As Alabamians and as Southerners, tradition is a huge part of our culture. And no one knows that better than Temple Bowling, part-owner of one of the state’s oldest companies, Golden Eagle. Golden Eagle Syrup has been a staple in Alabama pantries since 1928 when Victor Patterson created the recipe for his now-iconic table syrup. During those days, farmers traded their best sugar cane syrup at general stores to be sold to city folk. “By the time you got to the stuff that you kept at home, it was more like backstrap molasses,” Bowling says of those early days. “Mr. Patterson wanted to come up with a syrup that was sweet and affordable, and he started making it in a little building behind his house.”
Patterson’s special blend was a proprietary combination of corn syrup, cane syrup, molasses, and honey—and it’s the same recipe that’s still used to make Golden Eagle Syrup today. Another thing that hasn’t changed in decades is the place where the syrup is made. Golden Eagle started producing commercially in a building in Fayette in 1942, and it’s still made in the exact same facility.
“I didn’t grow up with Golden Eagle,” says Bowling who is originally from Tennessee. “But I’ve always liked nostalgia and history, and I didn’t want it to disappear. Even though Fayette wasn’t my hometown, I didn’t want to see it get swallowed up.”
Part of Bowling’s plan to ensure that Golden Eagle stays in business—and on people’s tables—for another hundred years is to add a few new products to complement Golden Eagle’s beloved syrup. Four years ago, Golden Eagle expanded its product offering with caramel corn, a family recipe from Bowling’s wife who often made it for special occasions and parties.
“We were on cruise control for a few years, and now we’re looking at what we do with it,” Bowling says. “We want to remain true to Mr. Patterson who made high-quality products at a fair price.”
Next up, the group plans to add ready-to-eat pecan pie to its lineup with the hope that it will be ready in time to launch for this fall’s holiday season. Additional products like cornflake clusters and other candies that were once advertised in a pamphlet on the top of the familiar glass jar could also come down the pipeline in the future.
Currently, Golden Eagle is distributed primarily in the Southeast with a heavy concentration in Alabama, Mississippi, and western Tennessee. Bowling says distribution has shrunk over the years, but the goal is to get it back to where it once was and eventually expand. When Bowling travels around the U.S. with his Golden Eagle license plate, he finds fans everywhere he goes—from Ohio to Oklahoma. They often ask how he knows about Golden Eagle and then proceed to tell him about their own connections to the brand.
“Every story was always connected to family,” he says. “Every story was connected to a memory. So to have something that jogs people’s memories the way it does, it’s like we’re not just keeping this alive for us. It’s for everyone.”
Here is a recipe for Golden Eagle Pecan Pie:
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Golden Eagle Syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 deep dish 9-inch unbaked pie shell
Slightly beat eggs, mix in sugar, Golden Eagle Syrup, salt, vanilla, and butter. Sprinkle pecans in an unbaked pie shell and add the filling. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.
Note: The pie will thicken as it cools.
For Chocolate Pecan Pie: Increase sugar to one cup. Combine 1/4 cup of cocoa with butter and follow the recipe above.