Photos and Story By JJ Kaplan
How to make maple syrup “sexy” was the dilemma that haunted Tim Burton, owner of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, in Medora, Indiana. In a business that perhaps lacks brand loyalty, how do you differentiate your product in a homogeneous sea of maple syrups?
Tim and his wife, Angie, wanted to tap into the niche market of supplying a luxury brand with their family-owned maple syrup business. Their farm already produced Grade A and Grade B maple syrup which is the industry norm. At Maplewood Farm near Bloomington, a transformation of syrup production and marketing genius was born. What if you could age and infuse the syrup in barrels that were previously used to age liquor?
Tim procured various barrels, ranging from rum from Prichard, bourbon from Versailles and brandy from Starlight. He then experimented with aging his syrup for 12 months in the various barrels which increases the flavor by three or four times. Wood or other fuel, coupled with intensive labor and energy, is required to boil off the water and increase the concentration of sugar within the syrup. The barrels sit next to a bonfire in a Rumford fireplace. The barrel expands and contracts as Tim raises and lowers the heat, and the flavor from the barrel is thereby infused into the syrup. What emerged was a sensory overload for one’s taste buds. He had distinguished his brand in an otherwise commodity market.
Tim is reaching celebrity status in his own right. He is working with Wolfgang Puck to create a signature syrup just for the renowned chef and his many restaurants. Burton’s maple syrup has been featured on The Martha Stewart Show. And remember Oprah’s farewell brunch? Nestled between chicken and waffles on her table was Burton’s custom blend of maple syrup, fit for the talk show queen herself.
After creating custom syrups for Paul Kahan, voted “Best Chef In America,“ and Stephanie Izard, the only female winner of Top Chef, several Chicago area restaurants began to offer his exclusive barrel-aged syrups.
Most recently on his radar is developing a custom blend of syrups for numerous restaurants along the Rocky Mountains. The Four Seasons Resort in Vail and The Little Nell in Aspen are a couple that offer his luxury syrup.
With 700 trees on their 28 acre farm, the Burtons rely on sap from neighboring maple tree farms. It takes 10 gallons of sap to make one 12 oz. bottle of syrup. That’s because approximately 68 percent of the product is evaporated to allow the sugar to consolidate into its final form.
Indiana is the most southwestern state of maple-producing states in America. The maple belt reaches northward on into Canada which produces approximately 80 percent of all maple syrup. Because Indiana is the most southern state in this belt, it all begins here. From here, the production gradually extends to the North.
Being a proud member of Indiana Artisans, Tim has created an exclusive syrup specifically for our own Sullivan Munce Cultural Center. Using a specially selected Apple Jack Brandy barrel, he has infused the syrup with rinds of orange and lemon. It has been resting for a year, waiting for its debut at our art center. Tim has tasted this syrup and proudly exclaims, “It is phenomenal!” This barrel will yield between 120 and 130 bottles of specialty syrup. Each bottle will also feature custom etching with the Sullivan Munce logo. You may purchase your bottle at the upcoming “Artisans’ Fare” held November 22-23.
Mark your calendar now to attend “The Artisans’ Fare – A Fest For Foodies” at the Sullivan Munce Cultural Center, 205-225 W. Hawthorne St., Zionsville. The preview party will be Friday, November 22 from 6-9 pm with the fare Saturday, November 23 from 10 am to 3 pm. Tickets are $5. This festive event is designed for food lovers, featuring Indiana’s premier food and drinks from Indiana Artisans. Proceeds benefit Sullivan Munce. Taste, sample and purchase a variety of specialty items from around the state at this event. What a great way to treat yourself and others on your holiday gift list.
Visit www.burtonsmaplewoodfarm.com for more information or to order online.