Charles Baldree (Omega, Georgia)
Charles Baldree is an interesting, friendly man. He has one of the largest if not the largest syrup-making operations in south Georgia. Once each year, he has an open house when friends and family watch syrup being made and enjoy a breakfast of sausage and pancakes (with his syrup, of course). His syrup is a blend of cane syrup and corn syrup (corn syrup prevents granulation and dilutes the taste of cane syrup as he and others explained to me). Mr. Baldree also supplies other syrup makers with containers and corn syrup. I am much obliged to him for showing me around. (. . . may not have hurt that I was with his and my cousin Talmadge.)
Slide 1 shows wagon-loads of sugar cane and gives an indication of Mr. Baldree's seriousness of purpose. Slides 2 and 3 show the center of Mr. Baldree's operation a Mobile Pulley and Machine Works No.D74 mill. Grinding is more-or-less automated, with bagasse being removed by conveyor and with juice being collected and pumped to his syrup house.
Slide 4 is a photograph of an evaporator that is not presently in use. Slide 5 is another evaporator, which is in storage. This top view shows the arrangement of the baffles around which the juice moves as it cooks into syrup.
Mr. Baldree has three cast-iron kettles arranged in a row (Slides 6 and 7). The furnace for each kettle is constructed with a section between the kettle and the flue. That section provides the base for a pan that holds juice and warms it while a previous batch is being cooked. Note the last of the skimmings (which boil over the rim) are being removed with a scoop.
Slides 8, 9, and 10 are three different views of a McKinnon mill. This mill is of recent vintage. Mr. Baldree is rebuilding it. The springs holding the rollers together did not exert sufficient force. Another modification is required because the deep grooves in the rollers clog.
Postscript. Charles Baldree died of a massive stroke and was buried July 23, 2007, at Pine Grove Cemetery. His passing will be a loss to family, friends, syrupmakers and all who enjoyed his syrup and annual open house. Charles and I visited back and forth from time to time, my last trip being his last open house. The particular purpose of my last trip was to show Sherry and Mark Guenther the production of sugar-cane syrup in the deep South. Mark is shown in deep discussion with Charles in this photo. I also turned my camera one of the boiling kettles and Charles' main mill (to provide updates). Luckily, I found my cousin Talmadge Sutton enjoying the open house, as he and I had done together on an earlier occasion.
As of this update in 2010, the family continues to make syrup using Charles' methods. His daughter, Marie, can be contacted at 229-392-6680.