Sorghum Molasses


This page is a stub being used to collect information about "Old Home Manufactures" in support of the Southwest Virginia Project.

Sorghum molasses was the principle product obtained from "cane". Cane was introduced into America around 1850, and quickly became a staple in rural communities. Most sorghum was made for home consumption, and replaced "maple sugar" as the common sweetener. Until the beginning of the 19th century "sugar camps", and "sugar orchards" had been principle source for sugar in the pioneer settlements. Cane required far less acreage than sugar maple, and sorghum molasses quickly replaced maple sugar as a condiment on settlers tables.

A horse powered "cane mill" in front of the Gregg-Cable House, in Cades Cove, Great Smoky National Park, in TN.
A horse powered "cane mill" in front of the Gregg-Cable House, in Cades Cove, Great Smoky National Park, in TN.

From Source:Addington, 1932:226

Nearly every farm had its "cane patch." In the very early days, the cane stalks were bruised or marshed with a hammer or an ax, then pressed to extract the juice. Someimtes the bruised stalks were boiled in order to remove the juice from the stalk. A little later the wooden cane mill came into use. It was thought to be a wonderful invention. By its use the joice could be crushed out of two or three stalks at a time. The crushed stalks were often gathered up and on being twisted like a rope were run through the mill a second time. The sooden mill did not run smoothly by any means; it protested agains every movement by a screaking that could be heard a long distance. A liberal use of soft soap was required to lessen the friction and reduce the noise. The wooden cane mill and kettles were followed by the cast iron mill and molasses pan or evaporator, which are still in use.

The owners of sugar orchards seldom grew cane, because when the "sap ran too high" to make good firm sugar, maple syrup was made. The resourceful housewife often made a substitute for molasses out of ripe persimmons. The persimmons were cooked in an oven until the juice could be easily pressed out. The juice was then boiled down to the thickness desired.