Tag Archives: sorghum festival

18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival – A Photo Essay

Nearly 1,500 people came to our 18th Annual Labor Day Open House and Sweet Sorghum Festival yesterday. Here is a photo-essay of the event along with a description of a few of the activities.

Making Sorghum Syrup

Beginning at 3:30 a.m., about a dozen young men began harnessing mules. Using hay wagons, they hauled sorghum canes, which they had cut and loaded the prior day, up to the sorghum press.

Sorghum Press

Mule-powered Sorghum Press

This sorghum press is considered a “third generation” press, based on its design. It was originally built in the late 1800′s or the early 1900′s. The press, or mill, as it is also called, is powered by a team of mules. The long boom to which the mules are hitched turns several vertically-mounted rollers within the press. Young men feed sorghum canes, a few at a time, into the press. The rollers pull the canes into and through the press, crushing them and releasing the sap. The sap drains into one of three stainless steel holding tanks adjacent to the press, while the “chews” (the crushed canes) are slowly ejected out of the press.

Pressing Sorghum

Pressing sorghum with a mule-powered sorghum press

After filling a holding tank, we let the sorghum sap settle for about two hours before processing it further.  Having three tanks lets us fill one tank, while sap in the second tank settles, and while sap in the third tank is slowly piped downhill to a wood-fired copper cooking tray, where it is cooked into syrup.

The cooking tray is essentially a large, flat rectangular pan, partitioned with metal baffles every few inches in an alternating pattern.  Sorghum sap is gravity fed through a pipe slowly and continuously into the near end of the cooking tray.

A wood fire beneath the tray heats and boils the sap, while it is guided slowly through the tray. As you can see from the steam, a lot of water is boiled off during the cooking process, and by the time the liquid reaches the far end of the tray, it has been distilled into syrup, which occupies about one-tenth it’s original volume as sap. While cooking the syrup, we use skimming tools to skim off impurities, and we slowly guide the syrup along between the baffles. It takes about 30-45 minutes for thin, greenish sap entering the near end of the tray to exit the far end of the tray as a thick, golden-brown syrup.

Cooking sorghum sap to make syrup.

Cooking sorghum sap to make syrup.

Inside the sorghum house, the finished sorghum syrup flows from the copper wood-fired cooking tray through cheese cloth. After filtering the syrup multiple times through cheesecloth and skimming off the foam, we bottle it up into jars.

Sorghum Syrup

Some of the bottled sorghum syrup.

Sustainability Seminars

Meanwhile in the LaRue barn, The Ploughshare gave two seminars, one on sustainable gardening and a second on beekeeping. Both seminars were very informative and very well-attended.

Sustainability Seminars

There was a lot of interest in our sustainable gardening and beekeeping seminars.

Grinding Blue Corn

Year-round, we grind wheat and other grains in our gristmill. In addition to this, Joe Claborn set up a portable mill for grinding cornmeal and demonstrated how it worked. This portable mill is powered by a single-cylinder “hit-or-miss” engine. The engine uses a centrifugal mechanical governor, which adjusts how often the engine fires in order to keep a nearly constant speed (rpm) whether the engine is under load or idling. Ground corn is fed into a sifter that uses two screens to separate the corn into fine cornmeal (for making cornbread), coarse cornmeal (for making grits) and chaff.

A single-cylinder hit-or-miss engine powers a gristmill for grinding corn

A single-cylinder hit-or-miss engine powers a gristmill for grinding corn.

Kiln Opening Sale

As we’ve discussed previously, we recently finished building a wood-fired pottery kiln. Our potters had their first “Kiln Opening Sale” today with lots of beautiful pottery. (We hope to have more kiln opening sales in the future. If you would like more information about them, please give us a call at 254-754-9600 or leave a comment below.)

Kiln Opening Sale

After firing our wood-fired kiln during the weekend, we had our first kiln opening sale.

 

Fiber Crafts

In our fiber crafts shop, there was a lot of activity. One spinner was using a conventional flyer wheel to spin cotton, which we had grown on our farm, into yarn. She intends to weave her cotton yarn into cloth, then sew it into a garment.

Several other people were spinning cotton on tahklis. The tahkli is a small supported spindle (similar to a drop spindle, except that you support it rather than drop it) that works well for spinning cotton. Tahklis are inexpensive and very portable, and someone with experience can spin on the tahkli nearly as fast and as effectively as someone spinning at a wheel.

Spinning cotton on a tahkli

Practicing spinning cotton on a tahkli.

Make-Your-Own Crafts

Many children (and parents/grandparents along with them) enjoyed our make-your-own crafts.  Children hammered out brass spoons. They also wove coasters, shaped clay “pinch pots” and built toy boats. I particularly enjoyed seeing the faces of the children using spokeshaves to carve wooden spatulas for the kitchen.

Making a brass spoon

Hammering out a brass spoon.

 

Thank You

Thank you for coming out and enjoying the day with us.

Questions

As always, if you have questions about our crafts, seminars or other activities, we would like to hear from you.  You can leave us a comment here, or call us at 254-754-9600.

 

18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival

Cooking Sorghum Syrup

Cooking Sorghum Syrup

Join us on Monday, September 3, 2012 for the 18th Annual Sweet Sorghum Festival at Brazos de Dios. The festival will be from 10 a.m until 5 p.m, and there is no admission fee.

Watch as we make sweet sorghum syrup—from pressing the raw cane with a horse-powered mill to cooking the juice into rich, golden brown syrup. Sample some sorghum syrup on  freshly baked cornbread made from stoneground cornmeal!

 

At this year’s festival:

Special Music at Noon

Special Music at Noon

  • Horsedrawn Hayrides
  • Outdoor Barbeque
  • Freshly Cranked Ice Cream
  • Demonstrations of Various Fine Hand-crafts
  • Various Make-Your-Own Activities for children
  • Free Seminars on Sustainable Living
  • Special Music at Noon

About Sorghum Syrup

Over 70 years ago, sorghum syrup was a common sight on the dinner tables of rural Texas. Many farmers grew a small patch of sorghum in their fields. At harvest time, they brought their cane to a neighboring farm that had a mill, and the families worked together pressing cane and cooking syrup.

Pressing Sorghum

Pressing Sorghum

At Brazos de Dios, our annual sorghum harvest preserves this community tradition. We hand cut the 10- to 14-foot-tall canes and haul them from the various family farms to our sorghum mill. Here, we feed the raw cane through a 100-year-old horse-drawn press. After squeezing the cane, we allow the juice to settle 2-3 hours before channeling it downhill through underground pipes to the sorghum house where we cook it over a wood-fired furnace.

The green juice bubbles and boils its way through the channels of the hot, 12-foot-long copper pan. After the excess water evaporates, the juice reaches the end of the pan as a thick, sweet, golden brown syrup ready for bottling. Be sure to try a sample of this year’s syrup at the sorghum mill or at our restored homestead gristmill!

Driving Directions

The sorghum festival is hosted at the Homestead Heritage Traditional Craft Village at Brazos de Dios, which is located 5 miles north of Waco.

Take I-35 to Elm Mott Exit 343; go west on FM 308 for 3 miles, then north on FM 933 for 1 1/2 miles. Turn west onto Halbert Lane and proceed a half mile straight ahead to the entrance.


View Larger Map

 

For further information, call 254/754-9600.