Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Trees, Sweeter Maple Syrup - Coomb's Family Farms

When I got an e-mail last week asking if I'd like to review some organic maple products from Coombs Family Farms out of nearby Brattleboro, VT, I was more than willing. I love real maple syrup - not just for its pancake enhancing abilities, but also for the flavor and depth it adds to so many foods - sweet and savory. And I was curious to find out exactly what would make this maple syrup any more "organic" than what I buy locally and whether that would come through in the taste. I didn't have to wait long to find out, as package was waiting for me when I got home on Friday. (What better way to start the weekend than surprise packages, right?!)

When I opened the package, I found a nice bottle of grade B organic maple syrup, some maple candy and a bunch of wonderful recipes to use the syrup in - everything from Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce to Maple Mojitos! (You know me - I'll be keeping that mojito recipe handy. But it just didn't seem appropriate for breakfast this morning!)

So you ask, as I did, what makes some maple syrup organic and some not? It really starts at the source - the maple trees. These trees are old friends to the small independent farmers who make up the Coombs Family Farms cooperative and they treat them just as you would a dear friend. No chemical fertilizers are used on or even near the trees, and "healthy taps" are used to ensure the trees aren't overtapped for short term gains, to the detriment of the trees. These healthy taps reduce the damage to the trees by as much as 50% or more, which explains why Arnold Coombs, the current proprietor of this 7th generation maple farm, is still tapping trees that his great great grandfather tapped over 140 years ago. And of course, there are never any preservatives or additives in Coombs maple syrup - just pure, sweet golden goodness.

So, how does it measure up? Incredibly! I had Mr. ValleyWriter do a blind taste test between some non-organic grade B maple syrup we bought locally this winter, the Coombs Family Farms grade B maple syrup and some fake pancake syrup I have on hand (in case we get a young breakfast guest who doesn't "do" maple syrup.)

Being a true New Englander, Mr. ValleyWriter spotted the fake stuff (all the way on the right) right off the bat. Too sweet and sticky and not mapley enough for us. Next he tried the non-organic syrup (left), then the organic (middle), then the non-organic, then the organic again. It took him a minute, but he was able to pick out the organic syrup. Even though it was the same grade as the non-organic syrup, the organic syrup was a little lighter and sweeter on the tongue, but it still had all the wonderful maple flavor we so love.

While grade B syrup is often considered more of a cooking syrup due to its higher viscosity and deeper flavor, this organic syrup has the best of both worlds - easily pourable and full of deep, rich flavor. I don't know for sure, but it seems to me that happier trees must just make sweeter syrup!

For being such a good sport, I had to make Mr. ValleyWriter something special for breakfast. And while this maple syrup would be good on pancakes, that wasn't quite the ticket this morning. Instead, I changed up my drop scone recipe to make a maple raisin scone, complete with crumbled 100% pure maple candy (also from the Coombs Family Farms) baked on to the top.

Just as I had hoped, they came out moist and sweet and won great acclaim from our happy little taste tester. Here's the recipe:

Maple Raisin Drop Scones


2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
3/4 c. raisins (I used a combination of golden, crimson and regular)
1/2-3/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 piece 100% pure maple candy

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease baking sheet.
In a food processor, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add in cut up butter and pulse just until crumbly. Add maple syrup and pulse 1-2 times to combine.
Pour mixture into a bowl. Stir in raisins. Slowly stir in buttermilk just until the dough comes together into a sticky ball (you may not use all of the buttermilk).
Break dough into 8 equal pieces and place on greased baking sheet.
Crumble a small piece of maple candy over the top of each piece of dough.
Bake at 400 degrees for 16-19 minutes until golden brown.

Looking for more maple inspired recipes? Check out:
The Coombs Family Farms recipe collection
Helen's Health Bread
Maple Dijon Salmon
Pumpkin Cheesecake


LK- Healthy Delicious said...

omg those scones look awesome. I love maple candy- I call it maple crack. lol

Kamran Siddiqi said...

The scones look so delicious and appetizing. I wish I had me a scone!