Make Your Own Cane Syrup: Tips and Thoughts From A First-Timer
As the season winds down and frosts start to threaten my garden, I remembered my sugarcane, neglected as it was, still growing on the far end of my vegetable garden. I'm at the top of its growing range (a little above, actually) so it barely had enough time to mature. I planted it last winter (late February) and heavily mulched it to protect from frost. From there it was forgotten about, except for the occasional watering. The man who gave it to me didn't know the exact variety, but he knew it was a syrup cane. Of course, on hearing that, I immediately decided to try my hand at syrup making.
Here's a walkthrough of my syrup-making process (with pictures):
First, I chopped down the canes as low as possible to the ground with my trusty machete. Then, I stripped all of the leaves and shoots off of the main stems, since only the larger stems will have good flavor.
Even though I have seen some people crush the juice out of the stems using a press or a heavy object, I couldn't afford the time and effort it takes to extract the juice. After researching other options, I decided to cut the cane into pieces and boil them down.
First things first. After stripping the leaves and sideshoots from the main stems, I thoroughly scrubbed each stem down with a brush. Sugarcane often gets mildew where the leaves meet the stalk, so be sure to clean it thoroughly.
After the stems were thoroughly cleaned, I cut them up into 1 to 2 inch segments and added them to a large stainless steel stockpot. I tried a batch using longer segments, and the resulting syrup wasn't as sweet. Finding something to cut the cane with was tough, since the stems are insanely hard and fibrous, but I eventually settled on a good pair of pruning shears that were washed and sterilized before use.
Next, I added water until it was just covering the chopped up cane stems (maybe about an inch or so over).
Now comes the long part. I placed the heavy stockpot on the stovetop and turned the burner on medium–high. After some waiting, it came to a boil. A lid kept the steam from escaping while it cooked. From that point, I left it for a couple of hours to allow the sugars in the cane to leach out into the water. Although it is a long process, you can virtually ignore it in this timeframe, coming back every once in a while to test the water and see how sweet it is. The goal is to get the water about the same sweetness as the cane.
Once the water became sweet, I strained out the sugarcane using a colander and poured the water into a smaller pot. It took several tries to get all of the cane out, since I was dealing with such a large amount of liquid all at the same time, but eventually I succeeded. After I removed all of the large cane pieces, the water still had small particles of debris from the cane, so I strained it yet again using a fine stainless steel strainer.
At this point, the juice should have no more debris in it.
After straining it, it went back on the stove on medium-high for several more hours (without a lid). From this point, you just have to wait. I checked on it every 30 minutes or so at first, but as it boiled down, I started checking it more frequently and giving it the occasional stir to make sure that it didn't burn. If you taste it (like I did) you will notice at this point it is starting to develop the classic molasses-like flavor that is characteristic of cane syrup.
The goal is to boil it down until it reaches a syrup like consistency. Just keep in mind, things are always more liquid when they are warm, so you may want to take a tiny sample out (on a spoon) and refrigerate it to check the consistency of the finished product. Once the desired consistency is reached, you can enjoy the fruit of your labor! The syrup-making process is complete.
If you have any questions on my process feel free to ask me in the comments down below. I'd love to answer them!
P.S. - I hope you enjoyed this fairly long how-to/technical post - let me know if you want to see more like this in the future. 🙂