Fred Lackey (Tallahassee, Florida)
My life took a turn for the better when I met Mr. and Mrs. Fred Lackey. They have teamed up to make syrup for a long, long time, and have had an annual Fun Day (by invitation) since 1980. They pretty well define "good folks."
As mentioned, the Lackeys have made syrup for a long time and they do it now on a small commercial scale. They are a team and it was great fun to listen to their routine, which is one I'd like to emulate (". . . by daylight, I have the first kettle ready to cook and she brings a breakfast biscuit, and we start skimming"). The Lackeys have a limited production and do not ship, which is too bad because I have never tasted better sugar-cane syrup.
Slides 1 and 2 is a Belknap Co. New Blue Grass 1896 Model No.1 (Louisville Kentucky). The Lackeys do not use this mill; it is part of a collection of antique farm implements. Pictured are Mr. Lackey and Will Outlaw.
Slides 7, 8, and 9, show the Lackey syrup shed and close-ups of the Lackey 80-gallon kettle. It takes a little less than 200 feet of cane (row spacing at 4.5 feet) to fill the kettle. Note that this kettle also has a second rim, as described for the Bradley, Bennett and other kettles. The burners are fashioned from grease fittings that have been ground down to open them up.
Mr. Lackey uses a numbered variety of cane from IFAS (Quincy, Florida) and grows it without irrigation. He fertilizes three times each year with a low-nitrogen fertilizer that does not contain ammonium.
Mr. Lackey uses the boiling point (226 ºF) to judge when to take up the syrup. I took the boiling point of his syrup, and it was dead on 226 ºF, which corresponded to 24.2 % water on my honey refractometer. (Data from my inexpensive honey refractometer should not be overinterpreted). The Lackey syrup is a little thinner than average, and a two-year-old sample was not granulated. Syrup that is too thick granulates whereas that which is too thin is perishable; a commercial sample that I purchased this year molded within 3 weeks!