Southern Matters

Southern Matters

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 3, 4, 5, and 6, are pictures of the Lackey grinding shed and his Golden No.27. This mill is in excellent condition. The gears are not worn and he has replaced the bearings.


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!