11 May 2015

Sorghum's Savor

When I was a kid in Alabama, I really didn't much care for those "historical" day trips to learn from our ancestors. The was one exception. I loved to go to Waldo, Alabama for the sorghum soppin'.  Every year, they would grind the sorghum in an antique horse operated grinder, boil it down and then offered up biscuits and sausage and sorghum. History at its finest!

One of the funny things that has happened with this obsessive interest in Southern food is to watch chefs rave about ingredients that have been our shelves for generations.  One of those is ingredients is sorghum. Who better to write about sorghum as a staple than Ronni Lundy. In her book, Sorghum's Savor, Lundy begins at the source, talking to many of the families who produce sorghum today and some whose families have made sorghum for generations.

The book offers up traditional recipes for things like pies and cakes. Who can beat butter and sorghum for biscuits and cornbread? In watching chefs use sorghum in new ways and in experimenting with the sweetener in her own kitchen, Lundy found that the flavor of sorghum enhanced many Asian preparations leading to her to call it "Hillbilly Umami."

Lundy tracks down many of those new sorghum-obsessed chefs who offer up their sorghum recipes.  Every few pages one is likely to run into a James Beard Award winner extolling the wonders of sorghum. So while there is plenty of of tradition in the form of  stack cakes and baked sweet potatoes, the book takes sorghum in a very modern direction with a Southern Lassi, Miso-Sorghum Chicken and Kale, and a Red Thai Curry.

One traditional recipe gets it unusual name from the father of folk singer, Jean Ritchie.  He mixed sorghum and butter and put it on cornbread.

Gravy Horse

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sorghum syrup

Put the butter in a small bowl or saucer and let sit at room temperature until it is softened but not runny.  Pour sorghum over the top and use the tines of a fork to first mash then gently whip together.  You can use the fork to daub it onto hot biscuits.

We've come a long way from Waldo!






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