By PETTUS READ
The rain this summer may have been a problem for those who were looking for a good pumpkin crop this fall or even a really good mater sandwich, but for those of us who like molasses on our buttered biscuits, it has made a real difference in the sorghum crop this fall. It is being reported that in the state we may see a record harvest of the cane that produces the sweet, green juice that helps make many of the fall traditions what they are.
There has always been debate over the proper name for the delicious brown goo that you pour on your hot biscuits from a jar or can, and often it depends on what part of the country you come from. I don’t mean nation, state or region, but country. Like, “Out in the country we call it molasses!” Growing up, if I had said I wanted some sorghum for my biscuit, I would have been shipped out to some kinfolks up north. But whatever you call it from wherever you’re from, either sorghum or molasses, it is something that can make a day start out right or a nighttime supper end well. Tennessee molasses is the best and this year looks like the time to stock up.
Having been married to a miller’s daughter helped my molasses addiction, because she turned out biscuits and cornbread that were just made for sorghum (as some non-molasses authorities call it) that has been knife-whipped with butter. I do like to pour a goodly amount of molasses on a plate and put a goodly amount of butter in the sweet sop. Using the tip end of a table knife I whip the butter up into the molasses where the two combined ingredients create a beautiful golden spread that only a true child of the south can appreciate. Then, after breaking open a homemade buttermilk biscuit and covering it with butter as well, you take the same knife you used to make the golden molasses spread and place abundant amounts of the sweet concoction on the biscuit. After following this process passed down from generation to generation, you are then required to grunt a pleasing sound of satisfaction.
It looks like the sorghum crop just may have a record harvest, which is good news for all us molasses eaters. Tennessee is one of the nation’s leading states in sorghum production, so says the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and since the syrup contains calcium, protein, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus and zinc, that makes it about as good as one of those chewable vitamins once you add it to a hot Tennessee biscuit. It’s even reported that doctors prescribe this wonderful crop sometimes for a daily supplement for certain nutrients. Could this mean an extra helping or two?
Farm made molasses is such a staple in this state. There is even a festival named in its honor. The annual Music & Molasses Arts & Crafts Festival, which is known as a country celebration of the harvest season, will be held October 19-20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. It is hosted each year by the Tennessee Agricultural Museum and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. It draws several thousand people to the agricultural museum each year. Molasses made the old fashion way is one of the many special demonstrations that can be enjoyed with cooking and tasting at the sorghum mill located on the grounds. Just as our ancestors did, the grinding wheels of the mill are fed sorghum cane by a farmer as a mule turns the whole operation. You can even buy some of the sweet sop to take home and put on your own biscuits.
Bluegrass music, story-tellers, country cloggers, a grist mill, traditional crafts for sale, food including homemade cakes and pies, free buggy rides, log cabin activities for children with a trail hike, pony rides, animals to touch and much more makes this a weekend of family fun. You can tour the Ag Museum, which is something to see just by itself, and visit with many of Tennessee’s craftsmen and artisans.
This fall, go out into the fauna and celebrate the wonderful sweetness of molasses or sorghum, whichever you may call it. Make some biscuits, or buy a can if you have to, and enjoy a product that helps make Tennessee what it is. A plate of hot biscuits and molasses could even be good for you. Pass the molasses please!
- Pettus L. Read is Director of Communi-cations for the Tennessee Farm Bureau and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org