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Many attended cane grinding in Islandton


About 250 people, one from as far away as Louisiana, attended the 20th annual old-fashioned cane grinding at the residence of Allen Bishop on Sniders Highway between Sniders and Islandton Saturday. Fourteen airplanes were also present, and some of the pilots put on an air show for the crowd, performing aerobatics and making smoke trails.

In Colleton County’s older days, the rural communities often planned working parties, which turned manual labor into social occasions. Cane grinding, hog butchering, corn shucking were all examples of this kind of occurrence. Music and a meal were standard parts of these rituals, as was the case recently at Allen’s house.

Preparations for the event started early. A 175-pound hog and 14 pork roasts were put over a fire close to midnight Friday. By the time the meal was served Saturday, the barbecue was served with collards, string beans, rice, and home-made hash. “A lot of people also brought covered dishes, which included desserts and sweets,” Allen said.

As more modern times approached, these social events started to decline. Many current residents now still long for the days when there was the time, energy and a yearning for the rituals that brought families together when communities turned necessary work into good, clean fun. This was also the case concerning Allen’s lifetime. “My grandfather died in 1969 when I was fourteen,” Allen said. “He used to have cane grindings, but no one in our family carried them on after that. I made a decision to re-start the tradition in 1993, and I have held them yearly since then.”

A Southern cane grinding is similar to a New England maple syrup cooking. Maple sap gathering and cooking extends as long as the sap is flowing, from three to five weeks. With cane syrup events, the event usually culminates whenever the holding tank gets full. Cane grinding now is usually done in one hectic day, making it more suitable for a work and party combination. In the deep-south, sugar cane has always been the major sweetener utilized. Prior to World War II, most farms within the South had a cane patch to provide the year’s sweetener and the surplus served as a welcome cash crop. In addition, cane could also be used as an enhancer for other local liquid corn products.

Allen noted that the actual syrup-making procedure began at about 7:30 a.m., and continued until about 8 p.m. Thirty gallons of syrup was made, and it was canned in quart and pint jars. “I just give it away,” he added. He said the syrup tastes good on pancakes and biscuits, and can also be used in cooking. “It makes a real good glaze for barbecue.”

Concerning the sugarcane, Allen said he doesn’t now grow it. “I don’t grow it anymore. Joe Hudson actually grew and furnished the cane.” 

Allen said that everyone who attended the event really seemed to enjoy themselves. “People thoroughly enjoyed the air show, and some people who were there had never seen a pig being cooked before. The people also seemed to really enjoy the karaoke. It was a real community get-together, and also just a real good time.”

Allen did note, however that this year’s event was not the largest he has ever held. “In 1996, we had over 700 people there.”