Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Making Sorghum Molasses the Old Way

I am always grateful for those willing to share memories with me that give a glimpse of the past. The following story takes us back to a time when even something as simple as molasses came by hard work. Thank you, Floyd Ganus, descendant of Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery for sharing the following memory of your Grandpa and Grandma Ganus and how you learned to make sorghum molasses the old way .

Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery
"We lived about a mile west of Grandpa (Robert Lee Ganus) and Grandma’s(Stella). Across the road and about an 1/8 mile up the hill lived Uncle Floyd & Aunt Jean. They had two girls Roberta, a year older and Olivia about 3 years older. There for a spell we didn’t have a car, electricity, or a radio so our entertainment was to walk up the hill and visit them. Also, we were dependent on them to take Mother or Dad to the grocery store. I was 3 or 4 and had an older sister, Virginia, 5 years older and a brother Robert D. 2 years older.



Robert Lee Ganus and Stella Montgomery with their six children
Robert Orvil b. 1910, Floyd Otto b. 1912, Andrew Monroe b. 1917, Robert Lee Ganus,
Stella Montgomery, Ida Mae b. 1907, Stella Jane b. 1904, Mary Olivia b. 1902
"This particular place was on a sandy creek bottom and Dad (Robert O.) Decided it would be a good place to grow sweet potatoes and sugar cane. They both did pretty well and my older years I have regained my taste for sweet potatoes. The sugar cane was a big summer treat to us kids. Mother (Edith P.) Would cut a stalk, clean off the leaves, and cut away the outside stalk and give us the sweet core to eat on. The core was mushy with sugar water and thus delicious to us kids. So for that summer we had the equivalent of a candy bar for several times , a real treat since store bought candy was unknown to us.

"When early fall came Dad gathered all of the sugar cane by cutting them off at ground and stripped off the leaves. When he finished with plot, less than an acre, we had a wagon load of sugar cane. Since our transportation was a wagon drawn by a team of horse, we got up early in morning and took the trip about 2 and one-half miles west to the old black mans place to squeeze the canes for the juice. The press was a metal contraption about the size of washing machine with a pole extending from the top to the side 15 or 20 feet. He had a donkey trained to walk the circle around the press giving it power. His was a very slow walk. The old man sat on the ground next to the press and fed the stalks into the press. My brother and I found out why we were invited on this trip. We were the carriers of the sugar cane stalks from the wagon to the old man feeding them in. You had to duck under the pole to hand him the canes. The process of extracting the nectar took about 2 hours or so. Time goes fast when you are having fun- I mean working. When we left the old man kept all of the sugar cane juice and kept it for the final tasks of cooking it down into molasses.
"By the time it was ready, we had moved about a mile or so on the other side of Grandpa and Grandma’s. Also, I guess Dad got good prices for those sweet potatoes since he now owned an old pickup truck. He came in one day with several jugs of dark molasses for us. Dad loved molasses and an evening supper would often be pancakes and molasses. Us kids would beg Mom into making home made the syrup by boiling some sugar in some water and adding maple favoring. This was much better than the strong tasting molasses. With so much molasses and reluctant eaters part of the molasses turned into sugar (looked like dark brown sugar). Thank goodness!"




Times certainly have changed and I for one am grateful that when I need molasses for a recipe, I can grab a bottle from the grocery shelf .Thank you Floyd, for sharing memories from your childhood years and teaching me about the process of making sorghum molasses the old way! 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2016, All rights reserved

8 comments:

  1. Making molasses, slaughtering a hog, peach picking, apple butter boiling -- those special times or seasons on the farm always seem to generate strong memories and colorful stories like this one.

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    1. I agree Wendy. There seems to be a lot of tender memories associated with those experiences and I can't say the same about my trips to the grocery store!

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  2. Yes times have certainly changed.
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    1. Thank goodness! I don't know that I am cut out for some of those things!

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  3. Times have definitely changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but I don't think I would miss having to do all that work with sugar cane and I'm not much of a fan of molasses, even milder versions in a jar. Farming was/is hard work.

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    1. There are a few recipes I make that call for a little molasses, but I don't use it a lot. It sounds like an incredible amount of work to me too! It's all I can do to keep up with my small little garden.

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  4. As the descendant and cousin of maple syrup producers, I can definitely appreciate the hard work that goes into making something like molasses yourself. Thank you for sharing, this is very interesting.

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    1. Thank goodness for those who tackle such jobs and we certainly benefit from their hard work!

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