Harvest Time

At one time, syrup made from the juice of sorghum cane was highly prized as a sugar substitute. Since sugar cost money, it was often the only sweetener available to many families.

Sorghum, or molasses, is still produced at Prairie Land much as it was 100 years ago. Can is grown and cared from much like corn. Planted in May or June, it is usually ready for harvest near the first of September. Cane will grown to be about eight feet tall with a large seed head. It is ripe and ready for harvest when the seeds are red and hard.

At harvest time, the cane is stripped of all blades and the heads are cut off. The can is cut and stacked on a wagon and brought to the press.

The press has two iron rollers which the cane stalk is run through. The cut cane is squeezed to release its runny bright green juice. As the cane is pressed the juice is run through a straining cloth to remove an pieces of broken stalk. The juice is run through a second strainer to remove any other contaminants. The clean juice is placed in a vat where it is cooked for several hours. The cooking is done by steam. This is a newer method, replacing the method of cooking it over an open fire.

As the cooking takes place, the bright green juice cooks down into a rich brown syrup. This distinctive swat is used in cooking and also can be eaten like maple syrup on pancakes or waffles. Glenn Smith has been making the molasses at Prairie Land for several years. It is sold by pints and quarts on the Museum grounds.

Contributed by Linda Berry

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