Syrup making, in addition to being a sideline business on Terry Norwood's Mississippi farm, has over the years also been something of a social event, he says, with people dropping in to watch and talk. “Some of the biggest tales you’d ever hear have been told by folks sitting around under the trees while syrup is being cooked,” he says. He sells the sweet treat locally, and ships it nationally and internationally.
1. SYRUP SHACK
For 33 years, Terry Norwood has cooked and bottled his Rocky Ford Sweet Sorghum Syrup in this rustic building on his Mississippi farm.
2. FOR SALE
There's no honey for sale, but Terry Norwood says he couldn't resist using the decades-old sign he found on an old store building in Arkansas.
3. SMELLIN' SWEET
Exhaust fans waft sugary smells of cooking sorghum syrup to visitors to Terry Norwood's syrup shack. The wooden exterior has been blackened over decades by the heat and smoke from cooking fires.
4. FUEL FOR THE FIRE
A huge rick of slab pine provides the fuel for the blazing hot fire needed to cook juice from the sweet sorghum grown on the Norwood farm.
5. HOTTER THAN...
"It's hotter than the hinges of Hades," Norwood says of the wood fire used to cook the syrup.
6. BUBBLING UP
The white hot heat from the wood fire heats the sorghum juice to nearly 250 degrees, producing frothy bubbles that evaporate some of the water content and thicken the syrup.
7. STIRRING GOODNESS
Almost constant stirring of the boiling syrup breaks up the bubbly froth and helps thicken the syrup.
Cooked syrup comes out of the vats at about 235 degrees.
9. FINAL STRAINING
Jacob Norwood pours hot syrup through a straining cloth to remove any bits of sorghum pith that might have got through the cooking process.
10. FILL 'EM UP
Syrup is bottled in three sizes: pint, 1-1/2 quart, and gallon. Bottles are topped with lids that have tamper-proof inner seals.
11. READY TO GO
Full bottles of sweet sorghum syrup are ready for sale at the farm or for shipment to customers across the U.S. and in several foreign countries.
12. CONTAINER ART
A scene from early-era sorghum crushing adorns the 1-1/2 quart syrup bottles.
13. TALL STALKS
In the field, Jacob Norwood checks stalks of sweet sorghum before cutting. When cut, stacks of deheaded stalks remain in the field for three to five days to enhance sweetness of the juice.
14. STACKED UP
Piles of sorghum stalks await the crushing machine.
15. FIELD WORK
The crushing machine pulls a 300-gallon tank, into which the sorghum juice is piped.
16. IN IT GOES
Andy Taylor feeds stalks of sweet sorghum into the crushing machine that extracts the juice.
17. POWER MILL
Pulleys and belts provide the power to pull the sorghum stalks through the crusher rollers.
18. EXTRACTING JUICE
Stalks of sorghum are crushed between rollers and the juice flows out into a 300-gallon container.
19. SAVING SEED
In addition to growing sweet sorghum for his syrup-making operation, Terry Norwood also grows additional acreage to produce seed for Mississippi State University.
20. COOLING DOWN
Sorghum juice from the field is emptied into stainless steel milk coolers, lowering the temperature to 38 degrees. It's held at that level until ready for cooking.
21. STILL WORKS
This 60-year-old John Deere corn binder is still used by Norwood in harvesting his sweet sorghum.
22. BACK IN THE DAY
Early day syrup makers used mule-drawn machines such as this to crush sorghum stalks and extract juice. Terry Norwood has a collection of old syrup-making equipment for visitors to see.
23. OLD TIMES
This crushing machine is well over 100 years old.
24. FAMILY FUN
Terry and Debbie Norwood's 1-1/2 year old grandson, Lem Tate, loves to play driving the old machines on the farm. From left are Terry, Debbie, Lem, Jacob Norwood, and Allison Norwood-Tate.
25. SEASONAL DECORATIONS
Debbie Norwood's front porch decorations reflect the season.
26. A STUDY IN TIME
Items on a shelf in the lean-to on the back of the cooking house.
27. COOKING CREW
From left, Terry Norwood, Jacob Norwood, and Austin Jumper. In a good day, they can cook and bottle 50 gallons of the yummy syrup.