Syrup cooking at

Tommy and Beth Clayton's


November 17, 2001


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Connie and I got there right at 8:00 in the morning and they had just started feeding the mill. Tommy and Beth Clayton have a beautiful piece of property, mostly surrounded by woods. The mill and furnace are under one side of the barn, which is open on that side, allowing easy access. I tried to stay out of the way, and took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions. This was our first exposure to syrupmaking with sugar cane.

The above views show the Goldens' #27 mill mounted up high to take advantage of gravity, and the furnace and kettle. The juice is filtered at the mill, and then run through a couple of layers of cloth that look a little heavier than T-shirt material. This filtration slows the process a little bit, but probably cuts the amount of skimming considerably. The kettle holds 80 gallons of juice.

The first two pictures show how the mill is setup using a jackshaft powered by a diesel tractor. Next pictures show the skimming which is pretty intense and continuous up to the time the syrup is brought up to a boil.

Above left, is a view of the propane burner. Next, more skimming, and a view of some of the spectators.

Once it starts boiling good and the foam is touching the rim, the main work is keeping the foam from sticking to the rim. This is a constant activity until almost the end of the cooking. Right, is shown "polecat candy", which is the foam at the end of the cooking which is allowed to form on the rim. It is scraped off the rim with pieces of split cane and eaten when cool.

Above left, the foam is getting to be a pretty dark golden color and is nearly done. The next image shows one method of telling when the syrup is close to being done. The syrup comes off the pan in sheets or flakes. The final test is performed with a hydrometer. Next, dipping the syrup out of the kettle and through another filter on it's way into a stainless steel dispenser.

Above left - almost finished dipping. Center - Cleaning the kettle, and right shows the final step, the bottling. Labels are applied just before the bottles are filled.

Syrupmaking has always been a community social event. The Clayton's syrupcooking is no exception, drawing friends and family from miles around.

Above left, we finally met Don and Carol Dean from Dothan Alabama. Don is very knowledgeable on the history of the foundries which produced the cane mills, and we are all looking forward to the publication of his book! Next, Carol is probably wondering how these guys can talk about old iron for hours. Next, catching up on all the news, and last, this little lady is really enjoying the soft hay and wondering what all the people are doing watching a kettle boil.

Above right, Connie tries her hand at stirring the pot of Brunswick stew. Center, Tom Clayton Sr., shows off his stirring technique. Right, the internet aquaintances get together for a "formal" picture.Connie and myself on the left, Tommy and Beth in the middle and Don and Carol Dean.

Above are a few shots of some of Tommy's cane mills. The first two are a Southern Plow Works "Columbus" #15. This is the largest horse mill I have seen. The catalog weight is 2000 lbs. Next is a two roller "Quitman", and last is a "Woodruff" power mill.
Connie and I really enjoyed the day, and feel that it was well worth the 530 mile drive. Tommy and Beth were very gracious hosts and made everyone feel at home. It is very heartwarming to know that young folks like Tommy and Beth are taking such a great interest in preserving a part of their heritage in this manner. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS A GREAT DAY!!