Oak Park couple tap into maple syrup farming trade by accident

Use Three Queens Maple Syrup three ways in this Chicken Chopped Salad .| Photo by Melissa Elsmo
Use Three Queens Maple Syrup three ways in this Chicken Chopped Salad .| Photo by Melissa Elsmo

Oak Park residents Christine and Mark Fisher were in the market for a get-away home when their property search led them to the Driftless region of southeastern Wisconsin. Captivated by the varied topography of the area, the couple purchased a property in the close-knit farming community and set to work renovating the property.

Before long their Amish neighbors offered to help the Fishers clear the woods on their property. After working among the trees on the land, the father and son team informed the Fishers they had nearly 1,000 maple trees thriving on the property.

With the help of their knowledgeable neighbors, the Fishers tapped the trees, collected the sap and had it boiled down into gallons of pancake-worthy maple syrup.

Sitting on copious amounts of syrup forced the accidental farmers to consider what to do with it all. “Of course we planned to bottle and sell our syrup,” says Christine Fisher “but I also wanted to do something with art and support our community at the same time.”

Keen on using a portion of their syrup profits philanthropically, the Fishers founded Three Queens Maple Syrup in 2013.

“Our goal is to produce sustainable, local, artisan style syrup that we can bring back to our community for purchase and in turn give back to arts-based organizations,” says Fisher. Three Queens Maple Syrup is available for purchase online (http://threequeensorganic.com) and at the Oak Park Farmers market during the summer months. Fifteen percent of Three Queens profits go directly toward supporting local causes. Three Queens contributes to The Ark, an arts based not-for-profit in Wisconsin and also sponsors the One Earth Film Festival in Oak Park.

Response to their mission and the product has been more than favorable. “Three Queens Maple Syrup may seem a little different than your average grocery store syrup,” says Fisher of her product, “but it is nature’s beauty in a bottle.”

The all-natural, organic syrup is nutrient-dense without the cloying sweetness commonly associated with heavily processed, additive laden supermarket syrup brands. Three Queens syrup come in amber (light), dark and very dark varieties.

A little bit of Three Queens sweetness still goes a long way, and its superior quality makes it uniquely suitable for savory cooking applications as well.

My Three Queens-inspired maple marinated grilled chicken salad features a trifecta of maple syrup applications. Incorporating the quality syrup into the marinade not only flavors the finished dish, but also gives color to the chicken during the cooking process. Salad dressings typically include a healthy dose of white sugar, but my dressing makes the most of this Wisconsin made all-natural maple syrup. Maple-glazed bacon brings a rich finish to this seasonal celebration of all things maple.

Three Queens Maple Chicken Chopped Salad

A trio of maple applications brings a subtle sweetness to this vibrant and filling salad. Wheat berries add welcome texture to this otherwise straightforward dish.

For the Maple Marinated Chicken:

  • ¼ Cup Three Queens syrup (dark)
  • 1/8 Cup whole grain mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • ½ Teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 Skinless, boneless, all natural chicken breasts (about 4 ounces each)
  • 2 Tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • For the Maple Dressing:
  • ¼ Cup Three Queens Maple Syrup
  • ¼ Cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shallot
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil
  • For the Maple Bacon Garnish:
  • 3 Strips of thick cut bacon
  • 2 Tablespoons Three Queens Maple Syrup
  • ½ Teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • For the Salad:
  • 1 Cup wheat berries cooked according to package directions (farro or orzo can be substituted)
  • 2-3 Ounces baby arugula (a few nice handfuls)
  • ¾ Cup halved grape tomatoes
  • ½ Cup diced sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ Cup sliced scallions
  • Prepare the chicken marinade by mixing together ¼ Cup of syrup with the whole grain mustard, canola oil, salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a zip-bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate it overnight turning occasionally.
  • Prepare the dressing while the chicken marinates: Whisk together ¼ Cup maple syrup with the vinegar, Dijon, shallot, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil to make a dressing. Pour into a jar and refrigerate overnight.
  • When ready to serve prepare the bacon garnish. Place the bacon strips on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet and slide into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 375 degrees and allow the bacon to cook until brown and slightly crisp (about 20 minutes). Glaze the bacon with the maple syrup, sprinkle with coarse black pepper and return to the oven for 5 -8 minutes. Allow bacon to cool before crumbling or cutting into small pieces.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill, heat a gas grill or heat a grill pan on the stove until hot, but not smoking. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill the chicken (taking care not to allow the sugars to scorch) until cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Sprinkle the chicken with the minced chives and let rest while mixing the salad.
  • To mix the salad, combine the wheat berries, arugula, tomatoes, cheese and scallions in a large bowl. Toss with a couple of tablespoons of dressing and mix well. Divide the salad among 4 serving bowls and slice the chicken breast on the bias before placing it on the salad. Sprinkle each salad with the maple bacon and serve.

Three Queens: Three Syrups

  • It takes 30 gallons of maple tree sap to make one gallon of Three Queens Organic Maple Syrup. Maple sap is collected over a fast and furious six-week period in the spring and the resulting syrup varies in color and flavor based on when it is harvested in the season. Price is $12 per 12-ounce bottle.
  • Amber: The rarest of the Three Queens products, amber syrup is made from the sap collected during the first tapping. The syrup is thinner and prized for its subtle flavor; it is suitable to sweeten hot beverages.
  • Dark: Three Queens dark syrup, its most popular product, offers cooks a more robust maple flavor that’s great on pancakes and waffles. The versatile product is also perfect for use in my Three Queens Maple Chicken Chopped Salad.
  • Very Dark: The final tapping during maple syrup season yields the darkest, thickest and most nutrient dense syrup. Use the robust molasses-y syrup in baked goods or savory cooking applications

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Read about Ernest Hemingway and his ties to Oak Park by clicking here.

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