3 sweeteners you might try in your holiday baking

Chances are good that a variety of sweeteners might be useful in making your holiday treats. Here are three from regional producers:

Sorghum syrup

This is a traditional Southern sweetener, made from the juice of sorghum cane that has been boiled until it reaches a syrup consistency. John and Emma Guenther, who live in the small Tennessee community of Muddy Pond, began the family’s production of sorghum syrup in the 1980s, and now the couple’s sons and their wives run the mill. Much has changed, over the decades, in the harvesting of the cane and production of the syrup, but the process still is powered by wood-fired boilers, and the glass jars of syrup you purchase at the mill still are hand-labeled. For shipping, the syrup now is packaged in plastic jugs. The Muddy Pond Sorghum website has recipes for popcorn balls, barbecue sauce and delicious sorghum cookies that resemble those made with ginger-spiced molasses, but these have a distinctly Southern taste. We substituted sorghum for the corn syrup in our traditional Thanksgiving pecan pie recipe and loved the change.

$25.40 per pint, $33.95 per quart; prices include shipping. Also available at Whole Foods Market. muddypondsorghum.com.

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Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Raw cane sugar

David Hinson founded Old School Brand of Albemarle, North Carolina, in 1992, based on a love of old-school manufacturing equipment for products such as cider, molasses, grits and cornmeal. Now, his widow, Robin, and son, Parker, continue the tradition of offering Southern comfort foods, including a wide range of baking mixes (biscuits, pancakes, cookies, cakes and more), cornmeal, grits, jams, syrups, apple butter and old-fashioned favorites such as peppermint stick candy, cheese straws, country ham, dried apples and raw cane sugar (our new favorite). Robin Hinson recommends using the sugar to top muffins and sweet breads, such as banana and pumpkin, to give them a nice, crunchy topping. “For many years, we operated a bakery/restaurant in which we made and served peach cobbler, sprinkled with this raw sugar,” she said. “It was a top seller from our bakery case, and sugar cookies rolled in this sugar before baking also are terrific.”

$6.99 per 16-ounce package. Available at Floral Park Market, or order at oldschool.com.

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Credit: Jarrod Coffey

Credit: Jarrod Coffey

Spiced apple cider hickory syrup

We were familiar with maple syrup, but hickory syrup? It’s made from hickory bark that has been gathered from sources that don’t harm the trees, and then is roasted, boiled in water to extract the flavor and sweetened. Sometimes, it is made in places where maple syrup cannot be produced. In May 2017, Beth and Bruce Palmer founded Sutton Mill Creek Syrup Co. in Clarkesville, after they purchased a bottle of hickory syrup, and liked it so much that they decided to reproduce it. Experimentation resulted in a recipe, and they began selling the syrup at local festivals. Now, they offer their original hickory syrup and 10 other flavors, including spiced apple cider hickory syrup, a winner in the 2022 University of Georgia Flavor of Georgia competition, and roasted pecan hickory, which was a finalist in 2020. We tried the spiced apple cider version, which lives up to its name. It’s thick, sweet and rich with apple-pie spices, which made it perfect as the sweetener for our Thanksgiving apple pie, and also great for stirring into an apple cider hot toddy.

$9.99 per 8-ounce bottle, $14.99 per 12-ounce bottle. Available at Farmview Market in Madison, Jaemor Farm in Alto and at suttonmillcreek.com.

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