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Small Quantity Sorghum and Corn Sugar Processing

 
gardener
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Because sorghum grows so well here and corn is one of our staples, I would like to process the stems for a natural sugar, but I don't know if there's a way without specialty equipment. I tried an internet search, and wasn't able to find anything satisfactory. Someone said just boil the whole thing. I tried it.  About 2 days of boiling later I had about 2 tbs of something that was dark, mostly bitter, and a bit of sweetness.  This was from about 3 gallons of stems chopped to 3" chunks. I have another gallon of stems in the freezer awaiting the next great idea.  Anyone have that great idea?

When I chew the raw stems they taste like sugar cane and the squirrels actually seek them out instead of the seed because they are that good, so I know it's there.
 
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i'm pretty sure that you run the sorghum stalks through a press, like for sugar cane. I know that even boiling sugar cane would get you next to nothing and just use all your fuel.  
if you do a search for "DIY sorghum press" you see some pretty interesting machines, some more rube-goldberg than others.
 
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This thread has a picture of a guy putting the canes through the press:  https://permies.com/t/93992/Heritage-Syrup-Festival-Henderson-Tx

And the big vat where the cooked the syrup.  I know this won't help though I thought you might find the pictures interesting.
 
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We ran this question pretty far to ground the last time it came around on permies and the closest we could get to a modern home-scale device capable of pressing sorghum canes for their sweet juice was a 250lb, $2500 unit.  Traditionally a massive press turned by two donkeys was required.

Thread: https://permies.com/t/46677/sorghum

 
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I believe someone posted about using a steam juicer with some success.
 
Amit Enventres
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Amazon has a number of sugar cane juice extractors in the $200 range.  I believe soghum stems are significantly softer and thinner than sugar cane. I am wondering if a good pasta dough crank thing would work. Anyone try that yet? Any reason yay or nay?
 
Dan Boone
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Amit Enventres wrote:Amazon has a number of sugar cane juice extractors in the $200 range.  I believe soghum stems are significantly softer and thinner than sugar cane. I am wondering if a good pasta dough crank thing would work. Anyone try that yet? Any reason yay or nay?



I believe it's to the contrary: sorghum stems are said to take considerably more pressure to yield up their juice than sugar canes do.  Why I believe this, I couldn't now say, and I'd be delighted to discover I was wrong.  
 
Amit Enventres
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Here's an article where someone used a sugar cane juicer and it worked. Also he found that 1 acre sorghum = 70 gallons  juice = 10 gallons syrup. So .025 acres should get you 1 quart jar syrup, in theory.

https://www-americansorghum-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.americansorghum.com/sweet-sorghum-great-overview-2010/amp/?amp_js_v=a2&_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQHCAFYAYABAQ%3D%3D#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&share=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.americansorghum.com%2Fsweet-sorghum-great-overview-2010%2F
 
Dan Boone
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I should hasten to clarify my own interest -- I live in the heart of former sorghum growing country, so much so that our local harvest festival is still called Sorghum Days, even though they can't get anybody to grow the stuff any more and have to import a bit for the demonstrations and to run through the donkey mill that a local heritage museum still maintains in the back yard.  I haven't bothered myself, due to no way to process the cane.  But I'm very definitely interested!
 
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Amit Enventres wrote:Here's an article where someone used a sugar cane juicer and it worked.



I haven't shopped for the cheapest, but just a quick skim shows he used a 2HP commercial juicer from a restaurant supply.  The first one of those I see on Amazon is a $1600 unit, which puts it in the same basic industrial category as the $2,500 hand cranker I linked you to above.  I'm fine with that if it fits with the scale of production you want to do, but it's way outside my budget for sugar production and not in the $200 category you were referencing.

That is a great article by the way!
 
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Dan Boone wrote:I should hasten to clarify my own interest -- I live in the heart of former sorghum growing country, so much so that our local harvest festival is still called Sorghum Days, even though they can't get anybody to grow the stuff any more and have to import a bit for the demonstrations and to run through the donkey mill that a local heritage museum still maintains in the back yard.  I haven't bothered myself, due to no way to process the cane.  But I'm very definitely interested!



I don't know what a donkey mill looks like, but I have the horse-power if you want to build one. :-)

Found a video:


 
William Bronson
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William Bronson wrote: I believe someone posted about using a steam juicer with some success.



Looks like that was me posting about steam juicers!

Maybe a wringer style clothes washer like in this article :

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/sorghum-raising-cane-and-gettin-juiced-part-2-zbcz1609
 
Amit Enventres
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Dan, why not grow some for the festival and use the mill at the museum? You might be able to get others to process it for you that way.

