal of the day, without ever realizing it. Commercially, it is used to make sugar crystals which are incorporated into many foods we eat. However, in the Southern United States, sugarcane has been used since before the Civil War to make cane syrup.

Cane syrup is made from old varieties of sugarcane that were selected because the sugars in the juice resist crystallization, making the syrup last longer in storage. Cane syrup was a a major source of calories for Southerners, and was usually a part of at least one meal every day.

Sugar cane is planted from pieces of “seed” cane in the spring of each year (or sometimes the fall of the preceding year) and grows until mature, usually around the middle of November. The cane is then harvested and crushed in a cane mill, which squeezes the sweet cane juice from the stalks.

The cane juice can be consumed raw, but to make syrup, it is cooked for 4 – 8 hours in a kettle. As the juice is cooking, the waxes and other impurities are skimmed off the top. During the cooking process, water is evaporated from the juice, as it goes through various color and texture changes, until it becomes pure cane syrup.

One sugarcane grower who is still practicing the tradition of syrup making, is Terry Mercer of Grand Ridge. If you would like more information on growing sugarcane, download the following publications:

Backyard Sugarcane

UF/IFAS Sugarcane Handbook

The tractor-driven (as opposed to mule-driven) mill Terry uses to grind the cane.

The tractor-driven (as opposed to mule-driven) mill Terry uses to grind the cane.

Terry and long-time friend Buddy "skimming" the impurities from this 100 gallon syrup kettle.

Terry and long-time friend Buddy “skimming” the impurities from this 100 gallon syrup kettle.

 

Terry uses 3, 175,000 BTU propane burners to cook cane juice.

Terry uses 3, 175,000 BTU propane burners to cook cane juice.

 

Some of the finished product.

Some of the finished product.

PG

Author: Josh Thompson – j.thompson@ufl.edu

Josh Thompson is a regional agricultural agent based in Jackson County who focuses on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and agronomic crops.
http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu

Josh Thompson

Permanent link to this article: http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/11/15/raisin-cane-and-making-syrup-an-ol-florida-tradition/