The short road to sweetness

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Several cars made their way down the sandy road to Grover Poole’s house north of Troy on Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the time folks follow their noses to good things to eat but fresh ground cane juice doesn’t send out an open invitation to its sweetness.

But folks who know Grover Poole and anything at all about cane juice know that, right after the first fall frost, he and his faithful Donna Gail will be at the cane mill and the juice will be flowing.

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So it was Wednesday afternoon.

“I’d already cut my cane before the frost and I hope that it didn’t hurt it,” Poole said as he fed the cane mill and Donna Gail, his Belgian horse, circled the mill with such a soft tromping sound that it was almost inaudible. “The juice is flowing good.”

If there was any doubt as to the steady, heavy flow of cane juice from the mill, the honey bees put it to rest.

Several cane juice lovers waited anxiously for the first five-gallon bucket of the sweet nectar to be emptied and served.

Before Poole emptied the bucket into gallon jugs, he invited his guests to try the first offerings of this cane juice season.

He sampled it himself.

“Good. It’s good and sweet,” he said and added with a smile, “I don’t guess I need to add any sugar to it.”

Poole’s cane juice is ground from sugar cane that he grows from stubble.

“I don’t bed it,” he said. “I just cut it back and let it grow from the stubble. My daddy would plant a new patch of cane about every three years. I don’t do that. I’ve been growing good, sweet cane from the same patch for 12 years. When you grow your cane from stubble, it just comes back thicker.”

Pam Sanders said Poole’s cane juice would make some of the sweetest syrup anywhere.

“Some syrups are made from one kind of cane juice,” she said. “Others are made from a mix of several kinds. You can make your syrup thick or thin, depending on how you like it.”

Poole laughingly said that he doesn’t like a thin, watery syrup.

“I want my syrup so thick that it will tear up a biscuit.”

Making syrup is hot, sticky, long and tiring work. Grinding juice is a fast way to enjoy the sweetest of the cane stalks without all the work. And those who gathered at Grover Poole’s house on Wednesday afternoon were looking for the short road to sweetness.

Poole welcomes visitors to his cane mill. The only trouble is that he doesn’t have a set time to grind. It all depends on when he and Donna Gail can get their “work” schedules together.

However, those who are interested in visiting the cane mill, may give Poole at call at 566-4463 “at night” and he and Donna Gail will get back to the grind.