Step out of your vehicle at Terry Norwood’s farm on a spectacularly beautiful fall day — stunningly blue sky, bright sun, cool breezes, patches of yellowing soybeans, vines loaded with ripening muscadines, ancient farm equipment scattered thither and yon — and there is in the air a sugary sweetness, somewhat like, but not quite, the smell of cotton candy at the state fair.

Follow your nose down the grassy slope 50 yards or so to a rustic one-room building, its wooden boards darkened with years of smoke from fires hot as the hinges of Hades, where Norwood and his crew are cooking sorghum syrup that, when teamed with real-honest-to-goodness butter and hot homemade biscuits, constitutes what aficionados consider some of the finest breakfast eatin’ on the planet.sorghum syrup,molasses,sweet sorghum,antique farm equipment

Molasses-making in the U.S. dates back to Colonial America, and until the late 1800s the sorghum product was the sweetener of choice because it was so much cheaper than refined granular sugar. But following World War I, the price of the white stuff dropped drastically and molasses-making fell by the wayside — continued today only in scattered demonstrations at historic sites and by traditionalists like Norwood, who traces ‘lasses-making back to his great-grandfather.

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“I’m the fourth generation of my family making syrup,” he says, all the while raking a hoe-like paddle back and forth through the hot, bubbling liquid. Underneath the vats, a blazing fire heats the juice to a steaming froth, and as it moves from one vat to another, some of the water evaporates and the syrup gradually thickens.

“I grew up around this, and (he laughs) it has become something of my fall obsession.”