Friday, April 25, 2014

Stovetop Maple Kettle Corn - & a visit to Snyder Heritage Farms

A trip out to Snyder Heritage Farms during Syrup Season

On Saturday I spoke with Kevin Snyder from Snyder Heritage Farms about getting a frozen turkey and seeing their maple syrup operation.  He invited me out that day telling me that the sap flow may to be nearing its end.

When I arrived that afternoon I had trouble locating the sugar house because I didn’t see any building that was producing tons of smoke and steam.  Eventually I spotted a tractor with a huge stainless steel tank attached to it next to a building with a chimney emitting a bit of steam, and figured that must be it.  When I got over to the building Kevin spotted me and invited me in.  I didn’t really know what to expect but was very impressed with what I saw.

The Snyder’s boiler is a beautiful piece of equipment.  About 20 feet long, with one smoke stack and two steam stacks rising to the roof I asked why so little steam and smoke were visible coming out of the chimney.  Kevin explained to me that this was due to the extremely high efficiency of the boilers design.  Although it’s burning firewood, it actually achieves complete combustion thanks to the design which allows the smoke leaving the initial fire to re-burn creating more heat.  This means that the fumes leaving the smoke stack are really just pure water and CO2, rather than a dark sooty smoke  that might be seen leaving a less modern sugar shack.  Thanks to the high efficiency of the system the sugar house air was clean and comfortable to be in, not thick and hot.  It was clear that the energy being consumed was going straight to the sap with very little of it being wasted. 

Another level of efficiency is achieved even before the sap reaches the boiler, because first it passes through a reverse osmosis system increasing the sugar concentration of the sap from about 2% to 10%.  The sap then needs to be boiled to drive off more water and reach a concentration of close to 70% sugar, but considering that the reverse osmosis system saves energy consumption by 50% or more it’s a very important system to have.

In addition to their maple trees, all the firewood used is also grown on the Snyder’s farm, making their maple syrup a truly locally produced sweetener.  In fact the same goes for the GMO-free feed they give their turkeys—it’s all grown right on their farm.

Ideally there would be a recipe here that features turkey and maple syrup all together, but I don’t have one of those yet!  The recipe that follows is just our family’s favourite use of maple syrup!

Stovetop Maple Kettle Corn

½ cup local popcorn
2-3 tbsp. local oil
As much maple syrup and butter as you would put on your pancakes…
A dash of salt

Heat your oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the popcorn when the oil is hot, briefly stirring to distribute the kernels and oil evenly, then cover the pot.  When the popcorn is done popping turn off the heat and add the syrup and butter.  Stir until the syrup and better have disappeared, add a dash of salt, and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Enjoy!

The more syrup you add the more it will caramelize, but I find that just a little bit of syrup is how I like it best.  Maybe 2-3 tablespoons is enough for my taste.  It adds a nice maple flavour with a subtle sweetness, without creating too decadent of a snack. 

This makes a great snack in school lunches, or in the car on road trips.  On one particular trip the maple kettle corn we brought helped me make it through the night!

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