The Carpathians in Transylvania not only provide glorious views across meadows full of wild flowers and mountain vistas, but wild forests full of wild boar, brown bears and places to forage for mushrooms and other wild berries to turn into fruit syrups and cordials. But the pines and firs in the forests also provide in May and June tiny buds and branch tips from which we make pine and fir syrups. Rich, tangy flavoured syrups that can be used in all manner of recipes for drizzling, basting, dipping and adding to sauces and drinks.
A couple of years ago my partner from the area gave me an old bottle that his father had made, all dusty from the cellar, almost like an old bottle of maturing wine. A rich, strong, slightly aniseed, raisin taste with resin and menthol on the tongue. I loved it and began to research. In the USA they love it. In Europe you cannot find it apart from what the locals make to their own recipes. The only producer, an Italian exports only to USA. It was impossible to get any sent to us to try and I had to buy in the end from a private food exporter who had to physically go into a shop and purchase it.
A little disappointed with its flavour, more burnt sugar caramel without the lovely tanging flavour we had, we decided to embark on making our own and scale up as best we could without loosing the delicate flavour. With local mountain spring water, sugar and a few herbs, we worked on developing our own range of syrups – Ion – named after my partners father,
He was an avid mountain walker and outdoors man. He loved his syrup added to Vodka on cold days and in herbal teas. I found it fantastic on goats cheese and French soft cheeses and when added to shallots gave them a lovely caramelized flavour. We tried many recipes, mixing with balsamic, drizzling on deserts and basting hams and with twists of lemon marinating salmon.
We are about to take the syrup to market and hope Deli’s will enjoy this unusual and unavailable syrup as a great addition to their faire. Go have a look at our websites www.ionsyrup.com and www.ionsyrupblog.com to find out more. All photography work done myself and the food ones were quite a challenge as new to this type of photography – but fun as I get to eat the props!