Creek (Willacoochee, GA)
Linda Paulk is the
grande dame of South-Georgia syrup makers. She runs a tight
operation, as she must to cook down 350 80-gallon kettles of
cane juice in a season. The yield from each kettle is 9
gallons of syrup, which she blends with an additional 7
gallons of corn syrup. As expected, her "Puddin
Creek" brand is widespread and popular in the area.
Although she is a no-frills businesswoman, she graciously
allowed me to visit and discussed her operation with me.
I am always surprised
at how small the world is. Although I did not know Linda, I
knew her sister-in-law Sue née Gaskins, my sister's best
friend from middle school!
Linda's syrup factory
1) is located just off from her home, on land that
has been in the Paulk family for generations. It is an
all-weather operation-a trailer of cane is pulled under the
shed, squeezed under the shed, and the juice is pumped
inside. The three chimneys each serve an 80-gallon kettle,
one of which came down through the family. Note the steam
being exhausted from the factory.
& 4 are
different views of the mill, a Golden # 27 in excellent
condition. (Gear covers are often missing, but not from this
mill.) I observed that an arm-full of cane, 5-6 stalks, were
being fed together, top first, into the mill. Linda grows
only C.P. 52-48, which is a really hard cane. As
the photos indicate, the mill is run by an electric motor
that is connected to a gearbox.
Slide 5 shows the
automatic filling of a kettle. Slide
the blanket of skimmings that forms on heating the juice.
Linda does not bother to skim until the blanket is thick and
most of the skimmings can be removed at once. A wrap of
burlap surrounds the removable rim to catch residual
skimmings that boil over.
8 is an overview, which is intended to portray the scale
of the operation. Slide
9 is the flame and furnace. Linda's "burners"
are very simple, only holes in a galvanized pipe, and were the
model used by Raymond
Roland for his burners.
The corn syrup is
blended into the cane syrup before it is removed from the
10). Then, the blend is filtered (foreground),
before being removed to the bottling area (Slide