Uncovering Wellington County: Wagram Springs Farm
by Chris Tiessen
When most of us think of ‘tapping trees’ we develop a mental picture of mature forests dripping sap ready to be harvested for that great Canadian elixir: maple syrup. Few of us would think of what’s becoming Canada’s other splendid native condiment, derived from trees no less familiar to the Canadian landscape and mindscape – the elegant birch. ‘Why settle for maple syrup when you could have birch?’, asks a writer for the Globe And Mail. Why, indeed?
It’s a question Bert and Kathy Beilke, owners of Wagram Springs Farm, have been asking for the past few years while they’ve enjoyed tapping the golden birch trees that have grown over many years on the family farm near Moorefield (about a half hour’s drive north-west of Guelph and Kitchener, above Conestogo Lake). The fruit of the Beilkes’ efforts is a dark-coloured syrup with a subtler aroma than maple and a rich caramel flavour touched with notes of molasses, honey, and lingering notes of savoury balsamic. Ideal for unique culinary dishes, flavouring in sauces, desserts and speciality drinks, Wagram Springs’ syrup has found its way into recipes at top restaurants – including Canoe Restaurant & Bar in Toronto, La Patisserie Fine Cakes & Pastries in Kitchener, and Miijidaa Café & Bistro in downtown Guelph.
Birch syrup vinaigrette
by Executive Chef Shea Robinson (Neighbourhood Group of Companies)
¼ cup birch syrup
½ cup good quality apple cider vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1½ tbsp dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced
2½ cups cold pressed canola oil
(regular vegetable oil can be substituted)
Method: Place birch syrup, cider vinegar, salt, mustard and garlic into a blender. Turn the blender on and slowly start to add the oil until it is completely emulsified. Alternatively, all the ingredients can be put into a mason jar and shaken vigorously (with cap on) for 30 seconds. Approximate yield of 750ml. Can be kept in the fridge for up to 5-7 days.