Friday, March 20, 2009

Maple Sugar Spring

Spring! Finally.

Spring means a lot of things and one thing that folks don't think about much anymore is that it's Maple Syrup Time!

Maple Syrup Time. I read about it with my kids in a chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House in the Big Woods." Remember how the tapping of the trees and the boiling of the sap was reason for a big party with maple candy and sugar snow? How the little ones went to sleep in a pile of coats on the bed while the big people partied on a sugar high long into the night? Ah. Those were the days...

I had the privilege of touring a Vermont maple syrup farm many years ago. The farmers there took the time to educate all their customers about the maple syrup impostors in the grocery stores that are merely bottles of evil corn syrup with fake maple flavoring. Then they served up some of the real stuff.

In 1991 my four kids and I participated in a homeschool field trip to a Michigan maple syrup operation. It was fantastically educational as we got to see the whole process from the tapping of the sugar maples to the boiling of the sap and bottling of the syrup. The kids tasted the sap and the final product.

This was an old-fashioned family operation.

This old guy was the grand-dad. I remember him taking me into the chicken coop after the syrup demonstration and teaching me how to recognize hens that are no longer laying eggs. Invaluable culling education. Which I don't do now because I'm lazy. I just keep feeding the old birds. But I know how to do it if I need to. I wrote a detailed description of the process once for one of Mary Pride's magazines.


This is the best picture of the kids I have from that trip. Katie was eight and Kristin was six.

And Neal was four. Seth was a babe-in-arms of seventeen months. No picture of him.

So it is very exciting to me that this year our oldest daughter Katie and her husband Nathan are tapping their own sugar maples in Michigan to make syrup. They live in the middle of a big Amish community. Their Amish friends and neighbors have gotten them started with taps and buckets and are boiling the sap for them in their evaporator. Katie has written about it on her blog.

Nathan told me he has about seventy buckets out on the trees and gets about 100 gallons of sap a day! 100 gallons of sap=2 gallons of syrup this year.

I was very happy to get this in the mail the other day-

We immediately made french toast to celebrate.

One of my favorite things to make with real maple syrup is maple vinaigrette for my salads. It's easy and delicious and I thought I'd share the recipe with you.

(Pardon me for doing the PW thing)

This recipe will be enough for one pint of salad dressing. You will need REAL maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix together thoroughly with a fork in a two cup measuring cup.

While you whisk this mixture with a fork or small wire whisk, slowly drizzle in 1 cup olive oil. By using this method the oil and liquid will emulsify together.

That's it. You just saved yourself about $4 for a bottle of premium salad dressing.

If you leave out the maple syrup (because you don't have the real stuff right now) and throw in a tablespoon of sugar, or better yet, a teaspoon of agave nectar, the balsamic vinegar will be the predominant flavor and you'll have a nice balsamic vinaigrette instead. Again, saving a lot of money on the bottled store stuff.

The salad dressing I made the other day is in the refrigerator and the oil and vinegar did not separate at all.

The maple viniagrette is delicious on a simple salad with greens and sliced pear or apple. Get fancy and throw on some chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts or hazelnuts) and some cheese. Feta or blue cheese would be great. If company is coming over and you want to be impressive- roast the sliced fruit brushed with oil in a hot (425) oven for 10-15 minutes and toast the chopped nuts while you are at it. But raw or roasted, this salad would cost you $9 in a nice restaurant. And look how easy it was.

Now I'm hungry.


  1. Yum! Now I need to get some veggies so I can make a salad...

  2. We just placed an order for maple syrup from Jed's in Vermont. It's pricey, but oh so delicious. Wish I lived near a maple syrup operation. That looks like so much fun. And you wrote for Mary Pride? You have been around a while with homeschooling, huh?

  3. Ah...let's see. (Doing mental math...)
    Homeschooling for twenty years, give or take.

    I'm in the middle of a thirty two year stint.

    I have eleven years+ to go.

    That makes me tired...


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