Food, Food Artisans

Ari’s Holiday Gift Suggestions pt. 4


Stay tuned as we post selections from Ari’s list in the coming weeks!

Charles Poirier’s Louisiana Cane Syrupari-list

I don’t know exactly how many new foods get sent our way from producers and distributors who would like us to carry their products. We taste them all but bring only a handful here to sell. We’ve got pretty full shelves already so something’s got to be really great if we’re going to squeeze out some shelf space for it. Maybe four or five times a year a food grabs me and hits me hard in the best possible way. Charles Poirer’s can syrup is truly one of the tastiest new things I’ve tried in a really long time! Old-style, traditionally made down in Lafayette, Louisiana. I probably shouldn’t promote the product too loudly as Charles’ production is so small that it’s only slightly bigger than what would be called homemade. He’s doing the entire thing on his farm: growing the cane, crushing it, cooking it down and bottling it.

Photo from Poirier's Pure Cane Syrup's facebook page

Photo from Poirier’s Pure Cane Syrup’s facebook page

While artisan cane production and processing for syrup (and sugar) were once found all over Louisiana, they’re now almost non-existent. Cane syrup can certainly be bought, but pretty much all you’ll find is commercially produced and nowhere near as tasty as Mr. Poirier’s. As the local production has petered out over the last century or so, so too has all the infrastructure and community knowledge. Charles spent a good bit of time looking for someone to teach him how to make it. “About seven years ago I found an older gentleman named Harold just south of Baton Rouge. I was telling folks I was interested and someone gave me his number. He said I could come watch while he made a batch, so I did.”

Like so many people in the food world, Charles was driven by the desire to rediscover family tradition. “My great grandfather in St. Martinville used to make syrup. He died in 1941. My father told me about his, and how he made cane syrup before he passed away, and so I’ve had it in my mind ever since. There used to be mills all over the countryside. I thought I’d enjoy doing it. So I grow all my own cane.” The yield is anything but high. “It takes about 15 gallons of juice,” Charles explained, “to make about a gallon of syrup. It takes me about 61⁄2 to 7 hours to cook it down. I cut all the cane by hand. At first I was just making it and giving it to family and friends. But now we’ve started to sell a bit of it.” Happily, he has just enough to be able to sell us a few dozen bottles.

Photo from Poirier's Pure Cane Syrup's facebook page

Photo from Poirier’s Pure Cane Syrup’s facebook page

Charles’ cane syrup is dark, delicious, sensual, and superb. It’s like the best traditional brown sugar made into a swirling, thick, sensuous elixir. If we were back in the Middle Ages, I’m pretty sure someone would be recommending this stuff as a cure for pretty much anything that ails you.

For me, tasting Charles’ cane syrup is the complete opposite of eating standard white sugar. Pick your own analogy; great estate bottle extra virgin olive oil compared to commercially processed pulp? The best maple syrups you’ve ever had compared to commercial pancake syrup. I’m not a big sweet eater but I could (and actually have) taken a few swigs of this stuff straight out of the bottle. Given its rarity, I savor each sip.

Just a touch of the deep reddish brown cane syrup on sautéed sea scallops is fantastic. It’s terrific on corncakes. On pancakes, French toast, or donuts. It’s beautiful on biscuits. Drizzled on roast duck. Put a bit on grilled pork chops. On cheese it’s terrific—try it on any of the great aged sheep cheeses we’ve got. Fantastic. Amazing on the stone ground Irish oatmeal we have at the Deli. I mixed some with a bottle of sparkling water and it was so good that I think I could drink that all day. It might be good on almost every- thing now that I think about it. Or of course you can just drink it straight from the bottle!
Three cheers for Charles! Beautiful stuff!

We’ll continue to post excerpts from Ari’s list over the next few weeks. 

You can download the entire list in the November/December Newsletter!