December 4, 2012
A Truly American Taste
It’s becoming harder and harder to find unusual gifts for serious cooks. But here’s one you can be pretty sure even that irritating person who possesses every possible ingredient will not have stashed in the larder: Sorghum Syrup.
I had my first taste of this American classic last winter in Kentucky, and found myself so fascinated I came home laden with jars of the stuff. At first I was just looking for an organic ingredient to replace the nasty corn syrup that goes into recipes like hot fudge and pecan pie, but once I began tasting the syrups made by different producers, I was hooked. True sorghum is an artisanal product with a distinct taste of terroir and it changes enormously from one producer to the next.
Since then I’ve experimented with recipes: it did wonders for the pecan pie at Thanksgiving. Mixed with butter (1/4 cup sorghum syrup blended into a stick of unsalted butter), it makes a spectacular spread for a warm biscuit. Sorghum’s great on pancakes, it makes very fine caramels, and it lends a whole new flavor to coffee or tea. (If you want to read more, Rona Robert’s book Sweet, Sweet Sorghum is a good source of both information and recipes.)
I'm a fan of the sorghum made by the Holbrook Brothers in West Liberty Kentucky (they make an intriquing orange variation), but you'll have to give them a call as they don’t have a website. Two others I’d recommend are the Townsend Sorghum Mill’s clean, straightforward product, and the exotic vanilla and bourbon laced sorghum from Bourbon Barrel Foods (and while you’re on that website, check out the terrific Bluegrass Soy Sauce).
Americans now make excellent prosciutto, mozzarella and kim chi, and that makes me very proud. But isn’t it time we rediscovered our own native products? This one's been made in this country since Colonial times.
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