PHOTOGRAPHS FROM OUR PAST

2016 has been a very special year. Thank you for your support.
Macauley, age 3, loves to help out in the cook house. Here she is, all smiles, holding up a bottle of her Uncle Josh's Sorghum.
Uncle Josh's Sorghum was featured in the popular online blog, "TIMBER 2 TABLE", written by Michael Pendley for the Realtree Camouflage website. Uncle Josh's Sorghum is a staple ingrediant, along with another Kentucky favorite, bourbon, in this delicious wild turkey brine, topped off with Alabama White Sauce.
Click here for the recipe!
Michael Pendley, author of "TIMBER 2 TABLE", a poplar blog on Realtree Camouflage's website frequently uses Uncle Josh's Sorghum in the kitchen. This time in a delicious recipe for grilled elk steaks!
Click here for the recipe!
Click here for more information on TIMBER 2 TABLE!
Here is a full line up of our ‘vintage bottle’ series. 42-ounce, 21-ounce, 8-ounce holiday edition, and 3-ounce souvenir size. We can also supply our original 32-ounce and 16-ounce clear plastic bottles, half-gallon and gallon size plastic jugs upon request.
We’ve changed our packaging numerous times over the years, but a glass jar full of warm sorghum will never go out of style. This particular jar was bottled because it was over 81 % Brix, with a medium thickness, light color and a mild flavor.
This is the current setup of our gravity fed storage tank, evaporator pan and furnace inside our cooking facility. This picture was taken just after we fired up. You can see the steam starting to rise.
This is a picture of our sorghum breeding trial field. 6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens started his sorghum breeding project in 2015. Each stake represents a different variety. So far he has worked with over 50 varieties of sorghum, including a rare landraces from Africa and India. In another effort to continually improve the quality of our products, we're going back to the building blocks of our sorghum cane, the genetics.
The thermometer reads about 230 degrees F. This syrup is finished boiling into sorghum and ready to be taken off the pan slowly. Each of the last few baffles (rows) of the pan each have a distinct color, boil and smell.
It was an early start on this chilly September morning. Just after I had fired up the pan in the cookhouse, I took this picture of my father, 5th Generation Sorghum Producer Freddie Stephens starting his day in the harvesting machine.
An in-cab view from our self-propelled harvesting machine. The harvesting unit you see pictured was designed and built by our family. Here the machine is harvesting a crop of sorghum cane.
Our little buddy, Jackson, sure does love Uncle Josh’s Sorghum. He was pretty excited to take this picture, but he was a little more excited about our delicious sorghum suckers.
This is what our mobile cooking unit looks like on the inside. Stainless steel pan with a steel furnace below, covered with diamond plate. The small tank on the stand is the juice supply for the pan. The two white propane tanks fuel the pan.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens is present for every festival we attend. He’s a wealth of information for curious spectators to quiz. Having produced sorghum for nearly 70 years, there aren’t many questions he can’t answer.
The Uncle Josh’s Sorghum ‘Mobile Cooking Unit’ has toured to many fall festivals to demonstrate how to cook sorghum. This 2008 picture features 6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens.
Setting up for fall festivals has become a normal thing for our family. The pictured setup was at Jackson’s Orchard’s Pumpkin Festival in 2008 in Bowling Green, Ky.
A family photo session at the 2008 Hancock County Sorghum Festival. This family photo includes three generations of sorghum producers.
In 2006, 6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens began producing sorghum under his own label, Uncle Josh’s Sorghum. This picture from The Hancock Clarion was taken in 2008.
The first version of our self-propelled mechanically automated harvesting system. We began using this machine in 2007. Before this unit harvesting 100 gallons of sorghum cane juice could take up to five hours. With this machine it takes under an hour to harvest 100 gallons of juice.
The cotton picker looks nothing like the day when it was purchased. The cab has been moved back and lowered on the frame. The large cotton collection bin and harvesting units were removed and a storage tank for juice was added to the top. We also installed a secondary hydraulic system to the machine to operate the harvester attachment.
The harvest unit above was the core of our first version of a mechanically automated harvest system. We modified this unit to work with our new machine.
In 2006, 4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens traveled to southern Mississippi to purchase a John Deere Cotton Picker. He hauled the machine home to Kentucky and began converting it to harvest sorghum. The old owner of the machine seems to be excited to get rid of the machine in this picture.
A picture of our newest pan being built. It was close to being complete when this picture was taken. It has cooked hundreds of batches of sorghum since this day.
