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sorghumcheckoff .com Sweet Sorghum–From Stalk to Syrup S


orghum syrup — most widely known for being poured over hot biscuits circa the mid-twenti eth century — is undergoing a


Missouri,


resurgence. As chefs, product developers and home cooks have taken a keen interest in the nostalgic product, many are taking a closer look at how it gets from stalk to syrup. Matt Heckemeyer, a farmer from Sikeston, eats,


breathes and lives sweet


sorghum. While his family farm has grown sweet sorghum as silage for cattle feed over a number of years, he has spent the last five years perfecting their production methods for food consumption. Sorghum syrup, made by essenti ally evap-


orati ng the water from extracted juice from sweet sorghum stalks, is nothing new to the United States. “We have been handling sweet sorghum


and boiling it down as a sugar for more than 200 years,” Heckemeyer said. “It was a stan- dard sugar back before World War II. It has been a novelty for the last 50 years, and now, it’s coming back.” Among a number of reasons, Heckemeyer


began growing sweet sorghum because of its tough nature. Sweet sorghum is comparable to grain sorghum in the fact that it can grow in the same droughty, more harsh climates while yielding well. Unlike sugarcane, sweet sorghum has the ability to grow outside tropical climates, providing Heckemeyer another means of in- creasing his profi tability by contributi ng a unique prod- uct for a growing marketplace. From the time sweet sorghum is harvested from


the field to when it becomes a tasty syrup, Heckemey- er said it is a fast and complex process. Due to this complexity, his years of research and experimentation have helped him refine the process and equipment down to a fine art. “On our farm, sweet sorghum becomes syrup be-


tween 12 to 20 hours aft er harvest,” he said. “We han- dle it quickly because otherwise it will ferment.”


2


Harvest is ti med criti cally around sugar compositi on,


also known as brix, which are opti mal around the soft dough stage of growth. Sweet sorghum is generally harvested ei- ther by a cane harvester or by hand. Once harvested, the stalks are ran through a roller mill, resulti ng in the extracted juice as well as a coproduct known as bagasse. The juice is then fi ltered and placed into a sett ling


tank where specifi c retenti on ti mes are required to remove impuriti es before being transferred to an evaporator. Upon removal of excess water, sugars are then concentrated into sorghum syrup.


Conti nued on p. 4 of USCP Newslett er paid advertisement


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