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Sweet sorghum is a native grass from Africa which was introduced to the United States in 1853 with the hopes of reducing reliance on imported cane sugars. It was planted in the South and lower Midwest but it turned out to be too difficult to extract sugar out of its syrup.

Nevertheless, sorghum syrup became an important sweetener, particularly for small farming communities where making sorghum molasses was a community affair. Usually there was one sorghum mill in the locality, made by the local blacksmith, and the neighboring farmers would take their canes to be squeezed and made into syrup on a given day in autumn.

People would bring the sweet sorghum by cartloads and feed the canes into the mule-powered mill. There was a pole attached both to the harness and the mill and as the mule walked in circles the juice would be extracted from the canes. The crushed stalks would be hauled away to fill gullies or used as a green composting material. The cane juice would meanwhile be slowly cooked and by the end of the day the contents of the vat would be emptied into prepared glass jars, but not before hot biscuits, cornbread, fresh butter and a bucket of steaming sorghum had been set on a table for all to eat.

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