Soon after our new cookhouse was completed, we set out to improve our cooking pan. Pictured above is a worker at the welding shop working on the pan we currently use. This design incorporates individual C-shaped baffles that are welded together. We’ve used the same pan for over a decade.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens accepts the ‘National Best Tasting Sorghum Award’ from the National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Associations Annual Convention. He received the award in 2004.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens accepts a silver platter award for “Best Tasting Sorghum’ at the Hancock County Sorghum Festival.
Our new indoor cookhouse is almost complete. Our first year of sorghum cooking in our new facility was 2002. This facility is state-inspect and FDA approved annually. We are committed to continually improving the quality of our syrup, and this facility was a huge step.
Another picture from the renovation of our new cookhouse. The pan and furnace were set in place with tractors before the walls were built.
The beginning of our current cookhouse. Many tools we use in the cookhouse are extremely large and had to be placed in the building before all the walls were built. Here you can see a stainless steel bottling tank, storage tank and two sinks
The pre-heater tank is full of chilled juice that was recently pumped from the cooling tank. About three hours after this picture was taken, the juice would have been pasteurized and cooked to semi-syrup, with much of it’s impurities already separated out.
The red propane burner at the bottom, left of the picture will be ignited and placed inside the heating tube. You can also see the exhaust pipe that leads outside the building. The preheating process takes two to three hours to complete. The juice is cooked to 180 degrees F, which pasteurizes it.
This picture was taken the day our preheating tank was finished being modified. This 375 gallon stainless steel tank now includes an eight inch stainless steel tube that wraps around the inside of the tank. This system allows us to remove the majority of chlorophyll and other impurities from the juice before the cooking process begins.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens receives some help from a young student on a field trip. This indoor cooking setup dates back around the late 1990’s.
We commonly have visitors during harvest time. Our family has long been known to cook sorghum, so people know where and when to come. Pictured above is a group of students from a local elementary school on a field trip.
Our first attempt at harvesting in the field was a pull-behind unit that was powered by the tractor’s PTO. A juice tank was trailed behind the harvester unit to hold juice that was pumped from a the pan under the mill.
The first version of our mechanically automated harvest system. The front of the machine is from a silage chopper. The snout, cutter bar and collection chains feed sorghum cane upside down into the homemade mill (bright red) located behind them.
Before our mechanically automated harvest system, we used this corn binder to cut and group stalks of cane. We would then load the bundles on pallets that would be driven to a stationary mill by a tractor.
Soon after the purchase of our first ‘high-boy’ machine, we bought another. Here they are both pictured in front of the workshop getting serviced prior to harvest.
Our family purchased a corn detassler and converted it to work in sorghum production. This machine with the de-heading attachment removes the heads of two rows of sorghum cane. Before this machine we de-headed sorghum cane manually with a long knife. We would walk down the rows, gather a few canes by hand, bend them over, and cut off the seedheads with the other hand. This machine turned an all-day project into a two-hour job.
At the time, our biggest break-through in our harvesting system. An automated leaf-stripping machine (and seed head removal- previous picture). Leaves and seed heads contain a large amount of starch; removal plays an important role in the boiling process. All of the chairs in the background are a good indication of how many vistors stop by in the fall.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens is pictured in a copy of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer grinding sorghum cane with an old-fashioned, mule-drawn mill. The mule in this picture was named Jack. He appeared at many festivals with us.
A newspaper clipping of a early 2000’s Hancock County Sorghum Festival with a crowd of people swarming the event. Sorghum production has always caused a big stir in our community every fall.
Over the years our family has helped teach many people how to cook sorghum syrup. Pictured here are longtime family friends Lee and Pam Newberry. The pictured indoor setup dates this picture to the late 1990's.
Cleo Stephens works the sales booth one year at the Hancock County Sorghum Festival. You can see pre-packaged sorghum bottles on the table ready to sell to the line of customers.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens cooking a batch of sorghum on one of our travel pans, one year at the Hancock County Sorghum Festival. The festival is always a big hit for the community.
