Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Monday, April 4, 2011

Maple Syrup: It's not just for pancakes anymore...

Spring is here. 

Or at least it's supposed to be here. 

It was here for a while, and I can prove it! For a whole week around mid-March the maple sap was flowing in Perth County - the surest sign of spring there is - and I got a bottle of genuine 2011 'liquid gold' to prove it!

The biggest local food discovery I made over the winter was when I met Terry and Diane Hoover (above) of Hoover's Maple Syrup in Atwood (just south of Listowel). Every spring, these folks tap 1500 maple trees and run the sap up from their bush to their sugar shack using a vacuum pump (that can even trick the trees into producing by simulating ideal barometric conditions for sap to start running!). They are the only fully "Certified Organic" syrup producer I have ever come across, a distinction that is well earned due to their complete avoidance of chemical cleaners or any other chemical products in their production process.

When I visited the Hoover's operation last Saturday it was, alas, dormant. It was just a little too cold that day for the sap to be running. I was told that I should have been there earlier that week - a celebrity chef from the Food Network Canada (who shall remain unnamed but who also shot a show at Perth Pork Products last year) had shown up right when the sap started running. Only days before, she'd filmed a whole episode of her "field to fork" series at the Hoover's farm! 

I was satisfied to hang out and have a chat with Terry about his recent TV adventures, and to pick up a fresh bottle of Medium maple syrup (and some maple candy for the kids), especially because I knew I'd be experiencing more maple later that day...

The More With Maple tasting session took place at Let Them Eat Cake's new location on Albert Street. There was a good crowd in attendance, including a large contingent of Toronto's most avid food bloggers (who I have dubbed "The Bloggerati"). The theme of the day was learning to use maple syrup as more than just a condiment for pancakes.

Terry and Diane introduced the event with a talk about all things maple. Everyone was treated to samples of Light and Amber maple syrup, and the consensus in the room was that the Amber was the finest (although I kind of liked the Light, which suggests that my original choice of Medium earlier that day was probably a good call).

Then it was time for the cooking demonstration. Chef Wendy from Let Them Eat Cake (a diminutive woman who wears a chef's coat with the badge "Kitchen Czar" sown onto it) presented a soup, a main course and a dessert that all used maple syrup to provide the dish with a sweet component.

The first creation Wendy demonstrated for us was a pureed soup made from maple-baked beets. This was remarkably easy and tasted fantastic... the sweet beets and the sweet syrup were countered by a dollop of rich sour cream, but the maple flavour still really shone through.

But it was the next demonstration that stole the show for me and the other bloggers. Before our eyes, Chef Wendy proceeded to put together a homemade smoker using a couple of aluminum foil roasting pans and wood shavings, then smoked a cured fillet of trout to perfection right there on the table top stove element!

When we all got to taste the smoked fish, the trout was wonderfully delicate and the maple glaze was a natural match for the maple smoke. Chef Wendy's technique is something I am definitely going to try, hopefully with a couple of trout I catch myself next month!

The final dish was a pear tarte created on the spot by the expert hand of Wendy. I reckon you don't get to be the chef at a place called "Let Them Eat Cake" without some serious skills in the pastry department... Wendy proved her mastery with this incredible dessert using maple pastry cream and topped with a pastry swan (just in time for the Swan Weekend!).

Slow Food Perth County is having our second annual Foraging Event at the Hoover's farm on May 14, 2011, from 10 am to 2 pm. Check out the website closer to the date for event details and come out for some fun picking fiddleheads and/or morels and/or wild leeks under the guidance of master forager Peter Blush. After we're going to have a picnic at the farm using foraged product... and I have the feeling some maple syrup will be involved!

1 comment:

  1. Just got an update on Twitter that Hoover's Maple Syrup is available all week in the downstairs food space at Anything Grows, and of course on Sundays (10 am to 2 pm until June) during the Slow Food Market!