Last night, we stripped the leaves off the sugar cane we grew so it would be ready to cut down. This morning, Darren and the boys cut the cane and loaded it up. Off we went to learn the process of turning sugar cane into molasses. I love a good educational process ;)
When we got there, they already had the sugar cane fed through the grinder and were just finishing up filtering it through a sack into the "trough". The grinder was an ancient machine made back around 1910 but had an old gear attached on top so that it could be used with a tractor motor instead of horses. They were just building the fire under the bricks that held up the wood and stainless steel box holding the liquid. It had to be stirred occasionally to keep it from getting gummed up on the bottom as it started to boil. During this time, I asked if it would be too much trouble to crank up the tractor and grinder and show the kids (and me *smile*) how it works. He was generous enough to start the whole thing all over again so that we could watch the process...it was actually quite simple...feed the cane through, the green juice comes out, runs down a half pipe, and into a bucket. We stayed for quite a while and then decided to go home and come back later. We got a call that the molasses would be ready about 3 pm so we lit out again. When we returned, the liquid looked much different. It was a lot thicker, had foam on top, and was an amber color. When the molasses had reached just the right consistency, the box was picked up ..very carefully...and moved to a couple of sawhorses where it could be cooled before scooping it up and straining it into a stainless steel container. The molasses were ready to be put into jars at that point and distributed to the workers that made it all happen. The matriarch educated me on cooking with the foam and using molasses in all sorts of recipes. It was a wonderful education - the kids were able to experience the process from start to finish...planting, harvesting, grinding, boiling, and storing....so cool. Hands on learning just can't be beat!