There is a growing trend at the moment for foraging wild plants, herbs, seaweeds and other bountiful ingredients from nature. There is also a misconception that what may be termed as foraged may not necessarily be so. At Ion we use simple ingredients, young spring buds from the local conifers, spring water and sugar. The buds are hand picked by locals who know the mountain terrain well and this meticulous work takes time. The making of the syrup is similar and natures affects on the results make the outcome a little nerve-racking.
I am therefore a little disappointed when other conifer syrups on the market contain potassium sorbate, powdered citric acid. These are hardly foraged ingredients. But equally I am aware sugar is also a manufactured ingredient, but it is safe, as is salt, as is vinegar. In fact there are many products, as ours that keep the ingredients to a minimum.
The reason many syrups contain these additives is longevity of shelf life. Many have a relatively small shelf live of 14 days. Along with Maple Syrup, Ion Syrup has a far longer shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated; the sugar conversion, like all preserving, achieves stability and this has a huge advantage when needed as an accompaniment to all the other diverse ingredients that make cooking a wonderful pastime and usually sit directly next to the stove to be used day in day out, month by month. Our favourite balsamic, our favourite oils.
My point is that potassium sorbate is more often now mechanically processed and is not foraged. We do not forage our conifer buds per say, we know where the conifer forests are and when to pick. If hand picking from selective plants is the method, then yes its foraged, but beyond personal use, or in limited amounts, it goes beyond foraged to artisan production.
Foraging also has its limitations. It does not make for a sustainable product, nor a reliable one, but suits the cuisine it is intended for. Simply not all ingredients are made equal and sometimes the use of a trending methodology can mislead.
Wild, foraged, natural ingredients can reassure the buyer, but the reality of production can so very different.
At Ion we make it simple, from natural ingredients and all by hand. Picked by hand, sorted by hand, made and bottled by hand. We add a few finishing wild herbs, again hand picked from the local foothills near our home and the syrup is simmered until the conversion to syrup is achieved. Before this point the syrup will be thinner, almost watery, have a shorter shelf life without preservatives, and lack the viscous consistency ideal for glazing and “feathering”.
We believe our syrup is the best conifer syrup on the market for reliability, versatility and complex flavour. We have been producing this syrup for over three years now, trialling, testing and ensuring it maintains its subtle flavour in marinades and when used in roasting. The syrup does not burn like honey, nor has the too obviously syrupy taste that can ruin a subtle dish.
Try the recipes on this blog and if you have any new ideas that we should try, let us know.