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Schoharie County farmer grows sorghum as source for syrup

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
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Sap drips from the stalk of the sorghum plant when ripped open by farmer Tony Van Glad.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Sap drips from the stalk of the sorghum plant when ripped open by farmer Tony Van Glad.

— Farmer Tony Van Glad of Blenheim Hill Sorghum is providing a sweet taste of the South for us northerners.

Six year ago, he was growing vegetables for his roadside stand and also making a lot of maple syrup. When he saw some articles about growing sweet sorghum, he decided to give it a try and dedicated 25 acres of land in the Schoharie Valley to growing sorghum, whose stalks resemble corn.

Sorghum hails from Africa, where it was consumed like a cereal grain beginning more than 8,000 years ago. You can find sorghum grain in health food stores, and it can be cooked in things like pilaf. It is also ground into flour, and can be mixed with other flours for baking. The increased popularity of gluten-free products has boosted the sale of sorghum flour.

Van Glad, however, processes the stalks of the sorghum for their sweet juice, which he makes into syrup that sells at the Honest Weight Food Co-Op in Albany, the Apple Barrel and Carrot Barn in Schoharie, Kelly’s Farm Supply in Cobleskill and the Stamford Farmers Co-op, as well as in green markets in New York City, where it’s popular for people looking for local goods.

The syrup can be used in place of molasses as a sweetener, although it is sweeter than molasses. Sorghum is a good ingredient in sauces and as a sweetener for oatmeal and yogurt as well as a topping for pancakes, hot biscuits and cornbread.

The most challenging part of the process for Van Glad is harvesting the sorghum before there’s a frost, which would ruin the juice. He’ll begin harvesting in mid- to late-September, when the stalks will be at their sweetest.

KyMar Farm Winery & Distillery in Charlotteville buys sweet sorghum from Van Glad and makes a triple-distilled specialty spirit, “Schoharie Shine,” from it, in honor of those Southern moonshiners who used to make spirits from sorghum when cane sugar was unavailable.

Sorghum Pilaf

Recipe from Shiloh Farms

1 cup uncooked sorghum grain

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried minced onion

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄8 teaspoon ground white pepper

1⁄4 cup dried cranberries

1⁄4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme

1⁄4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine sorghum and olive oil. Stirring constantly, lightly toast grains for 2-3 minutes or until slightly browned. Add onions, broth thyme and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45-60 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grain is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients (except almonds). Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Transfer to serving platter, garnish with almonds. Makes 6 half cup servings.

The following recipes are from Blenheim Hill Sorghum

Barbecue Sauce

1 medium onion, minced

3⁄4 cup sorghum syrup

1 cup ketchup

1⁄2 cup vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Sauté onion in small amount of fat. Mix all ingredients together and simmer about 10 minutes. Baste on meat as desired.

Sorghum Cinnamon Toast

Toast slices of bread. Spread with butter, then sorghum syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon and place under broiler until sorghum bubbles. Remove and serve immediately.

Oven Caramel Corn

2 cups brown sugar

2 sticks margarine

1⁄2 cup sorghum syrup

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1⁄2 teaspoon soda

Pinch cream of tartar

15 to 20 cups popped corn

2 cups peanuts (optional)

Combine brown sugar, margarine, sorghum syrup and salt. Bring to boil over medium heat. Stir in vanilla, soda and cream of tartar. Pour immediately over popped corn and peanuts in a large bowl. Mix to coat all pieces. Transfer to shallow pan. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes. Cool and store in airtight container.

The following recipes are from Chef JoAnne Cloughly, department chairwoman of Agriculture and Food Management at SUNY Cobleskill.

Baked Apples with Sorghum Syrup

4 medium apples

1 cup apple cider

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 stick butter, softened

1⁄4 cup rolled oats (quick oats work fine)

1⁄4 cup raisins (optional)

2 tablespoon chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1⁄2 cup sorghum syrup

1⁄2 cup whipped cream, sweetened with sorghum syrup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Core the apples, but do not go all the way through the bottom. Pour the apple cider into a small baking dish big enough to hold the 4 apples. In a small bowl, stir together all remaining filling ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into each apple. Place the apples in the baking dish with the cider, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover, baste with the accumulated juices and continue to bake until tender but not mushy. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Serve with sauce from pan and whipped cream.

Chewy Spice Cookies

3⁄4 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 whole large egg

1⁄4 cup sorghum syrup

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Additional granulated sugar for rolling, about 1 cup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and blend. Add sorghum syrup and mix well. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Chill overnight, or at least 8 hours. Shape balls into 1-inch rounds. Roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased or paper-lined baking sheet and bake until edges begin to brown. Cool. Makes about 5 dozen.

 

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