Hand-Milling Sorghum

Reader Contribution by Sherry Leverich Tucker
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What a great time I had at the Lawrence, Kansas, MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR!

I was asked to come to the fair with sweet sorghum canes and help the makers of “Grainmaker Mills” demonstrate their hand-driven sorghum mill. So, I loaded up a few bundles of cane and headed to Kansas! I also packed a gas fish fryer and a large stew pot so I could cook off small batches of sorghum after we accumulated a couple of gallons of juice.

The weather was gorgeous for the FAIR, and a large number of kind, interested browsers made the day very enjoyable. After toting all my sorghum to the Grainmaker booth, we got started with the process of squeezing the canes. It was a lot of fun, and good exercise to send the canes through the mill. I enjoyed getting kids involved by working the mill. Everyone loves to help squeeze sorghum, no matter what the circumstances!

It didn’t take long to have nearly 2 gallons of juice, and I put it in the pan and started heating it up. This was the first time I ever had cooked sorghum in such a small batch. Heating it up quickly was not a problem, and then the skimming started. Using a large spoon, I was able to manage the scum fairly well – and continued removing the scum through the entire cooking process, as the juice reduced, thickened and darkened.

There was a lot of interest in the cooking sorghum, as the aroma lifted into the air. The smell of cooking
sorghum is so earthy and sweet, both sorghum newbies and sorghum lovers can’t help but appreciate it. After a couple of hours of cooking, the sorghum was thick, and ready. I think the experiment of cooking it in the pot, over a fish fryer was actually very successful. It is a viable method of cooking small batches, making producing a pint, or a quart of sorghum at a time very doable. As with any cooking method, you can expect to cook off to about a 10:1 ratio. So, it is a good idea to at least estimate how much your end product will probably be when you start cooking the juice, that way you will have an approximate idea of what that amount will look like, as the final product cooking in the pan.

I would love to hear any stories of sorghum being cooked in small batches and what kind of experiences you have had with that. Please use the comment box below to ask questions or share comments. Thanks!