Sweet. The best maple syrup in the country comes from a Tiny Township maple syrup producer.
Maple syrup from Windlee Farms won first place at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which brings together the top agricultural producers from across Canada. Windlee Maple Syrup also won Best in Show with the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association this year.
“We did well this year. It gives us bragging rights for a year,” said Peter Lorriman, co-owner.
When Windlee was announced as the Royal winner in the amber category, Peter was “off the ceiling” with excitement, Anne Lorriman said. The couple have been producing maple syrup from their own maple bush on their 150-acre farm since 1992.
So what makes their syrup so good?
For one thing, Peter makes syrup from tapped sap within 24 hours, usually within 12. The “craft” syrup is produced in small batches, using the best of old and new methods. “Peter is meticulous. He sits in the kitchen and looks at it like a science experiment,” said Anne.
For quality assurance, he makes sure the evaporator is a least seven degrees above the boiling temperature of water. When he takes it off the evaporator, he does so by temperature. Then it goes to the finishing pan and is measured using a hydrometer. Before it’s bottled, he uses an electronic refractor for sugar content.
Peter examines his syrup for density, colour, taste and clarity — the qualities for which syrup is judged. Taste is subjective, but there’s science behind density, colour and clarity. “There’s a lot of hoop jumping before you even get to the taste part,” said Anne.
For example, the sugar content the Royal’s judges look for is 66.7%. “We like ours at 67% because it’s a better feel on the tongue. When I bottled that, it was 66.8%. I thought that was close enough.” The syrup submitted at the Royal is the same syrup they sell to their customers. They did not do a special boil for the contest.
But Peter isn’t concerned about only his own maple syrup; he wants all local producers to be creating a high-quality product. “If you don’t produce good maple syrup and somebody else down the road doesn’t produce good maple syrup, then it affects everyone,” he said. Even with consistent scientific methods, syrups, like wines, will taste different.
“Each bush is like a different vineyard,” he said. The Lorriman’s bush is on a north-facing hill, with a small lake and sandy loam soil. Because of the nearby lake, their bush didn’t suffer the heat stress that affected other bushes last summer during the drought.
The Lorrimans sell syrup from their Baseline Road North farm (last farm on the left). Windlee Maple Syrup is also available at Rawson’s Meat & Deli and Larder & Pantry in Penetanguishene, Mad Cravings in Wyebridge, and Ciboulette et Cie in Midland.
Prices are $8 for 250 millilitres, $14 for 500 mL, and $25 for one litre.