Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Due to a power outage, KTLN Thibodeaux-Houma will be off the air till Monday 2/26. You can still stream all of our stations here at WWNO.org. Thank you for your patience while we work to resolve this issue.

With Changes to Sanitary Code, More Homemade Cane Syrup Hits the Market

Make cookies and cakes at home and you can sell them without a health inspection of your kitchen. Ahead of this season, cane syrup wasadded to the list of foods Louisiana deems “low-risk”.

If the food you’re eating tastes sweet and doesn’t have much nutritional value, chances are its “low-risk.” LSUAgCenterFood Safety Specialist, ProfessorAchyutAdhikarisays things like jams, jellies, and syrups aren’t very hospitable for bacterial pathogens. Because bacterial pathogens require nutrients to live,Adhikarisays, they have a harder time surviving in high-acidic, low-moisture foods like cane syrup.

"When there is higher concentration of sugar," Adhikari said, "that will also limit the growth of micro-organisms."

LSU AgCenter Food Safety Specialist, Professor Achyut Adhikari speaking at an educational meeting on food safety.
Credit Olivia McClure, LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter Food Safety Specialist, Professor Achyut Adhikari speaking at an educational meeting on food safety.

WhenAdhikari’sat the farmers market he says he looks to see if sellers of these foods are following good hygiene practices. A key indicator for him is if they’re wearing gloves. But even so, he says, be on the look out because they mightbe wearing the same gloves to collect the money and use their cell phone -- that can cross-contaminate the food.  

Charles Poirier is a cane syrup maker in Youngsville La.  He says he may not wear a hairnet, but there's a sink in his shed and his hands are always clean. 

"I'm not saying the board of health is a bad thing," Poirier said, "but it's just, sometimes if people take a little more pride in what they are doing, you really wouldn't need the board of health."

Poirier has been making cane syrup for friends and family for eight years, but this is the first year he's selling it. He can do that without following sanitary code requirements big producers have to follow, so long as his annual sales don’t exceed $20,000.

Charles Poirier hand-cranks the motor that powers his sugar cane mill. (Mill in back right, painted red)
Credit Frank Barnett, WRKF
Charles Poirier hand-cranks the motor that powers his sugar cane mill. (Mill in back right, painted red)

To make a batch of cane syrup, Poirier first needs to extract juice from raw material. To do that, he feeds sugar cane grown in his backyard into his mill which crushes the stalks of cane and squeezes out the juice he needs to continue. The juice then flows down a stainless steel funnel to an iron kettle located indoors, and once the iron kettle fills with sixty gallons of juice, Poirier switches on the propane burners underneath the kettle.

"Once you get it to boiling," he says, "you actually boil it for about five hours. It gets up to 226 degrees." 

Poirier uses a handheld filter to skim the top of the boiling juice the entire time it's in the kettle and once the five hours are up, he moves the now heavy juice to steel cannisters for even more filtering until it's time to finally bottle it. The process may sound somewhat simple, but it isn't.

"You 'gotta' know how to clarify the juice in order to get the impurities out of your syrup. Making cane syrup is pretty much a lost art," Poirier said. 

Without the worry of a health inspection Poirier can now revive this art, and make a profit from it.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Charles Poirier opening his rows of sugar cane in the backyard of his home in Youngsville, La.
Charles Poirier /
Charles Poirier opening his rows of sugar cane in the backyard of his home in Youngsville, La.
Poirier's Pure Cane Syrup
Charles Poirier /
Poirier's Pure Cane Syrup
Charles Poirier's backyard shed where he makes his syrup.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
Charles Poirier's backyard shed where he makes his syrup.
The sugar cane mill (back right, painted red) will extract sixty gallons of juice from five hundred stalks of cane in roughly forty minutes.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
The sugar cane mill (back right, painted red) will extract sixty gallons of juice from five hundred stalks of cane in roughly forty minutes.
Cane juice flows down a stainless steel funnel from the mill to the iron kettle indoors.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
Cane juice flows down a stainless steel funnel from the mill to the iron kettle indoors.
The first of many filters to come before the juice can begin boiling.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
The first of many filters to come before the juice can begin boiling.
The juice boils in Poirier's personally inscribed iron kettle for five hours.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
The juice boils in Poirier's personally inscribed iron kettle for five hours.
Poirier built the brick housing himself, allowing room at the bottom for a propane fueled burner to heat the iron kettle to over two hundred degrees.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
Poirier built the brick housing himself, allowing room at the bottom for a propane fueled burner to heat the iron kettle to over two hundred degrees.
After the juice boils for five hours it's moved to stainless steel cannisters equipped with filters, where it's finally bottled.
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
After the juice boils for five hours it's moved to stainless steel cannisters equipped with filters, where it's finally bottled.
The sink Poirier uses to "keep his hands clean."
Frank Barnett, WRKF /
The sink Poirier uses to "keep his hands clean."

Frank is a native Houstonian. He relocated to Baton Rouge to attend LSU where he earned a communications degree. After working in the film industry for three years as a production assistant, he decided to make the switch to radio and could not be happier with his decision.

👋 Looks like you could use more news. Sign up for our newsletters.

* indicates required
New Orleans Public Radio News
New Orleans Public Radio Info