Newspaper Archive of
The Florala News
Florala , Alabama
November 25, 1976     The Florala News
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November 25, 1976

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IMAGE ©SMALLTOWNPAPERS, INC. ALL CONTENT COPYRIGHTED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. USE SUBJECT TO LICENSE AGREEMENT. REPRODUCTION, DISSEMINATION, STORAGE, DISTRIBUTION Page 8 PROHIBITED. The Florala News - Thursday, l HOW UT A LIT HOME-M E CAN RU AND HOT BUTT UITS F THANKSOIVIN w Andrews squeezing cane for the syrup makings. Getting ready to fire knots. Juice being strained. the furnace with lightwood IT MUST BE NICE to be retired and do something you've always wanted to do -- just for the fun of it. On the other hand, I guess a fellow has earned the privilege if he has waited and worked 35 long hard years for it. ,lust pass along 331 South at Liberty about the time Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Andrews get their tractor cranked up, a roiling fire in the furnace and the kettle of cane juice boiling good and you will see just what I'm talking about. Why. Mr. Andres says there are times when their syrup making operation creates a traffic jam with so many people stopping just to get a glimpse of an operation that takes them back to their childhood d~vs. Home grown and home made syrup" is just about a thing of the past and could easily get to being a lost art. Andrews says he ~:~ ~ ~ I~L learned the art from his father. James W. Andrews. They owned ~ "~:~"~:~ and operated a farm in Dale County, next Ozark, Alabama where . they made syrup for the whole neighborhood as well as for themselves. He is using the same type syrup making process as did his father, the kettle type, which holds about 80 gallons of cane juice and turns out about 15 gallons of syrup per cooking. You just build a good lightwood knot fire in the furnace and keep the juice at a rolling boil until it begins to flake and it's syrup. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, to hear Mr. and Mrs. Andrews talk. it wasn't all that easy after having spent 35 or 40 years at some other trade. The syrup has to be cooked just to the right consistency, otherwise, if it is cooked too much. it turns to sugar and if it is cooked too little, it is watery and will have a winey taste. So, when it gets just right, the fire has to be pulled from the furnace and wet cane pummings are tossed in to stop the cooking just at the right moment. Mr. Woodham and I were given a sample and believe me, they have developed the art, almost, if not to perfection. Up until his retirement just 3 years ago, Andrews lived and worked in Panama City for McKenzie Truck Lines as terminal manager, retiring after 35 years. He says he drove the first truck the firm ever owned and now they have terminals in Florida, Alabama and Georgia, with 500 or more trucks on the road. Mr. Andrews and his wife, the former Minnie Ruth McClellan, began the syrup making operation as a hobby, just so as not to get bored with life and as Mrs. Andrews said - "We're just trying to The finished product .... bring back some of the old fashioned way of doing things for the young people to enjoy." Their three daughters and families just think of their parenrs hobby is "great" to quote Mrs. Andrews. prepar6d to go with turnip greens. So. we all sat down and had hot She says they get right in the middle of it when they can and the buttered corn bread and POJ syrup. youngest daughter, Mrs. Ray (Jean) Courtney of Lynn Haven, We hadn't been there long before McRae, now 83 years young. Florida, "can get out here and cook off a cooking just as good as wanted to know if the Andrews had made any "knock 'em," Of Ralph and 1 can." Their other daughters are Mrs. Neal (Peggy course Larry and I didn't have an idea in a car load as to what he was Joyce) Reed. also of Lynn Haven, and Mrs. Jimmy (Betty) Fields of taking about. He said -- "Why that is where they save the cane Blounstown, Florida. skimmings, pour them in a barrel, and it ferments and makes Mr. Andrews grox~ s three different varieties of cane for making brew." Well, sire I thought that Mr. Woodham would get right up syrup -- POJ, which the old timers call "Poor Old Joe". and sugar from the table and go back to the cane mill and check on that "knock cane (the red and green varieties), on about 1V~ acres of land. They "era "" dcat. This idea was more fascinating to him than the making own about 35 acres at Liberty, a gilt from Mrs. Andrews' father, the of syrup. late J. Hayes McClellan. It is where Mrs. Andrews was born and Mack said that his uncles used to be in the syrup making business raised and she is happy to be living on the old home place in her and that they made syrup from before dawn until into the night for retirement. She and her husband practically built the house they months at the time. It takes the "knock 'era " a couple of weeks to now live in durin~g their spare time the last 8 or 10 years before get right, and after that, Mack said the uncles stayed about "half retiring, lit" the rest of the syrup making season. The Andrews do not make syrup for the public. They could sell as Larry said -- "Come to think of it, he was putting those can much as they could make in a year's time but then it would cease skimmings over in a barrel." I can tell you that it sure wasn't being a hobby and get to being a job. They usually make about 175 "knock "em" yet because Mr. and Mrs. Andrews were just as sober to 200 gallons and divide with their children, grandchildren and as judges and a very nice couple, if 1 do say so. friends. Occasionally, they will sell a gallon or two to passersby who Another thing Mack asked about, was if we put a green stick in simply think they will die if they don't get some of that home made our syrup to keep it from running over. He does get confused at time syrup, and again, Larry and I were completely at a loss as to what he was Such was the case on Friday when Walt Andrews of Andalusia talking about. Morn said -- "Mack what you're talking about is stopped by and picked up a half-gallon of syrup:~ He told his fellow when folk used to keep syrup in a big old barrel and would turn on a truck driving buddy -- '°Now that will make for some fine sopping faucet and get out however much they wanted. Men going to work with hot buttered biscuits, won't it boys? This is my kind of living!" would put it in a bucket and it would run over without the green The price of the syrup was immaterial at this point. He was counting persimmon stick in it." Mack said he had lost many a gallon of the hours until biscuits were ready. The conversation continued - syrup that way. Morn said syrup kept in this way had an all together "We don't have much of anything fittin' to eat anymore. 1 can different taste than all the rest and she remembers it as the goodest remember the times when families used to get together and have kind. It was her grandparents that had the syrup barrl. She doesn't hogJdllings and have all kind of good things to eat. and we shared remember her parents having one, with all the neighbors." The friend riding with Andrews added - The syrup barrel was definitely before my time. But, the syrup "My daddy used to get me up at 3:00 o'clock in the morning to start making isn't. However, the cane mill I used to visit when I was a squeezing that cane juice." child was a different sort altogether. Our neighbors used the Back then, there was no tractor and it took longer with a poor ole evaporator method of making syrup. The juice poured in one side mule hitched up to the mill -- round and round they would go, hours and traveled up and down little troughs as it processed and when it on end, The tractor method of grinding is not quite as fascinating, finally came out it was syrup. You still had to know what you were but it certainly is a lot faster and you don't have to feed the tractor doing but was probably a little tedious that the kettle type where all year. you have to stop the cooking just at the right moment. When Larry and I got home from DeFuniak on Friday, we stopped The Andrews will probably be making several more cookings of by his mother's to tell her and Mr. McRae about our visit to the cane syrup this season. If you have never seen this method of making mill and let them sample our prized V~ gallon of POJ syrup. Morn syrup, you ought to make a point of visiting with them. They are had just taken up some big crusty pones of corn bread she had very cordial and would surely welcome you. Finger lickin' good syrup. Checking by Merle IVoodham .... i~¸¸ 5 Cookings to see if it's syrup• Super Syrup Maker, Andrews skims cane juice. Doesn't look much like "The Old Grey Mare" but it does the, pulling. ' Skimming kettle to remove impurities. Feeding the juice maker. "Gonna have syrup and biscuits for supper"