Murphy Farms in Jennings, Florida is the site of an annual event that our family is a part of. Mildred Murphy is the matriarch of the family and is my (Pam’s) aunt. My mother, who passed away last March, was her sister. Our trip to Hamilton County, Florida (just south of the Florida/Georgia state line) began with a visit to the local library, where a rocking chair had been donated in my mother’s memory. Between Sara and me is my sister-in-law, Carol Gornto.
From there it was on to the farm, for a day of food, fellowship with family and friends, skeet shooting, rides through the beautiful farm country in a “party wagon”, and all the preparation that goes into making Murphy Farms Cane Syrup.
This is the view from out in front of my Aunt Mildred’s house and a shot of her house. My Daddy always called this “God’s Country”. I guess you can see why. I know I can.
I wish Sara or I could take credit for this awesome wreath, but it was a gift to my cousin Jimmy’s wife, Debbie. It hangs on one of the doors of the “Pack House” which is the center of activities for the Cane Grinding. It is far too small, however, to house the 100+ people at the farm for the day.
The Pack House was originally used to process tobacco, which was the main crop on the farm for many years. A good many family members plus seasonal workers would string the tobacco onto sticks for drying in a separate barn, and the Pack House is also where the tobacco would be removed from the sticks for packing into burlap sacks and transporting to the auction house. It had fallen into disrepair after other crops took over at the farm. A few years ago it was decided that the Pack House should be revived and restored and is used now as a gathering place.
The first step in the process of making the syrup is the actual grinding of the sugar cane. In the old days the mill was operated by mule power. All Cane Grinding “newbies” like to take a turn feeding the cane into the mill.
The juice gets transferred into a large copper vat, appropriately named the “syrup kettle”, which is located in a shed on the back of the Pack House, appropriately named the “syrup shed”. We’re a creative bunch. The syrup then gets cooked for several hours and must have constant stirring. When it gets close to being ready to bottle, a candy forms at the edge of the kettle. It gets scraped off with bits of cane and is a pre-syrup treat called “pole cat”. Don’t ask me where that name comes from. Sara and her friend, Anthony partake of a little pole cat.
The syrup is then ladeled through a cheesecloth filter into a tub fitted with a spigot for bottling.
This year’s label features my mother’s four living siblings, Mildred, Durwood, Etheridge and Shirley.
About the time the warm syrup is bottled hot biscuits appear (by magic, right Brenda?) and it’s time for biscuits and syrup, no matter how recently you finished eating that huge meal of barbeque and creamed corn, dozens of other vegetables and desserts galore!
This is my cousin Jimmy Murphy, cleaning out the syrup kettle. Check out his nifty T shirt!
Throughout the afternoon there is skeet shooting over the field behind the packhouse. Sara takes a “shot” herself!
If you happened upon this post from the early days of Biscuits and Burlap bless your heart.
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