How Sweet it is
Steve Murdza, owner of Niagara-based Sweet and Sticky, found himself in a sticky situation 10 years ago with he began experimenting with the idea of ice syrup. The first prototype, made by a maple syrup producer, tasted like concentrated prune juice. Doubting the marketability of such a product, he brought his idea to the Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC), where it turned into liquid gold.
Making ice syrup is similar to making ice wine, and that's how the idea came to fruition. Murdza, along with his wife Vivian, also run a vineyard called Coyote's Run in Niagara on the Lake. Pressing grapes at his vineyard for up to 40 hours at a time gave Murdza ample opportunity to think of other uses for ice wine. "When you're pressing grapes, it's a very slow process" he says. The consistency of the juice depends on the temperature of the frozen grapes. "It trickles out and actually drips and looks like a syrup". Tourists also commented on watching Murdza press grapes saying "it looks like syrup".
The first run to make the syrup wasn't succesful so the following year, he brought grape juice to the GFTC. The juice was frozen, but the brix wasn't high enough to prevent bacterial growth. He didn't want to cook it, because it would caramelize, so they placed it in an evaporator. That's when he hit gold. "It was a beautiful gold colour, just like ice wine and had the colour of Vidal grape. It had a huge tasete profile, whihc was bigger than ice wine as it's concentrated." There is no added sugar. "We wanted to keep this product all natural and to keep it as a gourmet product." Murdza is busy spreading the word about ice syrup through product demonstrations, food shows and tweets abotu food and wine pairings.