The crazy part of all of this was that I just decided to do it and figured things would fall into place. We went to Baker’s Creek Pioneer Village in Mansfield where they sell heirloom seeds and we purchased a few seed packages containing the Black Amber variety. I planted them in May of 2014. They grew like crazy and I had researched mills and substitutions of mills and I knew I couldn’t afford a new or used mill so I read some blog that said you could use an old wringer washer. I did find a neighbor that had one but looking at it, there was no way it was going to work at least in my mind.
The days started to accelerate towards September when the the stalks would be ready and we still didn’t have a mill and I started to panic because we still didn’t know how we were going to get the juice from the stalks until one day my husband and I were talking and he said, “What about Bert?” Anyone around this area knows Bert. He has everything. He’s just an old retired guy that tinkers around on different projects constantly. So we decided to go to Bert’s.
We pull up into his driveway and got out and started walking towards his front door and there is this rusty looking piece of machinery a few feet from the door. Jeremy says, “Babe, I actually think this is what we’re looking for.” We knocked on the door and we asked Bert what it was and he said it was a sorghum mill. He just pulled it out a few days before so he could sell it as a yard ornament to someone. We asked how much and he said $100 so we bought it. I think that mill was meant for us!
It was seized up and needed a bit of work but Jeremy got it going pretty easily. It’s a smaller sized horse drawn mill but it did the job.
I also pay attention to the date I planted. Most varieties of sorghum will range from 100-120 days to maturity. When the stalks are ready, you need to cut them down. I usually just use loppers. They need to cure which usually boosts your sugar content as well. I’ve tried a week and less and the happy amount for us is about 3 days. You have a choice to strip the leaves before they are cut down or after. I let the stalks cure out for 2 days in hopes that the juice goes to the stalk and out of the leaves. I don’t know if that is accurate or not, it’s just what I tend to do.
After you stripped the leaves and deheaded they are ready to go. The processing day is a long one so start really early, it’s an all day event which is why we have “Sorghum Days” and we invite friends out to be a part of it.
Oh yeah, I should also mention. We make sorghum syrup. Many people think that sorghum is molasses but molasses is actually a byproduct of sugarcane. Anyway, back to it now that the sorghum is ready to be processed, that’s exactly what you do. You put the stalks in the biggest end first and just keep going until you’re done. The raw juice needs to be filtered. We use cheesecloth and it works pretty well then we use a propane burner and start cooking it down. While this is being done green stuff will rise to the top. That is impurities and needs to be skimmed out and it is called “Scum.” Eventually it will start to turn brown and get thick but it takes quite a while.
Hope you enjoy this post! Any questions feel free to ask!