The Sweet Life at Muddy Pond Sorghum in Tennessee & a Recipe for the Best Sorghum Cookies
Muddy Pond Sorghum is one of just a handful of mills in the United States that make sorghum on this scale. They are hoping to produce 10,000 gallons this year. The mill operates three days a week in September and October and during that time they will process one acre of cane per day. During each eight or nine-hour day at the mill, they will boil down 2,400 gallons of juice (from that one acre of cane) to make between 250 to 275 gallons of sorghum syrup.
Muddy Pond Mill is not just a functioning business, it is also a gathering place for the community. Sherry told us that, “Older people come and sit all day and watch. They love to see it made and it brings back memories. It means a lot to them.” Sherry added, “The younger people have no idea what it really is and they come and learn about it.”
By midday, the entire family stops whatever they are doing and come in from the farms and fields to sit down and enjoy supper together. They congregate at the mill where the tables are set. The women arrive with steaming pans and bowls of food. Work at the mill stops and the Guenthers excuse themselves for this time of fellowship. In the background, the younger women sing hymns before blessing the meal. We stopped what we were doing out of respect for this family’s daily tradition.
We traveled to the foothills of Middle Tennessee to learn about the process of making sorghum. Instead, we learned about a way of life focused on simplicity and family. From the moment we turned onto Muddy Pond Road, life changed. It became less complicated. A people with a strong work ethic, a common purpose, shared religious beliefs, and a genuine sense of community made everything else outside of this world seem not quite so important.
When it was time to leave, we drove back down Muddy Pond Road. We passed young women in traditional Mennonite dress mowing the lawn, men on tractors tending to the fields, and stopped at a general store for a taste of sorghum ice cream. We turned off Muddy Pond Road and made our way back to Atlanta.
As we left “the community” and returned to our fast paced life with traffic, concrete, congestion, and tempers, we wondered which world is real. The folks at Muddy Pond are happy and self-sufficient. They work hard together and stay together. They take the time to share with others and enjoy life. A trip back in time is a good reminder for all of us about what the focus of our own lives should be.
We appreciate the time that Mark and Sherry spent with us during their very busy day at the mill. It was a real pleasure to meet them along with Mark’s dad, John and brother, Ed. We learned so much more than just how to make sorghum.
Of course, we purchased a fresh jar of sorghum, several baked goods, and a cookbook during our visit to the mill. Sherry suggested several recipes from the book and I chose to make the cookies that we snacked on during the drive home. The recipe is for the Best Sorghum Cookies and it was right. Perfectly spiced and naturally sweetened, these chewy cookies are filled with the flavors of fall. You will not be able to eat just one.
Muddy Pond Sorghum is available in some Whole Foods Markets, at the Muddy Pond Mill, and at Guenther’s Variety Store in Muddy Pond. You can also order the product online from the Guenthers.
If you need a few other ideas for using sorghum, this sorghum butter from last November is fabulous on biscuits and we also mixed it with fresh herbs, basted, and smoked a chicken with it. The meat was incredibly juicy and tender and the flavor outstanding. Roasted Delicata Squash is a favorite side dish recipe of ours that is also made with sorghum butter.
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Best Sorghum Cookies
These cookies are soft and chewy. Be sure not to overbake. They also freeze well.
1/2 cup margarine (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sorghum
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream margarine (or butter), shortening, and sugar. Beat in sorghum and eggs; set mixture aside.
3. In an another large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Blend thoroughly with wire whisk.
4. Gradually mix flour mixture into creamed ingredients until dough is blended and smooth.
5. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar; place 2 1/2-inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool on wire rack.
Store in tightly covered container to maintain softness.
Recipe courtesy of the Sorghum Treasures Cookbook
The National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association