|Its not just about the syrupits the legacy and the stories from the people who love King Syrup as much as I have come to love it. These people have the passion to hunt the syrup down when its not available in their local stores. Whats more, they all have a special story to tell, and thats why my relationship with them has become one of the most satisfying experiences in my life.
Let me explain. King Syrup has become a way of life for me since 2004. Ironically, thats exactly 100 years since it was first introduced to tables in Baltimore in 1904 by the Mangels-Herold Company.
And, as much as I love the south, like King Syrup, I started out in the NorthI was born and raised in Illinois, it just took me living in the South to discover King Syrup.
Although the product was introduced in Baltimore, it is now loved throughout the country. So, its only appropriate that this story is going to take you on some journeys through my life and the lives of some of the legions of fans who love King Syruppeople from all walks of life.
But Im getting ahead of myself, so let me get back to my story. My quest, as I like to call it, my particular search for King Syrup began in 2004. Now, mind you, our children, Jenny, Jonathan and Christian were brought up with King Syrup on the table. When they were small, the syrup came in the 44-ounce tins, and it was manufactured by the Torbitt & Castleman Company, of Buckner, Kentucky. Torbitt & Castleman had bought the rights to King Syrup from Mangels-Herold in 1986.
My wifes parents lived in Tennessee, and when she would visit them, she would always bring King Syrup back with her when she returned to our home in Georgia. Apparently, she couldnt get it in the Atlanta suburb where we lived, but Im getting ahead of myself again.
Now, my wife, Casey, really IS southern. She was born in Asheville, North Carolina and raised in Tennessee. Her father was from Black Mountain, North Carolina, and her mother grew up in Wilde, Kentucky. My wife remembers going to visit her grandma in Chimney Rock, North Carolina as a young girl, and King Syrup always graced the table. She would pour the syrup in a saucer and mix it with fresh butter, then slather the creamy pale gold mixture over the fresh steaming hot buttermilk biscuits her grandma would serve.
Our children were all born in Georgia and they grew up eating and loving King Syrup on their biscuits. And, even though Im a northern boy, I suppose Ive established some southern credibility over the years. At least, we always knew that we all could sit down together at the breakfast table and enjoy biscuits slathered with butter and syrup.
Now that weve talked a bit about the children, the wife and such, (its a southern thing, Ive learned), lets fast forward, or backward, if you will, to the fall of 2004. My wife, Casey, and her father, Bill were sitting at the breakfast table with fresh hot biscuits. Bill had lived with us for some time at that point, so it had been awhile since Casey had been back to Tennessee. In other words, it had been awhile since King Syrup had been in the house.
Now Bill had been raised with King Syrup and Po-T-Rik, a dark molasses also made by King, and he had always put Po-T-Rik on his pancakes. Well, Bill and Casey began a discussion about how nice it would be to have some King Syrup for their biscuits. You know how it is when you start craving something...it can easily turn into an obsession. With that in mind, these two turn to me, and, smiling ever so sweetly, they ask if I would go to the local Ingles store for some King Syrup. And, although I didnt know it at the time, the Quest had begun!
So, being the loving husband and dutiful son-in-law that I am, I say, Sure, no problem.
Little did I know.
Im sure this will come as no surprise to you, but there was no King Syrup at Ingles. Stopped carrying it, said the manager, unemotionally, Dont know if and when well have it again. He goes on to tell me that he is not the one who orders it and he cant help me.
Okayso what am I going to do? I thought to myself, If I go home empty- handed, some special people that I love will be very unhappy...not to mention they could very well experience the extremely unpleasant effects of King Syrup withdrawal. But I wasnt desperate, at least not yetthat would come soon enough. I was, however, determined to find the King. Several local grocery stores and a few hours later (not to mention traffic tension!), I was starting to get just a little frustrated.
I wearily trudged homesans Kingto admit my failure to my loved ones, all the while hoping that Google would help me in my new quest. Breakfast had long since passed, of course, so I retired to my computer where I used the search engines to try to find King Syrup.
I soon learned that King Syrup had a new ownerCarriage House Companiesbut they still made the syrup at the plant in Kentucky. When I found their number and called them, they told me that I could only buy it by the case. They were kind enough to give me the names of stores that might carry the product, but they said that they didnt actually keep records on local resellers.
The closest store that they mentioned as a possibility was a Bi-Lo that was about 35 miles away. That was good enough for me, so off I went. To my great relief, there they were, on the shelf in the middle of the Bi-Lo in the little townbottles of the King, all adorned with that famous red label with the lion! Filled with glee, I bought a bottle of the magic elixir and drove back home to present the treasure to the queen. All was well in Georgia that day! Casey and Daddy were happy; I was happy!
But the story doesnt end there.
As they say, all good things must come to an end, and that treasured bottle of syrup was no exception. No problem, I thought, I have the keys to the kingdomI know where they sell the wonderful stuff! You dont have to be a student of foreshadowing to know where this train is headed. Sure enough, when I confidently made the 35-mile journey to the magic Bi-Lo, there was an unpleasant surprise waiting for yours truly. You guessed it. They no longer carried it.
