Spivey family specialized in art of making syrup

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Making syrup is truly an art, although it is becoming a lost art.  This article was in the 1969 Troy Messenger about the Fletcher Spivey family and the art of making sugar cane syrup.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

“There’s nothing as good as homemade biscuit, country sausage, and old fashioned sugar cane syrup on a cold morning,” say members of the Fletcher Spivey family.

They should know for the Spivey’s have made syrup on a commercial basis for many years.  In recent years the project has been confined to syrup making for the immediate family.  Syrup making time at the Spivey’s is still a community affair, however, with friends from all over Pike County arriving for a sip or juice or to stick a finger in the still warm syrup.

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Spivey still supervises the proceedings but leaves the heavier work to sons and sons-in-law.  The project takes the better part of a weekend and yields from 35-50 gallons of syrup.

One day is spent in topping and stripping the cane and getting it ready for the mill.  The cane is left standing for this action and after all fodder is stripped, is cut and piled on a cart to be transported to the mill.  Once at the mill, it is fed, a few sticks at a time, into the iron jaws of the mule drawn juicing device.  The stalks are crushed and the juice runs into a 50 gallon drum.

When sufficient juice is ground for the first making, the fires under the kettle are started.  Grinding juice for a cooking usually takes about two and one half hours.

Once the juice is poured into the huge round kettle, the task of ‘skimming’ is continuous.  A large sleeve is used to dip froth from the juice as it cooks.

After approximately two to three hours cooking, depending on the heat available, the juice has become thickened and has turned from a green looking juice to a reddish looking syrup.  This is dipped from the kettle onto a cloth tied over a wash tub and strained into the tub.  After a few minutes for cooling the syrup is put into jugs and stored until ready for use.

Spivey commented that one of the major reasons for keeping the mill active is for the educational value it gives children of the community.  He told of one incident when he was making syrup and the school bus came by.

“I asked the driver to pull down into the yard and let the children see the mill and drink some juice,” Spivey stated.  “Some of the children had no idea of what was involved or what was actually going on.”

“It would cost too much to make syrup to sell,” Spivey says.  “Imagine the cost involved in just one making which would yield about seven gallons.  You have the labor of two or three people over a period of from five to six hours to say nothing of materials used.”

“There are only a few of these old mills left,” Spivey noted.  “They are fast becoming antiques and their products replaced by commercial companies and artificial products.”

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.