Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sorghum Syrup and Home Churned Butter

Sorghum Syrup is a treat that is near and dear to my heart. My Nanny (that's my Great-Grandmother), had a cousin up in the North Georgia Mountains named Olan Hughes. Olan Hughes was known for making Sorghum Syrup. Even at our small town fair where I grew up, I walked up to the Sorghum display, and low and behold my distant cousin had taken the blue ribbon for his syrup.

If you are not familiar with Sorghum, it is similar to Molasses. Molasses is made from sugar cane or sugar beets (sugar beets are also what the bulk of the white sugar in the world is made from). Sorghum is made from sorghum cane. What else is sorghum cane used for??? Making moonshine. Many people think that moonshine is made from corn, but real moonshine is made from sorghum. Corn liquor is made from corn. How do I know so much about this? Let's just say that my Great-Grandfather was not hurting during the Great Depression, because he hauled "sugar" for certain unsavory individuals.

Back to sorghum syrup. The primary way that my family ate this lovely dark brown nectar was to mix the syrup with fresh churned butter and sop the mixture up with a biscuit. We have been known to throw it into baked beans, gingerbread, and a number of other foods. If you have never had sorghum syrup, look for it the next time you are at a fruit stand. Don't buy the big commercially produced stuff. It won't be near as good as the stuff made by a local producer.

While we lived in Kentucky I had the pleasure of attending a Sorghum festival. It was held by the Kentucky Trailblazers, who are a group of people that travel to the festival in old timey horse and buggies. The rustic feel of the festival was spot on. You could walk up to where a mule was tethered to a post that he walked round and round pulling a weight that squeezed the cane juice from the sorghum. This was then boiled down in a vat that looked like something out of the 1800s. More like a cast iron kettle with a wood fire burning underneath.

The people at this festival were so friendly, and they all wanted you to taste their syrup. I purchased a quart of syrup from an elderly lady that reminded me of my Nanny, and also bought a cookbook from the trailblazers. It was a great time.

As for home churned butter...lets just say that I have churned my fair share as a small child. If I could get my hands on some raw milk, I would make some now. My aunt Mary (actually a distant cousin, but too much my elder to be called cousin Mary) raised cows and she and Nanny would milk those cows (yes, I helped milk cows) and make some of the best butter you ever could eat.

The real point I guess I wanted to get to with this post is that these rare artforms are being lost. I am so thankful that I was raised by my Great-Grandparents and had the opportunity to learn how to make such things. Whatever those things are that you learned from your grandmother or mother, learn them well so that you can pass them on to the next generation. Don't let all these old timey sorts of things slip away from a generation that eats way too much McDonalds and pizza, and plays too many video games. There is real value in teaching our children about these things.


  1. It is so funny that you should be talking about old timey things, I was just talking to Shannon about how much simpler things were when we were children. Just from like twenty years ago until now things have changed so much I feel like. We take so many things for granted. Things that now seem so simple that they are unneccessary are not apprceciated like they should be. At the same time I feel like people are going back to trying to live more simply, but at what expense?? I am just planning for myself and my family to try and make the most out of what little we have and simplify our lives, to me that is going back to more ole timey things!! I would churn butter too!!
    I miss seeing you!!

  2. My mother used to give me a plate of "molasses" with a piece of toast. It actually was sorghum, but she always called it molasses. One time when I was a child someone tried to pass off "grandma's Molasses" as the almost black molasses I was used to. It was like "yuck!"....I never see the stuff my mom used anymore. I think she gave it to me since it was loaded with iron...those were the days..thanks for bringing up those old memories funny how taste and smells stay with you...

  3. I wish I were rich so I could have you be my live in chef! Seriously. I'd pay you enough so D could leave his job and all you would have to do is cook and spend time with your boys. Wouldn't that be perfect? Works for me!

    Love ya, miss ya,

  4. Thanks for the good reminders. I'm living right by both my grandmothers right now. I hope to learn as much from both of them while they're both still healthy and active. Both can cook. So important to pass these things down!