A few days ago, I wrote about the maple sap that was being collected on our dirt road and throughout New England, New York and Canada. Here in western Massachusetts, the sap season is about over. Usually, the season ends when the trees start to bud but so far this year, it hasn't been warm enough to make that happen. I'm not sure why, and maybe someone out there can tell us all, why the sap has slowed down but it has.
When Mom was here this weekend, we took her to Williams' Sugar House in South Deerfield. Our neighbors sell their sap to the Williams Family - I thought we should be authentic and watch it be professionally boiled. Besides being a right of spring, sugaring is just plain fascinating. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. It's an exacting, pain-staking process for someone with lots of patience. Throughout New England, big and little sugarhouses abound. Guys (mostly) hang out near the evaporators for hours, feeding the fire with wood and watching the sap boil. There's a fine point between finished and burnt - I know because I've burned a batch or two much to The Farmer's utter dismay. You can learn more about maple syrup and sugaring here.
This is the "evaporator" at William's. The wood goes in down below. The smoke goes out the long pipe on the right and the steam from the sap exits the short pipe. At the front of the evaporator, the sap is finished.
Lots of old-fashioned sugar houses also offer old-fashioned breakfasts with pancakes, waffles, and sugar-on-snow. The sugar houses are only open during sugar season. It's worth planning a trip to experience the entire tradition.
Real maple syrup is unbelievably sweet and flavorful. Make sure you have experienced it at least once in your life. We don't eat much of it around here because of Julia's diabetes. I tend to use it in cooking as a marinade. I slathered our Easter ham with a mix of maple syrup and mustard and it was delicious.
Here's a recipe for a mud rub that I use in the summer on pork on the grill. It's also good on chicken.
Kristin's Maple Spice Mud Rub
5 cloves garlic mashed with a little olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. I like this best on pork or chicken. Before grilling outside, rub the mud all over the meat and then grill as usual.