Every spring, it gets me. When the snow starts to melt, and there’s a hint of warmer weather, I stick my noise in the air like the dog because I can smell maple syrup season coming.
We had a great family operation way back when. And the fillings that take up every one of our molars are no surprise given the amount of syrup and maple sugar we would consume during the six or so week season every spring. We had agro-tourism before it was even a thing, selling maple syrup direct from the farm, offering tours of our operation and serving up an impressive menu of pancakes, tea biscuits and johnny cake – as the carrier for some variation of our homemade maple products. Here are a few shots — from the Maplewood archives.
And maple, well, you know it goes with everything and with every meal. Maple sugar goes in my coffee every morning. Maple syrup is the only thing that ever tops pancakes or maple syrup in our houses. And maple butter is often just eaten off the spoon, or sometimes it makes it onto toast. I might just have an entire shelf in my frig dedicated to maple.
Nature seems to know just what we need about the middle of February. A general grumpiness is evident in many people you meet and there’s really no point in talking about the cold, dark winter weather any longer.
And suddenly. Magically. The sun shines again, warming up the snow, awakening the mud and sap starts to flow through the veins of the sugar maple. Ahhh…maple syrup season is here.
It started this past weekend in my area. And as I stepped outside I could just imagine the smell of the steam billowing from the evaporator in our maple bush to signal the start of the short, sweet season of syrup.
In the heyday of our small hobby farm, we had 1,000 maple taps and a pioneering farm market retail business during the hectic six weeks that made up our every spring season. It was the best job I ever had – making pancakes, selling (and consuming equal amounts of) maple sugar, slathering homemade tea biscuits with maple butter, and bringing consumers to the farm to learn about how one of the best agricultural products I know of is made.
Our maple operation started small – and here I am (not yet enjoying my best job ever) selling coffee, syrup and maple sugar out of our drive shed. It got better and bigger from there…and I started to smile as I greeted customers!
If you are looking for ideas on how to use maple syrup – check out these recipes from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.
I think the best thing we “grew” on our hobby farm was maple syrup. We tapped about 1,000 trees, had a farm retail market and served up pancakes and maple syrup, maple butter on fresh tea biscuits, and made endless batches of maple sugar.
The sap is running and it always makes me nostalgic about the season. Thankfully I have friends who tap a few trees on their farm – so I can get a fix and some pictures (thanks JM).
Syrup season has us thinking about all the ways we love to use maple syrup.
Top a salad with this dressing – 1 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tsp mustard powder, 1 garlic clove, 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup, salt and pepper, fresh herbs (basil, oregano, dill).
Sweeten a smoothie – I add a glug of syrup to a banana/yogurt/spinach/milk/frozen blueberry smoothie.
Maple butter medicine by the spoonful – I have just a few jars in the frig in case of emergency.
For a salmon marinade – check out our recipe here
Try a maple leaf cocktail – 2 oz bourbon, 1/2 oz maple syrup, 1/2 oz lemon juice. Shake over ice.
And top off a latte or add to coffee.