Sopping the Boiler
I grew up on a farm in Alexander County with my 10 brothers and sisters where we raised sugar cane in the fall. Molasses making was an all-day event. Once the cane was cut off and brought to the mill, the horse pulled a boom around the grinding mill. The green juice flowed freely down the collection chutes into a wash tub.
Boiling the juice to molasses in the boiler lasted about eight hours. As the hours of boiling progressed, more and more residents of the community arrived. The men sat around the boiler, discussed world events, and moved from place to place as the sweet, sticky steam rose from the boiler and drifted with the prevailing breeze. My siblings and I waited impatiently for the time to sop the boiler.
Adventurous young males would impress the young ladies by heating the ends of small cane stalks in the furnace and then popping them on a flat piece of wood, thus creating a loud sound and many colorful sparks from the heated cane. This was the country version of fireworks.
Once the boiler was moved from the fire, the sweet mixture was funneled into mason jars. Everyone was then invited to sop the boiler with cane stalks cut at an angle. The final quality test of the molasses was how well they foamed when mixed with bacon drippings on a cold winter morning in preparation for spreading on biscuits prepared on the wood-burning cook stove. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but we had a lot of love in our family.
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