This past weekend my husband and I went to the Sorghum Festival in West Liberty, KY. This was the 40th year that Morgan County has celebrated the distinct taste of sorghum. There were several tents with craft items and local foods, including pottery, brooms, homemade candles and lotions, jewelry, metal working, photography, and decorative items. Live music and the scents of fried dried apple pies filled the air along with the rhythmic sound of another local vendor grinding fresh cornmeal.
At 1pm, a parade was held along the main street through town. Floats celebrated the sorghum cane plant, the agricultural history of the area, and the winners of the Sorghum Bowl, the local high school’s homecoming football game (Morgan County won this year). Thousands of people lined the street as children scampered to catch candy thrown from those parade participants.
Overall, this was a wonderful celebration of the fall season, the bountifulness of the harvest season, and the rich tradition of Eastern Kentucky. Unlike some festivals with only small based appeal, there was much to do and see for all ages.
Sorghum is a type of grass that has a sweet sap and is grown for food, livestock fodder, and use in alcoholic beverages. In eastern Kentucky, sorghum grass is grown for use in making the sorghum syrup. When the grass matures, it is cut down and ran through a mule powered press that crushes out the juices into a drip pan. The juices are cooked over heat for a specific period of time until the right taste and consistency are reached. This cooking period allows for evaporation of excess water and skimming off of impurities. Over or under cooking will directly effect the taste of sorghum, described as sweet and slightly bitter.
One misconception about sorghum is that it is the same as molasses. Not true! Sorghum comes from sorghum cane while molasses come from sugar cane, sugar beets or even grapes. Both share similar qualities- brown, thick, and sweet- though their origin is different.
I bought a quart jar of sorghum from the Holbrook Brothers who live just outside West Liberty. It cost me $9 and is sure to be an excellent part of my fall recipes. Maybe next year you will be able to enjoy the fun of the Sorghum Festival.