Syrup soppin time in Stanton

Published 9:58 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

Lynchburg has it’s whiskey, Hershey has it’s chocolate and Stanton has it’s syrup.

Thanks to a family tradition that has been carried on for three generations since the early 1900s, one can find homemade ribbon cane syrup in the small community of Stanton being made once a year. Charles Irby Harrison has carried on this tradition, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Joel Hardy, and father, Gent Harrison. Charles Harrison said the original mill was located on Harris Branch, which is just adjacent to where it is today – in his back yard.

The process to make syrup is a lengthy one and takes hard work and effort. First, the cane is planted in the spring and tended to just as a garden. It is harvested in the fall just before the first frost and then lays for two weeks until the making of the syrup begins. Each stalk is hand-fed through a squeezer that is hooked to the PTO of a tractor to turn the belt that turns the grinder to grind the juice out of the stalk. The juice is caught in a strainer over a catch pot. The juice then runs underground through PVC pipe to a pan where it is brought to a boil.

This pan is approximately 12 feet long and 3 feet wide. There is fire under the entire pan with a chimney on the end to draw heat all the way from one end to the other. Several workers skim constantly among the smoke that is coming off the pit and the heat that is coming off of the fire under the pan.

People around the community don’t need to be told when syrup is being made. It can be smelled for miles around, and people seem to “just stop by” for a bit. There are also homemade biscuits on the table for anyone who wants to taste test the syrup.

The fellowship between friends and those who don’t even know each other is an added asset to the day.

Back to the process.

When the juice has boiled and has been skimmed and turns from a green color to a beautiful golden one, it then goes through one last strainer into 1/2-gallon jars. It takes 10 gallons of juice to make 1 gallon of syrup. In this particular making, Harrison said they would produce about 50 gallons – that’s a lot of juice and in turn means a lot of stalks of cane. The entire process can take up to three days.

Harrison says this is a hobby of his, and he sure knows how to turn out some fine syrup. Anyone interested in getting some of this gem of the county can find it in Stanton on Highway 22 at the home of Charles Harrison. It can be purchased for $8 for one-half gallon.