I am extremely lucky to have the perfect view each day from the bottom of our garden in France. The local beef bulls, two year olds, have the run of lush meadows and fresh air. Our local farmer Christian ensures they are fed high quality hay and pellets and that the cattle are regularly rotated from field to field to ensure there is no over-grazing.
It has been an eye-opener in the time I have had an opportunity to stay there in between running our business in London and Romania, the hard work tending for the cattle, the work revolving around breeding, the winter bedding period and the fluctuations of the economy affecting price and demand. Bringing up “The Boys”, is not easy and I admire Christians enthusiasm in all weathers. Beef from his herd has great transparency of production for his customers.
At Ion Syrup we have to ensure we know the source of our raw materials – our pine and fir buds and tips. A network of local pickers, who regularly walk the mountains collecting wild plants, pick our raw material at a specific time of the year. The picking season is very short and within a couple of weeks it is over and the buds are too large for our use. We know the areas these are picked from and how they are picked.
The spring water we use, flows directly from the Transylvanian mountains, which often remain snow capped even in the heat of summer. Collected in barrels, it is a long way to the places where you can access the springs, heavy work, but the water is pure and perfect for the syrup. With the addition of simply sugar and a careful slow cook, the syrup is finally ready for storing. After twelve months we will taste the syrup, check the depth of flavour we feel is correct, a tangy, sweet with an aniseed hint along with a slight resinous raisin; and we will pass for bottling.
We know where all our ingredients originate and as a family we carry out all the steps from collection to labelling and distributing the product to London.
But back to the Boys….although it presents a bit of conflict, these lovely creatures eying us curiously and following us along the edges of the fields whenever we pass; the fact is good beef is delicious and versatile. We highly recommend a glaze with Ion Pine Syrup, or a rich sauce made with teriyaki sauce, mustard, pine syrup, shallots and red wine. A dash of syrup with dried smoked chillies, peppercorns and tomatoes go well for a spicy dip to serve alongside.