In keeping with hair-brained ideas of what to grow in our garden, and maintaining our theme of producing “sweet things” (i.e. honey and maple syrup), Brooke decided to try growing sorghum. She’d read that the stalks of the sorghum could be ground up using a relatively cheap, electric wood chipper, and then she thought we could use the apple cider press we already had to squeeze the sorghum to juice it.
First of all, Brooke set aside Sunday to harvest the two rows of sorghum she grew. It did a good job “training” the soup beans to climb the stalks, so that kept the vines out of the yard this year. Brooke had to untangle some of that a bit in order to cut the stalks down, then we removed the tassels from the top and the leaves, as those aren’t necessary to get the sorghum goo out (it probably has a technical name, but I’m too lazy to look it up. “Goo,” it is.).
I tossed the leaves back onto the garden plot to let them decompose there, hopefully returning some nutrients back to the soil. We ended up with a decent number of stalks! It’s a bit tough to gather how many more we need in order to make more of the end product but, well….we’ll get there…
The wood chipper we picked up from Harbor Freight did a good job! I haven’t been happy with it for chipping sticks and leaves, as the opening at the top is very narrow (for safety reasons), making it annoying to get wide sticks that have fallen with leaves on them into the thing. For this purpose though, it’s perfect: the stalks are straight, you just shove ’em in there, and they’re chopped up efficiently.
The cider press, however, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. It worked just fine for apples, especially after we chopped them up a bit, but there just isn’t enough water in the stalks of the sorghum plants to have much “juice” come out! Brooke was able to get a little out, but it wasn’t an efficient method of extraction. So, she had to resort to “plan B.”
She grabbed a big pot she had downstairs and effectively made a “sorghum tea” out of it. This ended up involving soaking the sliced-and-diced stalks in water, then trying to game out when the tea was “done” (i.e. as close to “fully extracted” as we’d get). I’m sure this process could be refined with something like a refractometer, but Brooke was just looking to “pilot” this process and refine it next time. The question was: how much will we get from two rows of sorghum?
Answer? A quart jar. She heated the liquid to 210 F for awhile, which is what she read the right temp was to do the job without causing undue crystallization. The color looked good! The taste isn’t quite as “molasses-y” as I think we expected, but to be fair, molasses doesn’t come from sorghum, so of course it doesn’t taste identical. It’s definitely sweet, though, and sticky. I don’t really pick up as much flavor as I do from molasses, though? There’s a “burnt” quality to molasses that this doesn’t really have. I think Brooke picked up more flavors than I did.
In the end, we didn’t get a ton, so likely isn’t going to be a process we can take advantage of to make enough to sell it or anything. We’ll just have to see how good it tastes in cookies: then we can decide if it’s worth it!