Blackberries and Sorghum Syrup: Southerners Have Sworn by These Foods For Many Years
Be Forewarned About
this hub. Not that this piece is about some torrid secret about pornography. Nor is this story about politics, drug pushing, or even going to church. This hub is founded by one of the South's oldest "industries," by moonshining which is still debated if "shine" can be considered a legal business. This piece is all about making sorghum syrup. The product, truth be told, is much sweeter than the labor that goes into the making of this Southern nectar enjoyed by everyone who has awoke in the morning by the aroma of coffee brewing, bacon sizzling, and cathead biscuits about to be served with sorghum syrup.
This is about the true hard labor that produces sorghum syrup. Hardly any complex technical machinery was or is ever used in the sorghum business. The bottom line truth is that in most sorghum operations, a mule or two is hitched to a long wooden pole and the mule is told to walk around and around the cane press that crushes out the sweet sugary liquid from the sugar cane that is fed into this device that now runs into a series of pans where this sweet liquid is set to boiling to just the right texture and then every ounce of this loving commodity is poured to jars, cooled, and then capped tight and sold.
The Origin of Sorghum States
that sweet sorghum was widely grown in the United States since the 1850s primarily in the form of sorghum syrup. In the early 1900s, America produced 20 million U.S. gallons of sweet sorghum syrup yearly. Making syrup from sorghum is heavily labor-intensive. Following World War II, with the lower availability of farm labor, sorghum syrup production fell drastically. Currently, less than 1 million U.S. gallons are produced yearly in the United States.
The states (currently) where the abundance of sorghum grown for syrup production is in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, to name a few.
The production of sorghum syrup holds no compassion for those who do not like to work in order to get something good to eat. A typical day in the life of a sorghum worker starts around 5 a.m., even when the sugar cane is grown. A certain amount of tending to the area where the cane has grown is key to having a good cane crop--with little or no weeds to compete with the cane in early stages of growth.
A handful of patient workers equipped with machetes start the hot, arduous task of cutting the sugar cane to transport it either by wagon, cart, or truck (if one is available) to deliver the sugar cane to the mill for the cane to be crushed by a "press" where two heavy metal wheels push the cane through as the wheels extract every single ounce of the sweet sugary liquid that is key to making sorghum syrup.
The sugary liquid is now in aluminum pans ready to be boiled until it turns into a sticky sorghum syrup while mill workers are constantly stirring the sorghum just long enough to get the liquid to that near-perfect texture until it can be called sorghum syrup now ready for pouring into the jars and cooled.
Most sorghum field owners have a list of clients where the sorghum is delivered and then sold to the many who love the taste of sorghum especially while applied on breakfast tables with hot biscuits in an early breakfast meal. There is hardly anyone who does not like sorghum syrup.
Besides sorghum, another form of sorghum is "Blackstrap Molasses," which is the dark, viscous molasses that remains after maximum extraction of sugar from raw sugar cane. It has the consistency of a thick syrup, as the third boiling of sugar syrup yields blackstrap molasses. This concentrated byproduct is left over after the sugar's sucrose has been crystallized. Blackstrap is also considered a sweet treat to be consumed on biscuits and some backyard chefs even mix Blackstrap with other mixings to baste on ribs and ham.
Honestly, there is absolutely no wrong way to eat sorghum syrup or Blackstrap molasses. Hardly no one ever, (after their first taste) turns down these heavenly condiments.
The History of
sorghum syrup was not the only food item that came from The Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression began to take its toll. People in the South were a resilient folk who took to not only working at available sorghum mills to barter labor for sorghum, but picking blackberries, plums, and blueberries.
This was also not a glamorous way to achieve food staples. Much like producing sorghum, a family would seek out nearby woodlands and even creek banks to find those delicous blackberries that could be eaten by themselves or put into cakes and muffins if the ingredients were available.
Gathering (or picking) blackberries is not just a hot and tedious work, but dangerous as well. With the blessing of blackberry patches come two dangers: painful briars and the great possibility of snakes which some are posionous such as rattlers, cotton mouth and copperheads. Some people, not really looking closely, have been know to die from snake bites while picking the berries. But taking the risk of getting something to eat over shadowed the dangers of snakes.
Blackberries along with sorghum syrup were only two of the things people (in olden times) referred to as "Survival Foods," and if anyone has ever experienced one of both of the retrieving these tasty morsels, these people know full well what this term means.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery