On a trip to south-western Ontario I was privileged to meet some wonderful farmers,
Through meeting this generous couple I was able to better understand maple syrup. Canada produces more than 80 per cent of the world’s maple syrup and given my family history (my grandmother
Historically, maple syrup was almost always made by small self-sufficient dairy farmers for their own consumption, and any leftover syrup was sold at the local market or at a roadside stall as a way of supplementing their income.
The time-honoured way of gathering the maple sap is to bore a hole into the trunk and hang a small tin underneath it to collect the precious nectar. Nowadays sap is mostly gathered through tubing systems running through the forest from tree to tree using a gravity feed or vacuum to draw the sap through the line back to the ‘shack’.
Once collected the sap must be carefully boiled down without chemicals or additives to the desired consistency. This is traditionally done in a large steel pan over an open fire inside the ‘shack’ and takes many hours of constant attention. The reduction process of maple syrup involves boiling
After a tour of the farm and neighbouring maple syrup production I enjoyed a truly fantastic lunch with
On my return home, I began to think about the flavours of agriculture in cooking and this pleasant memory sprung into mind. For our Tuesday night Chef’s Table I recreated ‘Canadian grilled cheese’ with maple syrup and paired it with an ice cream flavoured with toasted hay. One customer told me the taste took them back to a childhood of happy summers spent with family harvesting bales of hay. What a great memory of farming life.
Warm serving bowls in the oven.
Divide the clarified butter between two non-stick frying pans. Add a sandwich to each and gently cook until golden and crisp on both sides. Check that the cheese is melted before removing from the pans. Slice each sandwich into 2 fingers, discarding the crusts.
Place the grilled cheese in the middle of each bowl. Place
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