Sorghum Time On The Farm

White County Historical Society

uring 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 syrup.
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.

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 until brown.

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!