Broomcorn Wreath and The Bitter Southerner No. 1

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The circumstances that led to the creation of this wreath are pretty darn specific, but the general idea is highly adaptable. So, while my personal step one was to get engaged three and a half years ago, you can jump ahead to step eight or nine.

Ah, indeed my DIY days go back pretty far and as a result, my wedding was…pinteresting. But in a good way! Yes, there were Mason jars with burlap cuffs. But those Mason jars were filled with broomcorn that I had grown and dried myself!

In a good way, I promise. Ask Julia.

And, as someone averse to waste and relatively proud of her own gardening achievements, I kept all that broomcorn and other assorted dried flowers to use at a later date. It just so happens that later date was Thanksgiving weekend, two years and a few weeks after that wonderful day.

Broomcorn

Broomcorn is some pretty fun stuff to grow and subsequently work with, but it’s history is even more interesting. For centuries, people all over the world have used it to make brooms. Benjamin Franklin is credited with bringing broomcorn seeds back to America from France (I believe) in the 1700s. It became a major crop and brooms became a huge export industry back around the turn of the 20th century.

Broomcorn in the gardenIn the garden, broomcorn grows between six and fifteen feet tall, which is pretty much the most fun ever. It grows very quickly and straight up, so it is cool to watch its progress over the summer months. The brush of the broomcorn turns a bright green when it is ready to be harvested and it is then harvested in stages. In order to allow the brush to dry a bit before taking out of the field, the harvester “tables” the broomcorn by bending the stalks down. When done in a field of the stuff, the bent stalks create a flat surface that looks like a table. After a few days, the brush are cut off the stalk, let dry on top of the table for a couple of days, and then hung to dry for several weeks.

Broomcorn closeupOnce dried, there are tons of ways to use it decoratively. I’ve never tried to make a broom with my harvest, but I’m sure you could find tips for that elsewhere. Here, we’re making a wreath.


Wreaths are very easy to put together and can look rather amazing. My mom has been making her own wreaths for as long as I can remember, so I looked to her for help (aka doing all the work while I took pictures). You can use pretty much whatever material you want–Mom has used dried lavender (which is absolutely gorgeous), a combo of dried eucalyptus and broomcorn, dried wheat, etc. Just make sure you have enough on hand to cover up the straw wreath form and you should be good to go.

Materials:

  • Straw wreath form, like this one
  • Greening pins (found at JoAnn fabric store, but also readily available online)
  • Assorted dried flowers, broomcorn, lavender, etc.

MaterialsAlso, you will need scissors.

A straw wreath form allows you to cover the whole form with your material, which can create a pretty cool look. Grapevine wreath forms can also make really great wreaths, but that is a very different look.

Procedure:

Essentially, you want to group your material in bunches, pinning and cutting where appropriate. The goal is to cover up the pins with your material as you work your way around the wreath.

Pinned broomcornIt is easier to pin and then cut, but you do you.

As you work your way around, you want to make sure to cover up the straw on the inside and the outside of the circle as best you can.

Working around the formBroomcorn, or some similarly shaped material, is pretty ideal for this kind of application. It drapes and curves with the wreath form and has a good deal of volume already.

Once you have worked your way around the entire wreath form, take time to fill in any light or wonky spots with what you have left over. Ours isn’t even all around, but I kind of like it that way.

Final wreathThe greening pins are really the key to this project–you can use hot glue, but seriously. Just buy the pins.



The Bitter Southerner No. 1

This cocktail was created for the website The Bitter Southerner by a bar owner/tender in Atlanta and sums up all the elements I wanted to pair with this project perfectly. Broomcorn is a variety of sorghum, which this cocktail uses in syrup form as its sweetener, and bourbon’s primordial sludge is made with lots of corn mash. In addition to tying in the corn/sorghum element, the cocktail uses Fernet Branca, of which H&H is a well-known fan.

Sorghum isn’t the easiest ingredient to find and is why this post has taken some time to get up. I ended up finding it at a health food store in Asheville, although I’m sure it could be procured online. You could replace it with molasses or honey, but if you can find it, you should. It has a very distinct flavor that pairs well with the combination of bourbon and Fernet.

Also, we did not use Booker’s for this cocktail for a couple of reasons. #1: don’t have any on hand. #2: don’t have $50 to spend on a mixing liquor. #3: just no. We used our house favorite Benchmark No. 8 and it worked just fine.

Bitter Southerner cocktailIngredients:

  • 2 oz. Booker’s bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Fernet Branca
  • 2 dashes Fee’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
  • 3/4 oz. sorghum syrup

Heat equal parts sorghum and water until they come together. Allow to cool before using in the drink.

Combine the ingredients and stir with ice until cold. Strain into a chilled coupe or champagne glass.

Garnish with a flamed orange peel.*

*Flaming an orange peel is entirely too much fun to skip on this cocktail. It’s a little scary the first time, but not difficult at all. You want a round of thick orange peel and don’t worry about getting too much pith. It doesn’t matter. Light the match and hold the peel a few inches above the cocktail. Warm the peel with the flame for a couple of seconds. Squeeze the peel over the match and cocktail and pull away as the oil flares up. Watch the video on our Instagram for an expert, aka third timer, demonstration.

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