Sorghum Time On The Farm
By CHRISTINA DOYLE SPEAR
White County Historical Society
During the Depression, my brother
and I always looked forward to sorghum-making time in late August
- it was so much fun for us. For our parents, it was a lot of
work. The leaves had to be stripped from the cane with a large
long-bladed knife, the seed heads cut off and the cane cut even
with the ground. It was then hauled to the lot where it was fed
into a mill that crushed the stalks and extracted the sweet juice.
A mule was hitched to the mill and he walked in a circle to power
the crusher. The juice was poured into a big galvanized vat where
it was cooked and stirred with a wooden paddle until it was syrup.
Uncle Mike Doyle was the official cooker. He knew how long to
cook it so it would be just right. If too much water was left
in, the syrup would spoil and if it was cooked too long it would
go to sugar. When it was finished the golden brown liquid was
poured into bright, shiny new tin buckets and when it cooled the
lids were hammered in place.
Uncle Mike brought along our cousin J.L., who was the age of
my brother, and we were in the middle of everything. Someone
cut off a length of cane and peeled it for us to chew on. We
chewed so much cane the corners of our mouths got sore. We had
fun sliding down the pummey pile, which is what we called the
pulp of the cane after the juice had been extracted. We were
ready with our spoons to eat the foam as it was skimmed from the
We had enough syrup to last through the winter. It was served
with hot biscuits and butter and Mama used it in gingerbread and
molasses cookies. We also made taffy and popcorn balls with sorghum.
Following are some of the recipes we used.
1 C Sorghum ½ t Soda
2 T Butter 1 T Vinegar
1 C Sugar 12 C Salted Popcorn
Mix sorghum, butter, sugar and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally,
until a small amount forms a firm ball when dropped in cold water.
Add soda. Remove from heat and pour over corn. Cool slightly.
Butter fingers lightly and form corn into balls. Makes about
18 large balls.
1 C Sorghum 1 T Soda
2 t Vinegar ¼ t Salt
¾ C Sugar
Boil molasses, sugar and vinegar to hard-ball stage (265-270)
on candy thermometer. Remove from fire. Add soda, butter and
salt. Stir only enough to blend. Pour onto a well-buttered platter.
When cool, pull until real light. Cut into 3-inch lengths.
A taffy pull was one of the fun things to do for recreation.
SORGHUM MOLASSES COOKIES
6 C Flour 1 C Lard
1 t Salt 4 t Soda
1 C Sorghum 3 t Ginger
1 C Sugar 1 C Boiling Water
Mix molasses, lard and salt in pan and bring to a boil. Remove
from fire. Put soda and ginger in a cup and fill with boiling
water. Add to molasses mixture. Add this to flour, making a
dough just stiff enough to handle. Roll out on floured board
real thin. Cut with cookie cutter. Bake in moderately hot oven
MY BEST GINGERBREAD
½ C Shortening 2 ½ C Flour
1 Egg, Beaten 1 t Cinnamon
1 ½ t Soda ½ t Cloves
1 t Ginger 1 C Sorghum
½ t Salt 1 C Hot Water
½ C Sugar
Cream shortening and sugar together. Add beaten egg. Measure
and sift dry ingredients. Combine sorghum and hot water. Add
dry ingredients alternately with liquid in small amounts to sugar
mixture, beating after each addition. Bake in a well-greased
and floured loaf pan in 350 oven for 45 minutes.
Sorghum today is scarce and very expensive. My parents would
turn over in the grave if they knew how much a gallon of sorghum
costs and to think we had several gallons every year!