January 11, 2016
My Giant Sugar Pot Fire Pits
Gigantic iron sugar kettles are very versatile.
Sugar kettles were used on 19th century Louisiana plantations for the production of sugar. Sugar cane was placed in the large, spherical vessels and cooked down to make syrup. Because they could withstand such high heat, they were also used for cooking.
I love these pots and have started to collect them whenever I see one. They make instant and effective fire pits, and can be moved to different locations on the farm. Recently, we cleaned two of them and prepared them for a night of warming fires, so I thought I would share a bit more of their interesting history. Enjoy the photos.
1 This is one of two huge cast iron sugar kettles I keep as fire pits at the farm. They add such a nice accent to the landscape and have always been fun conversation pieces during gatherings.
2 Strong rains filled the vessels with several inches of water and had to be cleaned. Originally, these kettles were essential to sugar production and came in different sizes depending on the stage and type of operation.
3 These kettles are deep and all are pretty similar in shape. Here, the logs were removed, so the pot could be drained.
4 Because they are also extremely heavy, it required two of the guys to tip it over.
5 This kettle weighs more more than 300-pounds. On the sugar plantations, sugar cane was boiled in four kettles arranged from largest to smallest. The largest one held up to 500-gallons of sugar cane juice.
6 After the water was drained from this pot, any leftover soot was removed by hand.
7 During the sugar making process, the kettles were arranged in a "kettle train" or "Jamaica train" and heated by burning wood. After each stage of cooking, the syrup was transferred to the next smaller pot. Once the syrup reached the proper temperature and consistency, and began creating sugar crystals, it was moved to vats for cooling.
8 This pot was rinsed and dried, and prepared for the next bonfire.
9 To build a good fire, you need tinder, the small dry sticks, twigs and newspaper. Today, these iron sugar kettles are no longer used for sugar production, but used ornamentally as container planters, or fire bowls - they are very versatile.
10 Stack the materials in a teepee fashion, leaving an opening on the side where it can be lit.
11 These logs will burn nicely and safely in this pot.
12 I have a larger sugar kettle in the courtyard outside my kitchen. It was also emptied and cleaned.
13 These urns were artistic and well-made.
14 I also keep this kettle on several large cobblestone bricks for support.
15 The largest kettles used in sugar production were called "grande". The next size down was called "flambeau", then the "sirop" and finally the "batterie".
16 The bottom was wiped clean with a rag.
17 More tinder - newspaper balls and twigs - was placed at the bottom of the pot.
18 Carlos created the teepee. Several openings on the sides allow lighting in a few areas to get it burning faster. Have extra kindling on hand in case it takes a bit more to catch fire.
19 Another good fire making structure.
20 I always look forward to using these giant fire pits - my guests love to gather here to warm their hands on cold winter evenings.
21 Meanwhile, more burlap covers around the boxwood hedges and shrubs - they always looks so artistic.
22 Here is the finished burlap on my upper terrace parterre.
23 Because of the mild temperatures, the outdoor grounds crew was able to finish the "great burlapping project" long before the cold days of winter.
24 So far this season, we haven't had any snow accumulation or high winds here in Bedford.
25 But, the farm is ready.