Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Community Venture in the Ozarks - The Making of Sorghum

For those of you who have never heard of "sorghum",
it is a type of molasses made from the juice of the sugar cane.
I was privileged to witness this process,
and would like to share this community venture pictorially.

First, the cane was gathered from the field,
the seedy tops and the leaves were pulled off,
then run through this machine to squeeze the juice out.

The juice was strained through cheese cloth material
 into a large vat before making it's way down the hill to be cooked.

I arrived just as the last batch of cane had been run through the crusher,
but a small amount of juice was still dripping from the pipe
into a nearly full vat.

From this vat, a long pipe carried the cane juice
to the place where cooking took place.

This is the raw cane juice just coming out of the pipe,
ready to start in the cooking process.

Here is the long hot fire box,
which had a constant need to be fed wood
to keep the process going -
A very hot job!

This is a look at the long row of copper baffles which slowly turn the juice
into sorghum when it reaches the far end.
It was interesting to me that the juice had to travel up hill,
and was explained to me that the heat drew it up.
If the baffles were slanted the other way,
or even level, it would run down too quickly
and not have time enough to cook and be purified.

Specially made scoops with holes in them
were constantly used to skim off the foam.
This foam was not wasted,
and although most of it was going to be added to hog food,
someone said it could also be used for "bear bait"
before bear hunting season.

It took a community of people to pull this venture together.
Although recuperating from a recent illness,
 the man on the right was gracious enough to volunteer his time
and his equipment in order to put sweetness on the table
for the community.

This appeared to be the hottest boiling point in the procedure.
Great care was taken to prevent anyone from getting splashed
by the super hot liquid which would have clung to the skin
causing deep burns to go deep into the flesh.

As the syrup moved down the baffles,
it turned from a greenish color,
mellowing into brown.

The firing process gave off a lot of heat, so
a shade had been erected on the end to protect from
the additional heat of the afternoon sun. 
One of my husband's most valuable contributions to the effort
was providing cold water and Gatorade out of his ice chest.
The younger helpers were quick to pass out the cool drinks
to the men who were needing to be re-hydrated.

When the syrup reached the last baffle,
it was released from this valve, ...

...And then placed in this vat until it was cool enough...

...To be poured up into sterile jars,
which sealed quickly as the heat created a vacuum.

While the cooking process was going on,
others were working to remove the leftover cane,
much of what would become food for horses
or other farm animals.

The 87 year old mayor pitched in and did his share of the work.

Here he is showing me where sorghum was made years ago
using a horse instead of a tractor to operate the "squeezer" machine.
The faint imprint of a circle could still be seen from the many
times the horse had to circle round and round to extract the juice.

And there you have it -
The finished project!
One of the men laughingly said that if the price of the sorghum
was figured on minimum wage pay,
it would probably cost about $169.00 a gallon!
But bringing a community together in this kind of venture -

I haven't noticed sorghum ever mentioned in the Bible,
but I guess honey would be its closest counterpart.
The Psalmist said in Psalm 119:103,
"How sweet your words taste to me;
they are sweeter than honey."

To see my Names of God on Rocks post for today,
click on ROCK4TODAY!

Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you enjoyed your visit to Ozark country!


Joy said...

Yes, I remember like that when I was small in the Philippines. Almost the same procedure:)

Pamela said...

I was just in the Ozarks. My husband introduced me to sorghum when we were dating. I had never heard of it. So interesting to see how it was made.

Leovi said...

Interesting sequence of photos documenting this process to perfection!

Tonya said...

How very interesting...and so neat that the community comes together to make sorghum. Thanks for sharing!

Wandering Wren said...

Amazing, I have never heard of sorghum. Fascinating to read about this wonderful community endeavour.
I can see why the workers appreciated your cool drinks!

acreativeharbor.com said...

Fascinating process and wonderful photos ~ what an adventure ~ thanks, carol (A Creative Harbor)

myfluffybunnies said...

Love your photo essay. What a process!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I've had it but never knew how it was made...

what a fun community project...

fredamans said...

Very cool process making the sorghum. I'd love to try some one day!

Lola said...

Such an interesting process - lovely post!

Have a lovely weekend too!

EG CameraGirl said...

It's wonderful that the community comes together for this! Fascinating!

Barbara Rosenzweig said...

Very interesting! I never knew about this process. Thanks!

Sue said...

I've always wondered what sorghum was when I read about it in books. Thanks!


Jenny said...

All of the various steps in this process are very interesting...

It looks like it gets viciously hot too!

Vivacious post for the letter "V"...

Thanks for linking.