La Farge, Wisconsin is home to less that 800 residents. However, this tiny town is the last sign of civilization you will find before reaching your destination. Winding your way through the narrow country roads flanked by rolling hills, tall trees, and an occasional farm lead you nine miles out of town to Bernie Miller & Larry Sebranek’s place. Here you'll find where some of the best maple syrup in the state is made.
More rolling hills, a meandering creek, and a rustic wood cabin greet you on your way down the gravel road. In the third week of August every year, this location hosts one of the finest bluegrass festivals in the country: aptly named “Larryfest”. Continue down the gravel road and you find another cabin they call “The Sugar Shack”. This is the real life cabin you envision when you see that syrup in the store with the little cabin on the label.
For more than a decade, Bernie and Larry along with their family and friends have been crafting the finest maple syrup I have ever tasted. Its smoky, sweet flavor is unique because of their old-world way of using a wood fire to cook down the sweet sap produced every spring by the sugar maple trees on their land.
Keeping it Local
The license plates adorning the walls and the antique maple syrup making implements help tell the story of Bernie & Larry’s dedication to the craft of making maple syrup. Unlike most maple syrup producers, they aren’t driven by the profits of making this increasingly expensive pancake topping. You won’t find their syrup in stores or even at farmers markets.You can’t buy it online or from a distributor.
Instead, simple word of mouth and a phone call connects the buyer to Bernie or Larry. Bernie will tell you that their maple syrup is organic and he doesn't need an FDA label to prove it. It’s organic because he says it is. No additives or artificial ingredients. Simply tree sap cooked down to 217 degrees over days of cooking, skimming, and checking sugar content. They don’t rely on focus groups or test panels to tell them that “organic” scores well, they do it that way because that’s what makes their syrup taste better.
It really is that simple.
Truly Artisanal Syrup
You may never see Bernie and Larry’s maple syrup in a store near you. But it's comforting to know that true artisans still exist in the world. These men are willing to bypass some modern conveniences and making an extra buck to create a syrup that is uniquely theirs.
Every year picking up a couple bottles of this delicious liquid is high on the to-do-list. Even if it means an almost three hour drive to get it. It always goes quickly, but it’s always enjoyed the way fine foods should be. With the knowledge of where it came from and the full enjoyment of its existence.
Inspired by the rich maple flavor, we created a Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed spread completed with fluffy pancakes, sweet granola, and a decadent Maple Blueberry Sauce. You'll find the recipe for the tasty topping below. Check out our Mother's Day post for more maple flavors.
I hope you enjoyed this journey into the traditional world of maple syrup! When you enjoy the sweet sauce below, think about those men deep in the hollers of the Kickapoo Valley of rural Wisconsin working hard each spring to make the sweet, authentic syrup we love.
With sweet treats like this, you can only celebrate! Don't wait for a special occasion, create one!
Maple Blueberry Topping
- 1 1/2 cups Fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup Maple syrup
- 1/4 cup Plain Greek-style yogurt
- In a small heavy saucepan combine blueberries and syrup.
- Heat over medium heat until berries release their juices. About 10 minutes.
- Add yogurt and stir until well combined.
- Remove from heat. Serve over pancakes. Sauce can be cooled, then refrigerated until needed.