In the fall of 1910, when an unexpected freeze threatened to destroy his entire sugar cane crop, C. S. Steen of Abbeville, La., was determined to salvage what he could. He stripped, cut and transported the canes to a mill he’d just purchased from the local hardware company. The mule-driven mill crushed the canes, extracting the juices, which were poured into an open-fire cauldron to render into syrup. The result? A deep amber syrup that is lighter than molasses with a rich, bittersweet flavor.
Not only is cane syrup delicious poured over pancakes or hot biscuits, it’s also good in savory dishes—particularly on ham or roast chicken, where it adds a caramel finish. It can be used anywhere sorghum, molasses or maple syrup is used.
Today, Steen’s mill is the only producing cane syrup mill in the United States—a worrisome notoriety that has placed this humble delicacy on Slow Foods U.S. Ark of Taste, a catalog of more than 200 foods in danger of extinction. We thank heavens for the can with the bright yellow old-timey label that says it all: 100% Pure Cane Syrup.
—Story by Nancy Vienneau, a food writer in Nashville, Tenn.