Of all autumn smells, molasses making has always been my favorite. Yes, I love the eye-catching beauty of fall leaves in the mountains, but the scent of the small amount of alcohol that rises to the surface as the sorghum juice cooks has the scent of a rare brandy. I also learned on my many trips to the mountains that molasses making is extremely labor intensive. After sorghum has matured in the fields, it is cut into long stalks and hauled to a spot where they will be ground up. The stalks are fed into cylinders that squeeze juice from the stalks of sorghum, powered by a tethered, circling horse. I also learned that molasses making is extremely labor intensive because the simmering sorghum juice must be watched around the clock or it will scorch and be useless. The constant stirring was often done by the entire family with each adult and child taking a turn at the stirring paddle. The sticky results were stored in Mason jars and kept like prizes on a cellar shelf. The versatile liquid was used for everything from syrup on pancakes to a topping for fresh biscuits to a sweetener in a recipe.
Molasses Making, North Carolina
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