Late October is sugarcane harvest time in south Louisiana’s coastal parishes. Cane cutting tractors clog rural roads, and truckloads of chopped cane head for the sugar refineries. The breeze smells like burnt marshmallows, or the sweet-sour tang of fermenting sugar chaff in a cut-over field. All those visual and olfactory suggestions make me crave the taste of Steen’s Cane syrup. The syrup’s flavors hold a whiff of the sweetly burning fields, with the green, earthy tang missing from refined sugar’s pure sweetness. I can smell fall, condensed, when I uncap the amber glass bottle.
Steen’s syrup is the key ingredient for an excellent homemade Halloween treat: pecan popcorn balls (see the Steen’s website for a detailed recipe). In a nutshell: boil together 2 cups of Steen’s, 2 T butter, and a little salt until brittle when dropped into cold water, then combine with popped corn and toasted pecans in a large, buttered bowl. With buttered hands, shape into balls and allow to cool before wrapping each ball individually.