Sweet! Nacogdoches to host 4th Annual Sugarcane Event

Sugarcane is turned into ribbon cane syrup at 2011 event. (Source: Jessica Sowell)
Sugarcane is turned into ribbon cane syrup at 2011 event. (Source: Jessica Sowell)

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Growing sugarcane has been an East Texas tradition for many generations. It's a ritual in Nacogdoches as the city hosts the sweet tooth sugarcane event. East Texas News found out that the city's event teaches visitors how sugarcane was pressed and turned into syrup in the 1800's.

Each of seven foot sugarcanes will be turned into syrup Saturday morning at the old fashioned sweet tooth sugar cane event. They were harvested in Nacogdoches at the Durst-Taylor Historic house for the past 10 months and are ready to be pressed through a 200-year-old cane mill.

"There's three gears in there," Jessica Sowell, the assistant historic sites manager, said. "When the mule walks around, she turns the gears in the middle and the cane gets squeezed all the way through. So, when it goes in it looks like a big piece of bamboo and when it comes out it's very, very thin."

Once the canes are pressed, the juice from them is boiled in a pot and made into ribbon cane syrup, which is not as simple as it sounds.

"We have a retired game warden named Jay Smith that comes out to make sure we do this perfectly because apparently it's precise science," Sowell said. "If you boil it too much, it goes into molasses and then regular sugar. If you don't boil it enough, it's more of juice than it is syrup."

This process was very common in the 1800's but has now become more of a hobby for East Texans.

"We still like to continue that tradition and show people this is how you got your syrup back then," Sowell said. "It wasn't anything you bought at the store; it's a very homemade thing, very community driven. We have the older generations that love it and remember it from their childhood, and then we have the young kids who have never seen this before."

East Texas families can enjoy the ribbon cane syrup over hot pancakes, learn crafting from a blacksmith, and tour this historic 1835 house.

The Fourth Annual Sweet Tooth Sugarcane Event is free to the public this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon at 304 North Street in Nacogdoches. There will be live, old-fashioned string music and activities for children.

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