If the South could be encapsulated by a single symbol of industry, it would be the syrup kettle. An iron cauldron, coveted for its capacity and revered for its cost, was indispensable to the nineteenth-century landowner. These workhorses, which ranged in capacity from 40 to 100 gallons, processed everything on Southern farms, from cane sugar to hogs to soap.
Rusty Fowler began casting modern syrup kettles because his wife, Sandy, wanted a fire pit at their home near Walterboro, South Carolina, but the antique vessels they located at auctions were either divoted or cracked. He first tried to pour traditional wrought iron, but quickly moved on to ductile iron. The kettles they fashion today, cast in sand molds at their foundry, are expected to last more than 200 years in four-season weather. With that longevity in mind, the Fowlers customize the rim of each Carolina Kettle with heirloom expectation. “They are meant to stay in a family,” says Sandy Fowler. “Six generations later, you will look upon these names and dates or landmarks and know who sat around this kettle.”
The kettles are handmade and hand-forged by the Fowlers, each from an original mold. It’s a two-week process to make the rounded bowl, from design- to-finish, with an additional stand. Though mostly installed by resorts and lodges in the United States and internationally (there are three in Sweden), a good percentage of sales are to private homeowners.