Sunday, October 21, 2012

Minnesota Maple Syrups

Growing up, Sunday's were full of syrup, from pancakes to waffles and french toast.  I remember these amazing teddy bears and hearts my mom used to freehand with pancake batter.  Now people just use pancake or cookie molds to get shapes.  It was not pure maple syrup that graced our table, but rather Mrs. Butterworth's and Hungry Jack.  For a growing family, and with kids who wouldn't have appreciated the deep intense flavor of pure maple syrup it was great.  Now, however I crave the real deal, and wanted to compare some locally made syrup.  We aren't Vermont, but we have some nice producers in the state.

First up was Three River's Farm maple syrup from Elko,MN.  This syrup was the darkest of the three, which I would call a Grade A dark amber. This has a very intense, robust maple syrup flavor.  It works well as table syrup, or in recipes where it needs to cut through a fat or other ingredients to shine through.  I would use this in our maple syrup roasted chicken and other cooking purposes.

Wild Country Store
Second was Wild Country from Lutsen, MN. This is slightly lighter than Three River's and I would call it a Grade A medium amber. Again, a very nice flavor, and not as thick as the previous.  This syrup is light enough that I think it would do nicely in recipes that do not involve heat or reducing the syrup at all.  This is the syrup I used in the Maple Dijon Dressing recipes last week.

 Third was Lutsen's Caribou Cream.  This is a much smaller operation than Wild Country, and maybe this is why it has a much more delicate flavor and I would call it a Grade A light amber. This is fantastic as table syrup, as you can get a clear sense of of the light smokey flavor.  I would also use it in dressings and other simple recipes.

Caribou Cream's Operation
Caribou Cream was my favorite of the three for an everyday syrup, though all three were high quality and I would use for different purposes.  However, with an ounce costing $1 versus $.14 for intimidation maple syrup I see why I grew up with the grocery market variety.  It was a joy to tour both Caribou Cream and Wild Country.  I met both sugerbush operators, and learned how it is a true labor of love.  Everything is done by hand here, from tapping the trees in the snow, repairing lines all year around, and finally the production end.  It takes nearly 60 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup.  Pretty amazing! 

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