Friday, January 2, 2009

Making Sorghum

The above is a picture of my grandfather, Herman Croft, in the process of making sorghum molasses about 1930 in Livingston County, Kentucky. If you look closely, you can see him feeding the stalks into the mill.

Sorghum, a drought-resistant grass used mainly as a sweetener, originated in Africa, although it is grown in many different countries today. It was probably brought to this country by slaves in the 1850s and became very popular in the southeastern states. Kentucky and Tennessee are the leading producers of sweet sorghum syrup today.

Sorghum grows to a height of over 6 feet and resembles corn, but without the ears, and has seeds on the top.

In the picture above, mules are walking in a circle to turn the mechanism, which crushes the sorghum and produces the syrup, which drips down into a low pan. From there, it is heated in shallow pan and then is collected for packaging in buckets or jars.

My aunt has told me that she and my mother and their older brother stripped the stalks to be fed into the mill to make sorghum. They would stop at their father’s mill near Pleasant Grove Church on their way home from school and, by evening, could strip enough stalks for use the next day. The discarded part was fed to the cattle.

My grandfather used to keep a large goblet of sorghum on the kitchen table. Each morning for breakfast, he would pour the sorghum onto his plate, add dabs of butter and spread the mixture on his biscuits. Sorghum is also used on pancakes, over ice cream or as a sweetener in baking.

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