‘Jack” was a good friend of ours every fall for many years at the Hancock County Sorghum Festival. In the foreground lays a stack of sorghum cane ready to be ground. In the background is a pile of already ground sorghum cane.
4th and 6th Generation Sorghum Producers Irvin and Joshua Stephens work a mule-drawn mill one year at the Hancock County Sorghum Festival. Irvin used a mill similar to this when he first began making sorghum on his own. We now use a mechanically automated harvesting system.
A young 6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens working the ‘green end’ of the pan. Working the juice end of the pan included the non-stop task of skimming. Our current pre-heating system eliminates the majority of skimming.
4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens cooking a batch of sorghum syrup. This photo predates our pre-heating system because of the size of the skimming barrel in the background. In the foreground you see another attempt at cooling sorghum. This time, directly in the bucket of freshly made sorghum. This technique has since been improved.
6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens at a young age filling a gallon sized plastic container with sorghum syrup. Bottling always occurs after cooking is finished and the syrup has had time to cool off.
A young 6th Generation Sorghum Producer Joshua Stephens, well before earning the title of Uncle Josh. Here he is pictured feeding sorghum cane into a stationary mill. Since the blue collection barrel we used during this time is laid on top of the mill, I’d say this was a staged photo.
The coil pictured above was an attempt to cool sorghum that has recently come off of the pan. Sorghum reaches temperatures of 227-232 degrees F before running off the pan. As long as it is above 180 degrees it continues to cook. This technique has since been improved.
A picture of (at the time) a newly acquired stainless steel bottling tank. The building in the background was my grandfather’s old workshop. It was converted into our first indoor cook house. The cookhouse that we use today stands in the place of the original building.
4th and 6th Generation Sorghum Producers Irvin and Joshua haul in a load of sorghum cane to be ground at a stationary mill in the 1990's.
Our farm’s first greenhouse built by 4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens. We used this hothouse to start sorghum seed in floating, Styrofoam trays (tobacco trays). Once the plants were three to four inches they would be placed in an outside float bed. Once they reached ten to twelve inches, they would be transplanted into the fields.
The morning sun creeps over as the sorghum pan boils away. It must have been a cool morning because this cook is wearing long sleeves. The ‘skimmer’ that you see pictured is used to separate chlorophyll and other impurities from the juice.
Hot sorghum syrup is slowly drizzling off the pan, through a filter and into a collection pail. Filtration at run-off is something we’ve invested considerable time improving over the years. This is one of many techniques we’ve experimented with that is no longer in use.
Raw, natural sorghum cane juice flowing from a hose, through a filter, onto the evaporation pan. Our modern-day pre-heating system eliminates the majority of chlorophyll and other impurities that give juice the slimy appearance you see above.
A quart-size glass jar being filled with freshly made sorghum syrup. This jar was labeled prior to being filled.
Cleo Stephens filling glass jars with freshly made sorghum syrup in the 1990’s. After bottling was complete, she would begin labeling the jars with front and rear labels.
Nathan Hale, brother to Cleo Stephens, was a local celebrity among newspaper reporters. The article mentions that around 70 gallons were produced that year. With our current production system regularly cook more than 70 gallons in a day.
An old horse drawn mill that 4th Generation Sorghum Producer Irvin Stephens modernized. A chain driven motor was attached to power the mill to improve production.
Nathan Hale, brother of Cleo Stephens, helped our family produce sorghum for many, many years. Each fall he would spend hours feeding a mill that would supply juice to the pan down the hill.
A newspaper article reporting about members of our local community banded together for a friend in need. The jars were covered with a special label that read ‘Made by the friends of Verrell Crowe.
5th Generation Sorghum Producer, Freddie Stephens and long-time family friend Dale Hanson boil down sorghum in the open-faced building. Between the two cooks you can see a large stack of glass mason jars that would soon be filled with sorghum. In the background you can see trunks of our customer’s cars open to stash away their new goods.
Gary Hayden (son-in-law to Irvin) and long-time family friend Glenn Jackson cook cane juice down into sorghum. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s our family cooked sorghum in a building with two open ends. This building has since been converted into a workshop and a new building built for cooking.

Contact Us

Uncle Josh’s Sorghum

8865 State Route 69

Hawesville, Kentucky 42348

Sales@UncleJoshsSorghum.com