When autumn comes and the leaves turn gold, it is sorghum making time in many states where they grow sorghum cane. I have seen it made in over a dozen states, and the process is about the same. The flavor vary some as to the type of ground the cane is grow in.
Sorghum is an old, old product on the farm, It was one of the main sweeteners that the early settlers had. Most of the old mills were small and were hand or horse operated. But that has been changed
A man watching Orval Jones stirring the sorghum juice. He has been making sorghum molasses at his sorghum mill on U. S. Highway 71 at Bentonville Arkansas.
When half the seed head is ripe, the cane is ready to be striped and taken to the mill. A thin paddle made if wood is used to knock the leaves of the cane stock. The stock is cut down and hailed to the mill. It is stacked near the juice grinder until they are ready to grind it.
Looks like part of a still but it is the grinder for the sorghum mill. The juice has already been taken from the load of cane.
The grinder is almost the same as a hundred years ago. But they are powered by gas engines or tractors now. Years ago it took a horse or team, they had to be driven in a circle all day to run the grinder. The juice run from the grinder into barrel or a storage vat. From these it is piped into a boiling vat. These vats vary in size from six feet long to twenty. The pans are mostly made of copper, and set on a rock or cement base. They all have roof over them, and some have a house built around them.
These vats are heated with gas burners that burn propane or natural gas. Because of this they can have valves to turn the fire up or down. This fire control has been a great help. if they get the juice to hot it burns or boils over.
An over all view of the mill. Mr. Jones is working on the left, his helper is Mr. Frank Ray
There was a time when they heated with wood. It took a man hard at work all day to cut the wood and feed the fire. If it got hot he had to pull some of the fire out. It was never just right for more than a few minutes at a time.
The vat is divided into seven to twenty foot sections, with gates from one section to the next. The juice is let in at one end of the pan, and is cooked so long in each section, then moved to the next section. By the time it is moved to the last section and cooked here for ten minutes til it's done.
Mr. Frank Ray, running new juice in the cooking vat
It takes about an hour cooking time to make the juice into sorghum molasses. As it cooking some one has to stand there and keep stirring and skimming the juice. All the green skum has to be taken off as the juice cooks. It is the skimming that makes the sorghum good.
Here shows Orval Jones in the stirring and skimming process of making the sorghum molasses.
When the sorghum is all cooked, it is canned in half gallon syrup cans. In the old days it was put in whatever the people took to the mill to get it. Anywhere from a stone jug, milk can, or a wooden bucket.
There was a day when there were a lots of sorghum mills. The owner would grow big fields of his own cane. He would also process his neighbors crops also. They could pay him, or he would take part of there sorghum for the bill.
Mr. Jones cooks the sorghum, as Mr. Ray runs off some that is cooked. This mill is owned by by Mr. Orval Jones of Bentonville, Arkansas. He makes about 400 gallons of sorghum Molasses every year. His father and grandfather both made sorgum molasses.
Most of the mills that are running today, are run by the sons on men who had mills. It seems to follow through in the family.
These mills make from 400 to 200 gallons a season. Lets hope they never stop making it. There are a few things better to eat then sorghum molasses home made butter and hot biscuits.