Sorghum Syrup

sorghum farmer in overalls processing sorghum stalks I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder The origin and early domestication of sorghum took place in Northeastern Africa, and the earliest known record of sorghum, dated at 8,000 B.C., comes from an archeological dig at Nabta Playa, near the Egyptian-Sudanese border. Sorghum spread throughout Africa and thereby adapted to a wide range of environments, from the highlands of Ethiopia to the semi-arid Sahel region along the edges of the Sahara. The development and spread of sorghum can be attributed to the movement of various peoples in Africa, from where it was spread to India, China, and eventually Australia. The first known record of “grain” sorghum in the United States comes from Ben Franklin in 1757, who wrote about its application in producing brooms (!). Most grain sorghum today is used for farm animal feed. We’re not sure if Ben knew about “sweet” varieties of sorghum, but “sweet sorghum,” as it’s called, has been widely cultivated in the U.S. since the 1850s. It is primarily made into unleavened breads, boiled porridge, malted beverages, popped grains, and thank goodness, sorghum syrup. By the early 1900s, the U.S. produced 20 million gallons of sweet sorghum syrup annually. Making syrup from sorghum (as from sugar cane) is heavily labor intensive. Following World War II, with the declining availability of farm labor, sorghum syrup production fell drastically. Currently, less than 1 million gallons are produced annually in the U.S. Most sorghum grown for syrup production is grown in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Of nutritional note, sorghum and its syrup contain rich levels of iron, calcium, and potassium. Before the invention of vitamins, many doctors prescribed sorghum as a daily supplement for people with deficiencies in these nutrients. Sorghum syrup and hot biscuits are a traditional breakfast in southern Appalachia, and I grew up eating this wonderful combination in my hometown of Kingsport, TN. It’s an honor to work with the Guenther family of Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill in Monterey, TN, to source the exceptionally pure sorghum syrup used in our Vanilla Peanut Sorghum Butter. The Guenthers still use a wood fire for the pan used to boil and concentrate the fresh syrup, and we think you can taste the difference their old-world process makes.

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