Oskaloosa.com

Local News

September 25, 2013

Nelson Pioneer Farm artifact

Do you know what this is?

OSKALOOSA —

This past week's artifact from the Nelson Pioneer Farm was a sorghum press.

A couple people gave their views on the artifact's identity. Dorothy Vos wrote on email: “The artifact in this week’s shopper is a sorghum press.  The top part of the picture shows a slide where the raw sorghum was sent fed down into the press.”

Ron Barrett wrote on Facebook: “paint can mixer?”

Nelson Pioneer Farm curator Kelly Halbert did some research on the artifact.: “This heavy, cast iron, four sided block is a horse-powered sorghum cane press. Sorghum is a molasses-like syrup used for sweetening and tastes very similar; the two can often be substituted for each other. Sorghum cane is grown specifically to make the sweet syrup, unlike molasses which is a by-product of sugar production.

The sorghum cane, planted in early June, comes ripe in the fall. The juice is extracted from the cane by means of the heavy presses that crush the stalk. The cane fields are cut early in the morning and horses or other strong, small and slow power sources push the wooden lever around and around. Crushing the cane is a slow process; only small bundles of cane, 4 or 5 stalks, can be processed at a time. The clear, light yellow-green sorghum juice is filtered and gathered in 10 gallon cans that will be boiled down to 1 gallon of syrup.

Boiling down the syrup takes several hours or even days. A high heat must be maintained to achieve the proper reduction and the juice required constant stirring to avoid scorching or uneven heating.”

The Oskaloosa Herald and the Nelson Pioneer Farm are teaming up to test your knowledge of historical artifacts.

The Nelson Pioneer Farm has about 15,000 artifacts in its collection spanning in age from the 1840s to the present.

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