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Canefest 2011-Making Molasses
For several years my friend Lyle Reedy from Brevard, NC has held what he has come to call Canefest. Each year he and some of his friends grow a small crop of sorghum cane and make molasses. The event is held just outside the small North Carolina Transylvania County town of Brevard on a vacant lot which has the remains of an old cane mill once driven by farm animals such as horses, mules or oxen. Today the new mill is powered by a gasoline engine similar to the one on most lawn mowers.
A lot of work and preparation go into the making of molasses. When the cane is ripe, the cane which looks very much like corn with blades which must be stripped off. The tops also have to removed before finally cutting the cane and loading into a wagon or trailer to be transported to the molasses mill. The cane is then fed in small increments through the mill press which extracts the juice in the cane. The juice is captured in five gallon buckets and then put into pans which are heated and where the juice will boil. Lyle fires his molasses pans with propane. Throughout the process, skimming must be done to remove foam (the old timers called this beer) and impurities from the cane. Oftentimes bees or yellow jackets are commonly seen trying to sneak a sip of the sweet juice.
This year a friend of mine and my son were invited to Canefest to play some music and watch the molasses making process. Our friend Lyle is a musician and also invites musicians from the area to come and jam around the molasses mill. He also cooks a huge pot of pinto beans. These a s special recipe but he did tell me he used eight pounds of pinto beans this year and two pounds of kidney beans along with onions and added some hot sauce. I ate one bowl and found them to be very good even though my own preference would have included at least some ham hock's to enhance his special recipe.
Lyle also grows peanuts on his property and has boiled peanuts for those attending the Canefest to enjoy. It takes about four to six hours to boil the peanuts. In addition, friends and neighbors bring covered dishes to make the meal complete including desserts made from molasses.
My forebears and relatives grew and made molasses each year and was just a part of the annual years farm routine. I like my molasses with a hot biscuit and country butter and before I left Canefest this year, I made sure I had me a quart of those fresh made molasses.