What takes hundreds of hours, lots of metal, lungs of steel, and the patience of the Buddha? Turning ordinary maple syrup into extraordinary smoked maple syrup. At Runamok Maple, several dedicated friends and staff members devoted themselves to creating the best smoked maple syrup you’ll find.

Simply capturing a bacon-y, wood stove-y, campfire-y flavor without any hint of “old ashtray” involves a surprising amount of science. The Sorkins’ friend Jones Deady started this adventure for them, devoting hours of his time testing different wood varieties and smoke techniques. When I arrived, they had the wood selected (Pecan) and a contraption that looked very Steam punk. It turns out that all smoke is not created equal. Some wood produces a strong flavor best suited to a big, juicy steak. Maple syrup is delicate, and deserves a lighter touch without diminishing intensity of flavor. Smoke from a cool fire flavors food boldly, but a long smoking session at low fire temperature makes the syrup sour and sooty. Only the right temperature fire will instill a rich, pleasant smoky flavor in the syrup.

Choosing your flavor wood and knowing how to control your burn are just a few considerations in the smoking process. The best information we found about smoke flavor and techniques came from websites devoted to the art of barbecue. The folks we found who really devote themselves to barbecue make fine winemakers and cheesemakers look like amateurs. Reading about barbecue food science gave us an understanding of how wood, air and time create delicious food. For my part, it gave me a hankering for ribs that I can’t quite shake, even weeks later.

Understanding how hot the fire should be was one hurdle. Getting the fire we wanted to burn in our smoker was entirely another. When the fire just won’t stay lit or won’t get hot, what do you change in your setup? More air-holes? Bigger pipes? Smarter user? When do you start over, from scratch? As best we can tell; three new air-holes, three smoker design iterations, one bigger pipe, and two completely melted pieces of aluminum are the minimum required to come up with a system that can maintain a good fire for a long time.

After this long process, I’m glad I can now add “smoked food technician” to my list of skills. Give our smoked syrup a try, knowing that the flavor you experience reflects our devotion to excellent flavor and craftsmanship. Know, too, that several smoker designs did not perish in vain, but did so to bring you a syrup that combines the sweet complexity of maple with the savory flavor of fire.

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