Families continue to carry on a syrupy sweet tradition

Families continue to carry on a syrupy sweet tradition
A sweet tradition takes place each year after Thanksgiving in Cumbest Bluff as family comes together to make cane syrup. (Photo source: WLOX News Now)
A sweet tradition takes place each year after Thanksgiving in Cumbest Bluff as family comes together to make cane syrup. (Photo source: WLOX News Now)

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - While holiday shoppers flooded area stores on Black Friday, some residents in Jackson County carried on another long-running tradition.

For the Kennedy, Cumbest and Hamilton families, the day means making cane syrup. It's family tradition that involves crushing sugar cane with an antique mill, powered by an obedient horse.

It's a step back in time to when most things were made by hand, and family time was sacred.

"It starts as a family and it becomes a community. People will stop, just seeing it on the side of the road. We tell all our friends, it's just come and go as you want," said Josh Kennedy.

Syrup making is a patient process.

"We squeeze it out of the mill. It takes about eight gallons of juice to make one gallon of syrup. And once we get it out of the cane, we take it to the vat over there," Kennedy explained, "And we cook it down. Takes about eight hours to cook down."

Mike Zebracki's job is feeding the cane into the mill. It's his first time helping out, and he feels right at home.

"I love talking to people, meeting the people and just the whole atmosphere of being out here amongst good folks," Zebracki said.

The family and fellowship are every bit as important as grinding the cane and cooking the syrup; maybe more so.

"You know, it means something that my kids will come home for. It means something that we look forward to each year. And of course, it's a year-long process, growing the cane and tending it until we get to this point," said Chris Cumbest.

Cumbest is charged with watching the 40 gallons of cane juice cook. There's a fine line between "just right" and scorching the syrup.

"When it begins to 'tag', begins to come together and get a little bit thicker. So you're looking for the consistency, the density of it. When it gets a little bit thicker, you can pull it off," said Cumbest.

As her grandson filled the jars, family matriarch Nell Kennedy, does her job with a towel, wiping all the excess syrup off so the jar can be opened easier later.

Miss Nell looks forward to this day each year.  Her words of wisdom quickly condense what this syrup-making is all about.

"We are always happy when the weather's pretty, and the cane's straight, and everybody comes to share with us," she explained.

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