According to Bradley Fox, molasses is a byproduct of the sugar cane industry and sweet sorghum syrup is produced when juice extracted from sorghum cane is boiled down. Bradley should know as he is the Board Secretary of the National Sweet Sorghum Producers & Processers. NSSPPA for short.
My conversation with Bradley takes place beside a large vat of sorghum cane juice simmering over a wood fire. A group gathers every fall behind Anita Penland’s home in Alexander County to make sorghum syrup. Anita along with her father, Clyde Herman, and friends Bradley Fox and Dale Reese appear to be the ring leaders. But, everyone has a role in the production process.
The folks stripping leaves off of the cane are the busiest and refer to themselves as the “Alexander County Strippers” club. And yes, they do have hats.
The basic process is fairly simple, at first glance.
1. Grow the sorghum cane.
2. In the fall, cut the cane and strip the leaves.
3. Run the stripped cane through a crushing mill to extract the juice.
4. Heat the juice until it is reduced to syrup. It takes about 10 gallons of juice to make 1 gallon of syrup.
As Lisa and I visited with the group we learned there is much more to the process, and more than a few trade secrets. Several of the group have placed in the top ten with their syrup at national competitions.
The more mature members of the group still call the syrup “molasses”. Whatever name you want to use, it tastes pretty good on a hot biscuit or pancakes.
For more information go to www.nssppa.org.