Hey Sugar, move over.  SORGHUM's in the house!

SORGHUM is a grain from the grass family Poaceae.  About 70% of all species originated in Australia, with the remaining strains coming from Africa, Asia, islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Most strains are used as animal fodder, but one, Sorghum bicolor,  is grown for grain and is an important food crop worldwide, especially in Africa, Central America and South Asia.  It also is used for animal fodder, alcoholic beverages in Asia, and even biofuels.  Sorghum cultivation in the US initially started in the Midwest in 1860's but eventually  moved to its final destination in the South.

Sorghum can actually convert the sun's energy into chemical energy, is drought tolerant, and its high sugar content can be used for ethanol production, with along with biomass, can be turned into charcoal, syngas, and bio-oil.

But the sorghum we're talking about today has a special place at the Southern table.  Sorghum syrup is made from 100% pure juice extracted from the sorghum cane, which grows to be 8+ feet tall.  The cane is harvested, crushed for its juice, and then cooked in massive pans until it transforms into syrup.  It takes 10 gallons of juice to make 1 gallon of syrup, and for artisan sorghum makers, like the folks at Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill, the process is humanly, but tightly controlled so that the sugar content and flavor is consistent.

And unlike white or processed sugars, corn syrup and other highly refined sweeteners, sorghum retains a pretty impressive nutritional profile - it's 11% protein, loaded with B vitamins, several minerals, iron and manganeses.  Its nutritional profile is closest to raw oats; it contains no gluten, has tons of flavor, so its ideal for gluten-free diets.

A dab of sorghum on your tongue evokes notes of molasses, mixed with malt, a little honey, and something a little vegetal in quality.  It is truly delicious and caramelizes wonderfully on Virginia's Sorghum Butter Roast Chicken.  I'm excited to try it in a fresh granola, in lieu of molasses for cookies, and atop some ice cream or pie.  Hopefully, you will, too.


virginia willis' sorghum butter roast chicken


CHICKEN:  4 to 4 1/2 pounds, giblets and excess fat removed, and spatchcocked (click to get the lesson).

BRINE:  1/2 cup coarse kosher salt dissolved in 4 quarts of hot water, cooled with 8 cups ice cubes.

SAUCE:   1/2 cup sorghum syrup, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 4 TB unsalted butter - melted together

MISC:    cracked black pepper, vegetable spray, sheet pan, foil, cooling rack


1.  Clean and spatchcock your chicken, set into the brine and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. The brine will keep the chicken succulent and season it as well.  If you want to skip this step, use a KOSHER CHICKEN which is already brined as part of the koshering process.  Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse and dry with paper towels.

2.  Preheat your oven to 350.  Line a sheet pan in a couple of layers of foil, spray a cooling rack generously with vegetable oil spray, and set the rack in the sheet pan.

3.  Season the chicken all over with freshly ground pepper (no need for salt; it's brined).  Brush the sauce all over the chicken, reserving about 1/4 for later.

4.  Roast the chicken, breast side up, tucking the wing tips under the bird, and turning the legs so they look knock-kneed (that will expose the thighs to more even temperature and browning).

5.  At the 45 minute mark, remove the chicken from the oven, brush the remaining sauce on top, and cook for 5-10 minutes more until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs reads 155.  Remove the chicken and tent with foil for 10 minutes before carving and serving. (You can rescue some of the sauce that has dripped down, and re-brush the chicken one more time). There will be no leftovers.  It's just too good.

Recipe courtesy of Virginia Willis - from Secrets of the Southern Table