Quilting, Farming, Variety

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Making Molasses

Do you have a favorite molasses cookies recipe? My family really likes a gingersnap cookie made by a recipe from the back of an oleo box; it's several years old. Since I can't make a good chewy cookie by any recipe (I'm cookie challenged), and I've always been more of the "eat to live" type anyway, I won't send out the recipe. However, I would like to take you through the steps involved in making molasses. 

Perhaps some of you have read this, as it was first posted in 2011.  As I have mentioned before, raising sorghum cane for making molasses was the main crop produced on our farm when I was a child, and the harvest started about this time of year. (Pardon the line drawings; we had no cameras back in those days.)

...Early each spring the grounds were prepared for the new planting. For several days, Daddy and his brother took their teams of horses to the fields, and all day the horses pulled the plows, back and forth, around and around in the loose, brown dirt. The seeds were put into the ground and the warm sun and rain soon made the rows glisten with tiny green shoots. As the plants grew taller, the women began to hoe the long rows in the hot sun, stopping now and then to straighten their tired backs and go to the edge of the field to rest and drink water that had warmed while they worked.
As the summer passed the plants grew into tall, slender stalks, the fodder turned yellow, the seed heads browned; the cane was ready to harvest. The men and women each took a long wooden paddle, sharpened on the edges, and began to strip the fodder from off the cane. With the leaves stripped off, the cane stalks stood tall and naked. Reaching high, and with a quick flick of the wrist, each woman slashed the seeded heads from the top of the stalks. Behind the women, the men cut the long jointed stalks and laid them in piles, ready to be loaded onto the wagon and hauled to the mill.

Early the next morning, preparations were made at the mill to start making molasses. Easter came to start feeding the cane stalks into the mill. The horse walked around and around the mill, pushing the long pole that turned two big iron rollers. A watery, green juice was squeezed out of the stalks and ran down into a barrel and on to the cooking pan. Frothy foam covered the top of the cooking juice as it began to boil, and as the foam was skimmed off, and the juice began to thicken, it was pushed along the sections of the pan, gradually turning to a golden brown.

The new molasses were strained and put into glass jars and tin buckets, set aside to cool, and labeled, waiting to be taken to the food market in town to be sold...

The brothers were recognized for their efforts in producing good molasses one year, when two half-gallon buckets were prepared and shipped to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (I tried to include a picture of the letter they received but it wouldn't load; however, the envelope did.)

It's not easy to find molasses now that are golden brown and good for eating on a hot buttered biscuit; most are dark and very strong tasting. Perhaps when one has had the best it's not easy to be satisfied with anything less.



  1. Love this story.

    Do you know about what year it was when we went to see them making the molasses that time? Of course what we saw was very different from the way it used to be...much less labor involved seems like. But it was still impressive. Who of the family would still know how to do this?

  2. Love this post. It brings back a lot of memories for me. We have a Sorghum Festival in our neighboring county every year and people bring their sorghum to sale. My daddy helped make a lot when I was growing up. My mama used to make some cookies out of it but i never did find out what she put in them but they were so chewy.. People depended alot on sorghum back then since sugar was scarce. Oh yeah, I love your drawings. I couldn't draw like that if my life depended on it. Take care, Susie

  3. Loved this post. I have always loved molasses cookies but have never tried to make them. The same with Gingerbread. I love your memory of the molasses processing. That is something I have never seen.

  4. Loved reading your memories and what an interesting process. Did you draw those pictures........wonderful! I love molasses cookies!

  5. I loved reading your memories about the molasses. I recall my grandfather always had a sugar cane patch and recall eating the thick, rich, brown sorghum syrup. I love gingerbread made with molasses. Your posting is wonderful and the drawings are fantastic, too.
    I loved reading about these good-old-days.

  6. Charlotte, this was very interesting to read, and I loved the drawings. They are so charming!

  7. I remember my parents and grandmother loving Sorghum. Was so good on hot bisquits.
    You bring back memories.
    Recovering from bad fall and will share later...

  8. What a wonderful post. And I have never heard of golden brown molasses that you can put on toast ... I want some. And I wonder what it smelled like while cooking.

    Love your drawings!

  9. Great post, Charlotte! Love your drawings.

    Have always loved anything made with molasses! Especially my "Mom's cookies! Gingerbread, too :)!

    Hugs, Carolyn

  10. Jeff said his pincipal and her husband raise sorghum cane over on Hwy. 164. He didn't know (or forgot) your family did. I'll have him read this section of your book tonight.

  11. You've made me hungry for some good molasses, Charlotte!
    We have Pioneer Days just down the road from us at the Museum of Appalachia where they make molasses the old-fashioned way every year. I always enjoy seeing the big, strong draft horses turning the press, and I wonder what they are thinking about as they go round and round. *haha*

  12. Thanks so much for leaving a nice comment on my drought post. You're right, He sees us through. It's taught me to appreciate water! Through your post I was able to visit you, and am now a new follower.Love your aprons and quilts.

  13. Noticed your new picture as your blog photo...I like it a lot! Did you make it yourself? Great story on the Molasses too!