Ingredients, Locally Grown, Syrup

Locally Grown – Sorghum Syrup

Generally speaking, it’s a Southern thing. Although over the years it’s been produced across the country as far north as Minnesota. Sorghum syrup is to the South like baked beans are to Boston.

And let me be clear, this isn’t anything like maple syrup.
Sorghum originally came to the South  in the pockets and packs of the slave trade, and quickly became a favored feed stock because of the drought resistant qualities of the canes. Unlike sugar cane which does best  in moist, rich soils, sorghum thrived in the oppressive heat and humidity of the deep south. Sorghum syrup is made from the pressed canes of the sweet sorghum plant. It is similar to sugar cane in sweetness but far more complex in flavor.

By the mid 1800’s sorghum syrup production totaled close to 62 million gallons a year. It was the primary sweetener in the southern states. However, syrup production was hard work. The canes had to be cut and stripped by hand, the presses were either livestock or man powered, the canes had to be continually fed into the presses, and the process of boiling down the expressed juice took a very long time. Not to mention an acre of planted sorghum only produced 120 gallons of finished syrup. By the end of the Civil War the cheap labor was gone. The South, without the resources to mechanize, left the back-breaking job of sorghum syrup production to gradually fall into obscurity. Currently, less that a million gallons of syrup are produced in the nation annually.

If you live in Georgia and have never seen sorghum syrup produced, Mark your calendars for  the Sorghum Festival of Blairsville, GA October 12, 13 and October 19, 20. It’s well worth the trip!

If you’d like to support some great local producers and buy a mason jar of sorghum syrup, here’s a couple of great online links:

Sunrise Grocers – Featuring Seabolt Sorghum from Blairsville, GA –

Hillside Orchards – Local sorghum from Tiger, GA 

So, why all the talk about an obscure local syrup?
Because several of the recipes from this past year have featured sorghum syrup:

Sorghum Parkin Cake 

Paprika Roasted Pork & Figgy BBQ Sauce

Sorghum Christmas Pudding

Pulled Salmon Sammies
Teriyaki Salmon Skewers

and tomorrow’s recipe highlights it’s musky, nutty, rich goodness…
… and I didn’t want you to miss out.

you’re welcome.

ps – here’s a cool steam engine video of a sorghum press in operation.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB6ScmnLf1g

4 Comments

  1. @ SAL – Regular sorghum is pretty much a cash crop – the grain heads are mixed for feed for a large variety of the livestock, the grain can be milled for a GF flour substitute, and the canes can be thrashed and chopped, and added to sweet feed or silage. Sweet sorghum is the same family – but not so much in the seed head and grain area – the canes are taller – fatter and produce better quality syrup. Good sorghum will range from a rich amber color to an almost ruby red (depending on the strain)

  2. @AM Nichols – I'm surprised! you're not that far away from me (or from the Tiger area) and every roadside cracker stand has a shelf full.

  3. Geek comment alert: I always wondered what sorghum was. I used to grow it on my Sim Farm. It was my best cash crop.Thanks for 'splainin it to a northerner!

  4. I love sorghum, but it drives me a little crazy that I can't find it locally here in Athens, GA but have to order it online.

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