When I was a child we waited in anticipation every fall for sorghum molasses to come on the market. Mother and Daddy were convinced the only appropriate sorghum molasses came from Benton County, Tennessee. Even then, one had to read the label closely to make sure corn syrup had not been added.
Sorghum is a grain. To make molasses, the canes are ground in a mill and the juice runs out. In the old days, a mule walked around and around in a circle to make the mill turn. The juice is cooked, not unlike maple syrup, and the byproducts skimmed off the top. Sorghum-making is a skilled craft. The byproducts used to be put in cattle feed.
But we wanted sorghum for two purposes: Daddy ate it with hot biscuits and butter, and I made gingerbread. How to explain how sorghum tastes? It’s lighter and wilder than the only acceptable substitute, Brer Rabbit Molasses. Dark Karo syrup is your syrup of last resort, too sweet, and it doesn’t have that wildflower/grain taste that sorghum does. But these are dark times we’re living in, so we do the best we can.
Here is Mother’s gingerbread recipe with sorghum molasses. Substitute as you must….
1 cup sorghum molasses
4 tablespoons shortening (butter or Crisco)
1 cup buttermilk
Mix together the above.
Sift together dry ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ginger (the dry powder, for you foodies who peel the root)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
Mix dry and wet ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.