A shared joy: making sorghum molasses
Editor’s note: To read more of retired Gainesville educator Jane Elder’s blog, “Ozark Road,” visit gainesvillemo.blogspot.com.
The mules pictures here were our companions for the past weekend. Kit and Kate. A pair of sister mules. They were hitched up to the sorghum mill as we made sorghum molasses down in the hills of Arkansas.
What a treat. Lots of friends and lots of help. The cane crop was not as plentiful this year. We cut and trimmed and loaded it onto the trailer and pulled it down to the farm. Setting up the mill was not a hard task. And the rest went like clockwork.
Until we awoke Saturday morning and discovered that Kit and Kate had taken an early morning stroll...somewhere.
Luckily, they had found a neighboring field where the grass was thick and green. There they were, happily grazing, waiting to be found.
Soon everyone was busy with the chore of making sorghum molasses. The green juice poured out of the mill into a bucket. When we had about 15 gallons of juice, it was poured into the cooking pan and the fire was lit under it. Skimming the juice and tending the fire so the sorghum cooks evenly is an art. And we had the people to do it. Taking turns and visiting while the green juice turned to gold and then to a golden brown was one of the many pleasures of the day.
While some people worked, others sat in the shade and visited. Some brought their fiddles and guitars and banjos. Under the cool shadow of the oak tree, we enjoyed hearing our favorite music,
Food was plentiful. Everyone brought something to eat. Sharing lunch out on the porch or sitting in the yard, we visited and caught up with the news of what had happened in the last year.
The children loved to help. They hauled the cane from the trailer to the mill, fed the stalks into the mill and hauled the remains out to feed the cows across the road. They worked as hard as any adult. What a joy to see them working so steadily – and seeing their smiling faces when the sorghum was finally ready to be poured out into jars.
Finally, when the last jar was filled and the mules were unhitched for the day, we all hugged and promised to do it again next year. What a joy to do something together. To forget for a time the pressures that await us back home. To take time to talk, laugh and share stories.
This is what life should be like. All of us, sitting in the gathering twilight, knowing we have helped each other enjoy an age-old tradition from a simpler time. Makes us smile and vow to do it again next year.
And we have jars of sorghum in our cupboards to remind us.