William,  I would suspect if a commercial grade sugar cane juicer would work,  then so would a non- commercial grade sugar cane processor, but I haven't tried. I do know the extraction methods and plants are very similar. A quick search showed me both and some advertised as working on both and a variety of price ranges. Given my average, it's not worth even $80 (low end) for the 1/2 pint I'd get a year. However,  I've been contemplating one of those dough flatteners/slicers used for pasta, tortillas, dumplings, crackers,  etc. If well built, I will try it on my sorghum and report back.  Even if I don't get a syrup, sorghum seed is worth my time.... though one would think there aught to have been invented another way by now...hmm...
 
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Amit Enventres wrote:Here's an article where someone used a sugar cane juicer and it worked. Also he found that 1 acre sorghum = 70 gallons  juice = 10 gallons syrup. So .025 acres should get you 1 quart jar syrup, in theory.

https://www-americansorghum-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.americansorghum.com/sweet-sorghum-great-overview-2010/amp/?amp_js_v=a2&_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQHCAFYAYABAQ%3D%3D#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&share=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.americansorghum.com%2Fsweet-sorghum-great-overview-2010%2F



From same article, great article Amit!

Sorghum bicolor, as a plant, has four potential uses. Its leaves and stems can be used as a food for grazing animals(silage sorghum); its seeds can be used like wheat or rice(grain sorghum); its dried seed head can be used to make brooms(broom sorghum); and lastly, its sweet canes can be used to make sugar.

there are different sorghum varieties grown for different purposes, silage, grain, broom, and sugar respectively.

At this time (1880's), there were over two hundred different varieties of sorghum planted in North America.

A 1975 survey revealed that only 2400 acres of sorghum were planted on 165 farms. That is a far cry from the amount of sorghum planted in the height of the sorghum sugar days…..in excess of 500,000 acres in 1880! That was a real low point.

The good news is that things are looking a bit better. At present, an estimated 30,000 acres of sweet sorghum are planted annually, and those acres produce 1 million gallons of syrup. The biggest portion of the syrup being produced in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. And, the really good news is that there are some producers that produce sorghum commercially! You can buy sorghum syrup over the phone and over the internet! The production may be down, but, the product is still available!

End quote from great article.

Sandhill Preservation http://sandhillpreservation.com/ has 3 categories to sell: Broom, Grain, and Syrup.  19 varieties in 2018 catalog.

It is very sad the number of varieties of many plants in crashing, I recall roughly 500 varieties in ~1910, today ~50 varieties (for cabbage).  That is why I fully support companies, non profits and individuals striving to keep as many varieties from perishing from our planet.

Growing sorghum is not on a high priority for my garden, 7 gallons to 1 gallon not my cup of tea at this time.  Maybe a grain variety, eat grain, and compost the rest, or chew a few stalks?


 
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Here was us making sorghum molasses this year.  We like sorghum.  We use it to make silage, ethanol, grain and molasses.  It has deep roots that seem to make the soil more loamy.  We rotate it with our production garden, hay, corn and sunflowers in 1/8 acres plots.  We harvest manually.  We used a little cane mill our local hardware was trying to sell and had discounted it to a nice price.  We powered it with a 1931 Maytag washing machine engine.  We made 2-1/2 gallons from about 40 gallons of sap.  We boiled it to 228 deg f.  It has a wonderfull flavor.
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William Bronson
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Sugar cane juice is sold as fresh squeezed treat in some places .
I am intrigued by the idea of marketing the raw juice as a health tonic.
I also wonder how it would take to being lacto fermented.
 
Christopher Shepherd
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The kids run around here with stocks hanging out of their mouths from mid August till harvest.  They love it.  I bet it would sell well.  It will ferment into alcohol in a few days in the juice form.  We get our alcohol from the bottom of the silage buckets while feeding.  The juicer can be hand run, but makes me tired after about a quart! I can get you some seed if you pm me.  Ours is a mix of honey drip, sugar drip and menenite to keep the gene pool mixed up.
 
William Bronson
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Thanks for the seed offer!
I think I'd want to partner up with a real farmer rather than grow it myself.
My friend has a place, Carriage House Farms, and he is already making marketing vinegar, as well as honey and walnut tree syrup.
I only have a backyard and a nearby urban lot, so growing it myself would probably be a poor use of space.
On the other hand, we did try  to grow a 3' by 30' plot corn this last summer, but a failure to weed and feed it lead to disaster.
I understand sorghum can tiller quite a bit and it's not as greedy as corn, so maybe it will do better under our neglectful care.


Big picture I'm angling towards a drinks business for me and the family.
Herbal teas and fruit juices for the clean living crowd.
Strictly cottage scale.
Something for the kids and wife to do in the summer, and me to do once retired.
Ever since seeing people pay 3 bucks for a bottle of small batch, "artisanal" hop tea, I have been convinced there is market for overpriced natural drinks that actually taste good.
Pressing sorghum stalks  fresh right in front of customers would really an appeal to the senses and their sensibilities.
At church I used to bake during services and the loaves went for whatever donation a parishioner had to give.
We always ran out, because good smell and good feelings are and irresistible combination.

 
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