The Perennial Plate’s first PBS Short: A Season For Caramels

The Perennial Plate is now working on The Victory Garden’s Edible Feast for PBS this is a short story from one of the episodes that will be aired in full on a PBS affiliate near you.

It makes me angry that she uses corn syrup and she is a farmer a little cognitive dissonance? High fructose corn syrup was invented and went into production in the early 70’s. GMO corn was introduced in the early ’80s. I understand that there is a lot of doubt and debate about the benefits or evils of GMO products.  My feelings are in part about the corporate culture that made seeds something that we used to share to something that are now intellectual property.  Intellectual property that is sold in conjunction with a chemical: roundup ready herbicides.  In addition if as we are told by the chemical companies who make these products that they are benign why do they spend millions on preventing labeling of foods with them in them?  Before all this when we used to just grow corn none of this was an issue. Regardless of where you stand on this issue the fact is that for something so “safe” there still remains far too many questions unanswered.  Like it is assumed that big AG, Food corporations and chemical companies are funding the no labeling campaigns – but why is it such a secret?

What I want to know is why has no one made old-fashioned corn syrup and marketed it? Is it because there isn’t enough non GMO corn grown in the USA? Or is it because at the end of the day no one cares? Still I think for old hippies and foodies like me and the anti GMO crowd that it would be a successful product.

Of course you could use light Agave or Lyle’s Syrup or very expensive organic corn syrup in your caramels.

My grandmother used to have a large tin with a beehive on it of thick golden corn syrup.  When I was a little boy she would pour it on pancakes. We never had  Maple Syrup because it was too expensive. Sometimes she would buy Aunt Jemima (I have no idea what back then it was made from). I don’t ever remember her cooking with corn syrup, she wasn’t much of a baker. This was probably in the mid sixties so I was 5 or so. It was the last time I can remember seeing that big tin with a beehive on it.  Funny how something with such wonderful, warm childhood memories could become such a charged political debate.


Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.


About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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4 Responses to The Perennial Plate’s first PBS Short: A Season For Caramels

  1. reelcharlie says:

    This is the kind of posts I love from Urban Food Guy. Honest, from the heart and real.

  2. Ali Clark says:

    Howdy, from Ali at Snowshoe Candy Co!

    Thank you for your critical thinking! You are hitting on a topic that I have struggled with greatly as I have developed my business. As I have taken the time to read your thoughts, perhaps you will take the time to read mine.

    Candy-making is somewhat of a complicated process, and while there is some room for creativity, often relies on very specific ingredients. In this case and sticking true to my family’s recipe, corn syrup is a key ingredient in yielding the consistency of a smooth caramel. Agave or other syrups are not a perfect substitute and don’t have the same qualities as corn syrup in preventing crystallization of the sugars after the caramel has set. Yes, there are recipes for caramels that use these alternative ingredients, but again, it is straying from my family recipe, which is a significant part of my business. There are very few non-GMO corn syrups on the market, especially for bulk purchasing. Wholesome Sweeteners has a non-GMO corn syrup but each batch I made would require 4 bottles as opposed to the one bottle of conventional syrup I currently use; with the trade-off here being an increase in packaging waste. Not to mention it is 4 times the price. Any bulk non-GMO corn syrup available that I have found, is made in California and costs more to ship than it does to buy.

    Also, there is a distinct difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. Both are made from corn starch, but regular corn syrup is 100 percent glucose, while high-fructose corn syrup has had some of its glucose converted to fructose.

    In terms of sourcing ingredients from local farms and non-GMO sources, I do my best! It is hard as a small business, because the cost of ingredients is already high when purchasing on a small scale. But I do where I can, because it is important to me: organic butter from a local farm, beet sugar (vs. cane sugar) from a farm in Michigan, local honey, local maple syrup, local vodka to make my own extracts, etc. I am as transparent about my ingredients as I can be, and even have a map of the ingredients I use, on my website.

    I would say, that it is important to do what we can, even if it is in small steps. When I am selling vegetables at the farmers market, I don’t expect that all of my customers are eating 100% locally. But I don’t criticize them for this, either, because they are making an effort to incorporate more local and wholesome ingredients in their diet, just by visiting the market. As we work together to support local, we will see our food system shift to meet the consumer demands (i.e. non-GMO foods, etc.). As it does, sourcing non-GMO corn syrup and other products like this will hopefully become more economically possible.

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