Sweet Sorghum Syrup

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Could this old fashioned sweetener enjoyed by Southerners and Midwesterners up until the early to mid- 1900s be making a comeback? Or, is the process of making the syrup an art form that is disappearing? Due to refined sugar being more available and cheaper than its counterpart, sorghum’s appeal lacked luster and use died down. These days, a demand for more choices in natural sweeteners, accompanied by nutritional benefits, has given rise to sorghum’s popularity.
If you aren’t familiar with sorghum, also called “sorghum molasses,” it is a tall, broad-leaf plant that you may mistake for corn when seen in the field. This particular plant doesn’t have ears like corn and instead of tassels there are clusters of seeds. The sorghum plant can grow to heights of 6 to 12 feet and have a base of 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Sorghum syrup and molasses are not the same product; sorghum syrup is produced from 100 % juice from the sweet sorghum plant and molasses is a by-product of the sugar cane industry. Sorghum is primarily grown in the states of: Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas with the major yield coming from Kentucky and Tennessee. Planted in late May to early June the plant matures quickly and is ready for harvest come September and October. Harvest is labor intensive, but, with the assistance of a few people the end result is a sweet reward. There are other types of sorghum that are grown not for use as syrup, but, for livestock forage and grain; some plants possess the potential for biofuel.
Growing up, sorghum and molasses were common staples in my family’s kitchen and I continue the tradition of using molasses. Over the past several years though I have not thought of sorghum, until, I stopped by a local general store. While waiting on my order I noticed nicely packaged glass bottles filled with thick, dark syrup. The bottles were filled with sorghum and surprisingly made in the area where I reside. A purchase I did make and sampled as soon as I could grab a spoon at home…ahhhh, sweet memories. As a youngster I didn’t care about the health benefits of that tablespoon (an average adult’s potassium needs) grandma put in front of me, but, now I’m surprised to learn that sorghum contains a bountiful amount of antioxidant qualities, iron, 30 mg calcium, potassium, 20 mg magnesium, 300 mg protein, and, 11 mg of phosphorus.  
Sorghum is delicious when drizzled on warm biscuits and rolls, pancakes and can be added to baked beans and barbecue sauces. Substituting sorghum for other sweeteners in baking can be easily achieved by adding 1/3 more sorghum and using 1/3 less of liquids.
If new to the sorghum world or reviving your sorghum traditions consider trying the following recipe for Sorghum Ice Cream. In addition, if interested in fall festival demonstrations of sorghum there are three in Ohio remaining: 
Fall Festival – Monroe County Fairgrounds, October 11 – 12, www.monroecountyohiochamber.com
• Algonquin Mill Fall Festival – Carroll County, October 10 – 12, www.carrollcountyohio.com
Bob Evans Farm Festival – Rio Grande, October 10 – 12, www.bobevans.com
4 cups 2% milk
2 eggs
½ cup sorghum syrup
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1. In a medium saucepan, gently whisk together all ingredients over low heat until just bubbly. Set aside to cool.
2. Either freeze in a conventional ice cream freezer, or place in a freezer-safe container and freeze until set, about 8 hours.
3. If using second method, chip frozen mixture into food processor blender in chunks. Puree until very creamy but not liquefied.
4. Refreeze until ready to serve.
Tips & Notes…this ice cream tastes even better with a mixture of local berries and an extra drizzle of sorghum syrup.
Credit to the following: Country Living Magazine with focus on Hazel Freeman’s article; farmflavor.com; motherearthnews.com; herculesengines.com. Sorghum Ice Cream recipe courtesy of Tennessee Home and Farm and created by, Mary Carter.