Friday, September 14, 2012

A Visit to a Sugar Cane House

Inside the sugar cane mill
Day Siete. A slightly depressing milestone, as the vacation is more than halfway done. And what better way is there to overcome that sourness with something sweet.

The area around San Agustín is filled with small farms, growing crops such as coffee, corn, sugar cane, bananas, plantains, tomatoes, pineapple and more. In many instances, the crops are growing on the sides of sheer cliffs:
These cliffs sure are sheer
The coffee responds particularly well to being grown on steep hillsides.  As an aside, photography does not.  It is impossible to capture the beauty of these landscapes with a mere single lens camera on an overcast day.  End of aside.  In addition to coffee, sugar cane also is grown here, far from the muggy tropics, and it is processed into marketable brown sugar right at each of the small farms dotting the valley.

First the juice is extracted from the cane
The sugar cane juice is cooked down into progressively higher levels of concentration:

The last of the four boiling stations as the cooling station is prepared
Its readiness is tested by putting a little of the sugar cane juice into cold water. Much like candy-making at home, the level of doneness is determined by what happens to the sugar after it touches the water. This little boy seemed to really enjoy his job as taste-tester:

I do not have the ambition to a catcher in the sugar cane hulls
You can eat the sugar after it’s been dipped into water. It tastes like a caramel candy with a high molasses content. Which is what it is. When the right level of doneness is achieved, the molten brown sugar is poured into molds to form "panelas," "breads" of pure sugar.  Brown sugar!  Is that what this song is all about?

Each sugar cane farm has its own processing plant right on the premises. The smoke that you seen in this mountain valley is from the burning of sugar cane pulp to fire the boiling stations:

A sugary valley is a smokey valley

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