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Jimmy Stubbs draining finished syrup into a container. Photo by Kevin Taylor
Jimmy Stubbs draining finished syrup into a container. Photo by Kevin Taylor

Syrup making is a November staple for Stubbs family

Published 10:00am Thursday, November 28, 2013

It’s become the social event in Elmore County and a rite of passage during the fall season.

The Saturday before the Iron Bowl Jimmy Stubbs Sr. invites hundreds of people to his Titus home to enjoy the bounty of another great sugar cane harvest.

The celebration peaks around 8 a.m. that Saturday when breakfast – complete with pancakes, biscuits, sausage and freshly made sorghum syrup – is served.

“My father, who was born and raised here, grew sugar cane and he cooked (sorghum) syrup until 1968,” Stubbs said. “I carried on the tradition in 1969 and have raised, cut and cooked cane since then.”

Stubbs grows the sugar cane at his “homeplace” in the Wallsboro community and then transports the harvested cane to his home in Titus where he spends up to two weeks cooking the juices extracted from the cane.

The juice is then cooked over an open fire until it becomes the mahogany color of sweet sorghum syrup.

Stubbs who served as probate judge of Elmore County for almost two decades, said the Saturday tradition is a way of thanking all of those who were “so good” to him over the years.

Stubbs, 73, hopes the family tradition will continue when he decides to pass it down to his son Jimmy.

Stubbs’ grandson, Hunter, has already become an integral part of the syrup-making process.

“I’ve been helping my grandfather ever since I was very little,” said Stubbs’ 17-year-old grandson. “Now I’m just waiting for the day he teaches me how to cook it.”

For now Hunter and his friend Beau Powell, 17, will spend more fall days feeding raw sugar cane stalks into the press.

“It will probably be another 10 years before he shows me how to cook it,” Hunter said.

Tradition isn’t confined just to Stubbs and his family when it comes to sugar cane.

L.B. Lykes Jr. is one of a number of people who help Stubbs to harvest the sugar cane.

“My father (L.B. Lykes Sr.) raised sugar cane for 30 years,” he said. “So I’ve known sugar cane all my life.”

Lykes has helped with Stubbs’ harvest for the last five years.

He said the trick to knowing when to harvest the cane is after the first frost of the fall.

“At that point the cane will stop growing, so you can go ahead and cut it.”

Stubbs has enough cane on his land to produce up to 100 gallons of the sweet treat.

Stubbs doesn’t let just anyone cook the sorghum either.

Tom Calfee, who is a native of Coosa County, spent much of his life cutting, juicing and cooking sugar cane.

“I watched my daddy when I was little and learned from some of the older men,” Calfee said. “It’s really a lost art.”

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