Puddin 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 (Slide 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.
Slides 2, 3, & 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 6 and 7 shows 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.
Slide 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.