Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Sorghum Syrup 2013

The pressing of this years sorghum is now complete and bottles of the gooey sticky syrup line the pantry shelves!  And in addition to being gooey and sticky and good on a hot buttered biscuit, did I mention all the iron, minerals and sulfur?
Here in the south it is often called poor mans maple, southerners syrup, or sorghum molasses.  And whereas the ratio for maple syrup is around 40 gallons of sap for every 1 gallon of syrup, sorghum requires only 8 gallons of sap for every 1 gallon of syrup.  I'm not really sure why it is often called sorghum molasses.  Molasses, I believe, is made from sugar cane.  Sorghum is made from the stalks of the sorghum plant. 
The animals and blueberry bushes love the leftovers, and sorghum seed heads are great for feeding chickens, grinding into a flour, or for popping as popcorn.  We've heard that some people grow a type of sorghum just to be used as animal feed.  It is also known as milo and is shorter than the kind we plant for making syrup.
We think sorghum looks a lot like corn, we've been told it is very drought resistant, and that it originated in Africa.  It is also very popular used as a flour, cereal, or sweetener.  And although sorghum is considered by many to be a very southern crop, it will grow wherever corn will grow.  But one does have to watch out for frosts and plant it so that it matures and is pressed before frost occurs.
We were so thankful to get a Chattanooga #14 press earlier this year and it worked beautifully.  Jordan just had to soak some of the old bolts in some food grade oil and it was ready to go!  Johnathon is seen busily trying to get a temporary set up since we didn't know if we'd be able to press this year. Pans and presses are VERY difficult to find and we didn't know if we'd have a pan in time for cooking (before first frost).  But as I mentioned in another post, we were so blessed when a pan was found just in time.:)  Perhaps by next year we'll have a little sugar shack and a more permanent set up such as the one we had in Alabama before the storm.

For those who've asked, first we prepare the ground and plant the sorghum seed sometime in May.  We usually cultivate it twice and then, like corn, it is tall enough to somewhat shade and stay ahead of any weeds.  Sometime in October the seed heads mature and look sort of milky. 
The stalks are then stripped of their leaves and this job is an excellent one for younger children.  With the leaves off, the stalks are now ready to be cut down with machetes and they are stacked on the ground in small bundles.  We leave them there for up to a week, more or less, before pressing.
On syrup making day, these bundles are then loaded and placed near the press and someone keeps them coming till all have been pressed.
The stalks are fed through the sorghum press and the watery looking sap is then collected for cooking.  The sap has a sweet taste, as does the stalk, and my younger children very much enjoy chewing on them.:)
My oldest son has a pair of Percheron horses named Jim and Jack and they go round and round in order to power the sorghum mill. The mill presses out all the liquid (sap).  Jordan heads up this project but has plenty of brothers and sisters who love to give him a break from all the walking round and round.  So I guess you could say that another benefit is that one gets his exercise while also getting something to eat in the future.  Can't beat that, right?  Walking off those calories in advance!
Again, this years set up is temporary and was hastily put together.  My sons had to cut down a tree to be used to replace the telephone pole we used to have.  They also quickly made a fire pit using concrete blocks found on Craigslist..
A very hot fire is needed under the sorghum pan in order to cook the sap, and water is placed in the pan before the sap so as to keep it from burning.  The sap at the beginning of the pan is directly over the fire and much hotter.  As it turns to syrup it is pushed to the other end of the pan where it is cooler (to prevent burning) and then out of the pan and ready for bringing inside to cool and pour into canning jars.
I forgot to mention that it is filtered before it goes into the collection barrels.:)
We always look forward to this time and especially enjoy how hard work with friends and family also equals a great time of fellowship and a sense of having accomplished something worthwhile and beneficial.  And we also get something else off the grocery list, and have tasty hot buttered biscuits and sorghum to look forward to and a replacement for honey in our homemade bread recipes.
Friends were so kind and brought us a meal of homemade sausage gravy and lots of buttered biscuits.  We took a break from cooking the syrup and a wonderful time of fellowship was enjoyed by all.  And we had our first taste of the new syrup on the biscuits they provided!
Growing sorghum and making syrup is a lot of work but very rewarding. And while we have much to learn about the whole process and about sustainable farming, we are very thankful for the opportunity and for those who continue to help us learn and who encourage us along the way.
  Life is very busy these days, as I'm sure it is for you, but we wanted to post these pictures and preserve special memories of a wonderful time of year.  May God bless you and yours....~ Sherry for the family ~


"A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes."   ~ Wendell Berry, from "The Pleasures of Eating" ~

P.S.  Writing this post brings back many memories of the first year we grew and made sorghum syrup.  That was before the storm and our loss of Tom and it was also the last "big" farm type project we all worked on together.  We had some neighbors across the road who lived through World War II in Europe.  The very week of sorghum making they had company ( from Germany) and they saw us making syrup and came over to visit and to see what we were doing.  The woman (neighbor) was eight years old after the war and said the whole process brought back so many memories of her childhood.  According to what she shared that day, she and her family survived those years off a similar syrup they made and brown bread.  And that's about it.   Reminds me of how many choices (food) we now have and of how much we have for which to be thankful.