Woe to the servant!
And so, it was back to the computer and the phone. Soon I was talking to the company that owns Carriage House, Ralcorp, in St. Louis, and after discussions about availability in local markets, I was directed to the sales department. One thing led to another, and it wasnt too long before a very special business relationship was formed. The relationship not only solved my problem of running out of King Syrup, but as a happy bi-product, it has also helped many other like-minded people find the syrup as well.
In 2005 I formed a company called Barr None Distribution to distribute Carriage House Branded Products, of which the King line is only one. I have also been able to fund an outreach ministry at my church with the profits. I feel like Ive been richly blessed, both with the business and with the people Ive been able to meet. As they say, the rest is historyI now have all the King Syrup and Po-T-Rik I want, anytime I want. Both syrups are used to make ShooFly Pie and many other tasty treats.
For the last two years I have received calls and emails from people all over the country. All of these people had experienced the same frustrating empty shelves as I found, only I was able to give them hope, not to mention, syrup. So far, Ive shipped the product to more than 30 states, including Alaska. And thats how Ive collected the stories.
For example, theres Joyce who is in her 80s and lives in the Ohio Valley area. She recently lost her mate of many years, but she was determined to carry on his tradition of making carmel corn for a local fair. He had been doing that since 1932. Joyce remembers when King Syrup was made in a clear white formulabut since that hasnt been available for awhile, he had switched to the golden formula a few years back. Actually, she said, it gives the corn a richer color, and they really liked it better.
Then there was Mary from Virginia. Her grandfather used to poke a hole in a fresh hot biscuit and fill it with King Syrup. Then he would give those to her and her brothers and sisters as a special treat. What a delicious memory to grow old with and pass on to your own children and grandchildren.
While it was the Mangels-Herold Co. who originally coined the well-known phrase about King Syrup being Americas Finest Table Syrup, it is still used in recipes for main dishes, salads, vegetables, breads, pies, cakes, candies and cookies.
Putting King Syrup on pancakes still is a favorite of many families, both young and old. Both the Mangels-Herold and the Torbitt and Castleman Companies collected and published many recipes over the year, all submitted by their customers who loved the syrup.
Some of these prized recipe books can still be found along with various sizes of King Syrup pails and tins. These tins are valuable collectors items, since the syrup now only comes in the glass bottles. By in large, the favorite use of King Syrup seems to be a deceptively simple, but deliciously satisfying, treat of pouring King Syrup on a saucer and mixing it with butter. This yellow golden gooey mixture is then spread on a fresh hot biscuit or just a slice of bread. I have even heard that people like the syrup over cheese!
Many people from all parts of the country use this same time-honored tradition of pouring the syrup over or in their favorite food for a fast and simple treat. An early cookbook from the 1940s extols the virtues of King Syrup being rich in Dextrose, The Food Energy and is even recommended for Infant Feeding. It goes on to say there is nothing more important than getting the baby off to a good, sound start. Now that was marketing! But, no story about King Syrup can be told without the mention of its impact on the afore-mentioned sweet treat called ShooFly Pie. This pies roots are in Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, dating back to the early 1700s.
I have been unable to determine exactly when Shoo Fly Pie and King Syrup first made the scene together, but I do know that King Syrup and King Po-T-Rik Molasses are the syrups of choice when it comes to making this pie. The earliest Mangels-Herold cookbook I have from the 1940s, 70 Famous King Syrup Recipes, Tested and Approved by Mary Mason of the National Broadcasting Company, has a recipe for the pie using King Po-T-Rik Molasses.
The camps of people who insist on King Syrup Golden (red label) or King Po-T-Rik Molasses (blue label) for Shoo Fly Pie are pretty evenly divided, so I guess its just a matter of taste. King Golden imparts a lighter flavor while the Po-T-Rik Molasses gives a stronger flavor and darker look.
Carol, who was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and lived there for 35 years, prefers the King Syrup Golden for her pie. Her recipe is from The Lancaster County Cookbook and she points out that it calls for molasses.
Heres the recipe:
Mix the flour, brown sugar and butter together to form crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture for the topping. In another bowl mix egg, King Syrup and 3/4 cup hot water. Add this to the crumb mixture and mix well. Dissolve the baking soda in the remaining 1/4 cup hot water and add to the mixture. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until the middle is set.
Well, I could go on for hours (and actually have, more than once) about King Syrup and the great people that I have met and those that Im still meeting. Its the sticky tie that binds, I suppose. Also, I realize it truly is a southern thing...well, via southern Illinois, that is.
To contact Jerry Barr about King Syrup or other Carriage House Brands products, you can check out the Carriage House Brands website at www.CarriageHouseBrands.com, call Jerry at 678.349.2013, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To hear the King Syrup "Shoo Fly Pie" jingle that ran on the Grand Ole Opry click here: ShooFlyPie.mp3
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