Monday, September 5, 2011

Mystery Item Answer--Sorghum Press

Blue Ridge Parkway--Mabry Mill--Sorghum Press

Yesterday's Mystery Item was a sorghum press. A horse or mule was harnessed to one end of the pole. As the mule walked around, stalks of sorghum cane was fed into the press and the juice was squeezed out.

One year when I was growing up, my best friend's parents decided to grow some cane. (Guess that means they were raisin' cane!) When it was time for harvest, Debbie and I were quickly put to work stripping the fodder off of the sorghum as it was standing in the fields. Then, someone who was taller than we were, cut the top off of the cane. Then the cane was cut and taken to the sorghum press. Stripping fodder was not a fun job. It was sweaty work and if you were not careful, the fodder would cut your hand and it felt far worse than a paper cut!

They were using a tractor-powered press rather than the slower horse powered type. Once the juice was squeezed from the cane, it was put into a large shallow cooking pan that was supported over a wood furnace.

I remember that they started cooking the bright green sorghum juice in the wee hours of the morning and we could smell the wood smoke as it drifted through the open bedroom window. After breakfast, it was our turn to help. As the juice cooks, a scummy foam floats on the top and it has to be skimmed off. We used the long-handled homemade skimmers to remove the foam. That was a job that Debbie & I enjoyed!

The juice slowly started to thicken and turn brown. It seems like it took so long for that to happen! Once the molasses was drained from the trough, we all took short stalks of sorghum cane and used it to "sop" up all of that molasses goodness that stuck in the cooking pan! YUM!


  1. I helped some neighbors with this about twenty years ago. Great fun except for the yellow jackets!

  2. Vicki, you are exactly right!! The yellow jackets do take a bit of the fun out of the whole venture. I have such fond memories of helping make molasses. It was a lot of hard work, but the excitement of lots of neighbors getting together was so much fun.

  3. I've heard pap talk about the process my whole life-but never seen it-wish I could.

  4. If you ever get the chance to give it a try, Tipper, be sure to do it! It is hard work, but it is fun. I sure do miss the sense of community that I grew up with.


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