20 comments:

  1. Yay! I've been waiting for your next post! It is so interesting to see the sorghum syrup process and how it works.And it is always so much fun when family works together. Happy memories! I hope you enjoy every drop of that yummy syrup.

    Love to the Lee Family,

    HP

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    1. Ah, thank you! Yes, we did have lots of fun and we look forward to trying new recipes soon. By the way, we've REALLY enjoyed the books you recommended. Thanks again!

      Mrs. Lee

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    2. Dear Mrs. Lee,

      I'm so glad you all are enjoying the books. C. A. Stephens actually wrote for the Youths Companion and Mary and Laura Ingalls very well could have read some of his stories during "The Long Winter". (Here is the link to his Wikipedia page if you want to read it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._A._Stephens ). It was very sweet of you to remember me out of all the people you have that follow your blog. Thank you!

      Love To the Lee Family,

      HP

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  2. I've never tasted that kind of syrup but would love to try it. Even thought it looks like hard work, it also looks like great fun!

    Victoria

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    1. Victoria,

      It is great fun. Sort of like an old-timey working, I suppose. And it definitely has a taste all its own. Folks tend to love it or not.:) But we can't tell any difference in the taste of our bread when we use the sorghum instead of honey. Thanks for leaving a comment!

      Blessings,

      Sherry

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  3. This was so interesting. I've never seen anything like it before. Thank you for letting us peek into your family life and farm It's always uplifting.
    Blessings, Shirley in Virginia

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    1. Shirley,

      Thanks so much for your sweet comment. It is a very interesting process, and our family still has lots and lots to learn about making sorghum. But we're enjoying every minute of it.

      Blessings,

      Sherry

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  4. Replies
    1. Yes, it was fun!

      Blessings to you and yours,

      The Lees

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  5. How interesting. I've tasted molasses and maple syrup but never sorghum syrup. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Rhonda Jean,

      Thank you for leaving a comment. I'd say that it isn't as bitter as molasses and not as sweet as maple. Maybe somewhere in between??

      Bless you,

      Sherry

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  6. Never knew how it was made, thank you for sharing this.
    Thanks for peeks into your family and farm..look forward to each post.
    Blessings to your family

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    1. Your welcome! And thank you for leaving a comment. Hope you are having a lovely fall.

      Blessings,

      Sherry

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  7. Thank you for sharing! Just like the last post, it brought back so many memories! We are enjoying some sorghum syrup on our pancakes for lunch. :)

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  8. Hello Sherry,
    It was so nice getting to see you again at the wedding. I love to come here and see how the Lord is blessing your sweet family and how industrious y'all are with what the Lord provides. What a wonderful example of good stewardship. What an encouragement and inspiration you have been to me. May the Lord continue to bless and keep y'all.
    Michele

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  9. Good afternoon,
    I wanted to stop and say hello & let you know we are thinking of yall and praying for you! I know you do not know us, we have been very connected through prayer and such since the tornado & the Lord calling home your hubby.
    My hubby is from Alabama, and really his heart just has always been so blessed by your hubby Tom, that the news of his going home hit his heart and yet we rejoice he is at the feet of Jesus. Sadly, we know you all miss him so.
    So, we often will look and see how yall are and what's going on....we sat and looked together the other day & I thought...I will just say hello and let you know we and I know many others are keeping you all in prayer.
    I was going to email, I do not see any email for you on here.
    Blessings to you & yours~
    Lori for our family
    mayo4him@yahoo.com

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  10. Sherry and children,

    I've missed your posts!!! I know it must be a lot to take care of a full house, but please keep in touch. You are in my prayers and I pray God's blessings on you all.

    I treasure all your posts and pictures. You seem like extended family!!
    Have a blessed day!

    By Grace Alone,
    Kim

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  11. I hope all is well with you and yours! God Bless!

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  12. Hi sweet Lee family. It's been so long since we've heard from you all. I'm sure your busy homesteading and loving life but know that we miss you. Big hugs from the Fitzsimmons in TN

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  13. Thank you for the quote from Elisabeth Elliot, I have the deepest respect for her. Wonderful blog!

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