Friday, October 9, 2009

Birch, birch, birch

We were recently introduced to birch syrup, one of the few truly Alaskan specialties that is also commercially available. (You try finding whale blubber.) Although we had been vaguely aware of its existence for a little while, we just kept getting distracted and forgetting to try it. However, we finally tried some at the Alaska State Fair, and quickly became devotees.
Based on my extensive research, which consisted of talking to the lady staffing the birch booth at the fair and roughly 10 minutes of web searching, I can tell you that birch syrup is pretty rare, is produced by very few manufacturers, and takes twice as much raw sap to make as maple syrup. I can also tell you that is very tasty!
Birch syrup is darker and stonger than maple, and also somewhat bittersweet. If I needed to compare it another sweetener, I would say it is like if maple and molasses had a baby...
It is delicious as a sweetner, but that's only a start. As with maple syrup, birch can be added to mustard and other similar substances, and also be turned into various candies.

One of our favorites is birch caramel, which is available for order here.

This has quickly become a favorite treat for our loved ones elsewhere in the country as well. We have standing orders from family members for these caramels - and we like to keep them around our house, as well.
In honor of being Alaskans, we adapted one of Mr EA's favorite recipes, Black Diamond Steak, to include birch syrup. We call it Black Dimond - did we mis-spell? No. Click the link for the story of Anthony J. Dimond. There's a lot of stuff named for him around here. And here's one more thing!
Anyway, without further ado...
Black Dimond Steak
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp. corn oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup birch syrup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. ginger-root, fresh, minced
1 pinch garlic powder
1 lb. New York strip steak
Mix together marinade ingredients. Immerse steak in the mixture, making sure to keep it covered. Marinade at least 6 hours, but overnight is better. Grill to desired doneness.

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