How to Make Molasses

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Commercial molasses is made from the syrup of sugar cane or sugar beets, but there is an easier alternative for making molasses at home. Sorghum can be grown in the home garden and processed to make sorghum molasses or sorghum syrup. This rich, brown molasses can be used in the same way as traditional molasses or as an alternative to granulated sugar. It can be preserved in sealed containers for winter use.

Things You'll Need

  • Sorghum canes
  • Knife or machete
  • Cheesecloth
  • Large kettle or vat
  • Wooden spoons
  • Skimmer
  • Canning jars
  • Harvest the sorghum canes when the cluster of seeds at the top has turned a medium brown and the leaves on the stalk have yellowed or browned. This typically means harvesting in late fall – late September to early October – before the first frost hits, as frost on the foliage effects the sweetness of the juice.

  • Strip the leaves from the canes with a knife or by hand. Cut the seed heads off with a sharp knife or machete. Put the seed heads aside if you intend to save the seeds for next year's harvest. Cut the stalk of the cane as close to the ground as possible without contaminating it with soil. The area at the bottom of the stalk holds the most juice.

  • Take the sorghum canes to the mill for processing, or use a home sorghum press. The press squeezes the the sorghum canes to remove the sugary syrup. While a sorghum mill is equipped to remove all plant debris from from the syrup and return the syrup ready for boiling into molasses, the syrup of sorghum pressed at home requires straining through several layers of cheesecloth to remove the bits of stalk and other plant material. Strain the juice until it is free of plant debris.

  • Place the strained syrup in a large vat or kettle over an open fire. Sorghum vats are typically long and shallow to allow steam to escape easily during boiling, but you can use a large kettle to make a small batch of sorghum molasses. Keep in mind that it takes between 6 and 12 gallons of juice to make 1 gallon of sorghum molasses.

  • Heat the juice to a rapid boil and maintain constant heat. Overheating will cause the syrup to "boil up" inside the kettle and overflow the container. Stir the boiling syrup constantly to prevent burning.

  • Skim off the foam that rises to the top off the syrup. Special long-handled skimmers can be purchased, but a soup skimmer or slotted spoon will do if you are making a small batch of molasses in a kettle.

  • Continue to stir and skim until the green juice develops a rich brown color and is thick and syrupy. This may take several hours as the excess water must boil out of the juice to make molasses.

  • Pour the boiling molasses carefully into sterilized canning jars and seal. Allow the jars to set undisturbed in a draft-free area until they seal. Store in a cool, dark area for winter use.

Tips & Warnings

  • If your molasses crystallizes during storage, put it on the stove and reheat to return it to a smooth, syrupy consistency.
  • The stalks can be stripped of leaves and left in the garden for up to two weeks if a frost threatens before you are ready to make molasses.
  • Keep children and small pets away from the boiling vat and fire.
  • Handle the hot molasses with care. Hot sugar can cause serious burns.

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References

  • Photo Credit Roel Smart/iStock/Getty Images
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