Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Sap is Running

It's not an old fashioned jab at my husband - the beloved FarmBoy Kolz.

In Upstate New York it's maple sugaring season. Cold nights and warmer days make the sap rise in the sugar maple trees. My industrious husband drills the tree, places a spile,

and gathers sap into large barrels which he then boils down to maple syrup. It sounds easy, doesn't it?

When you figure that 40 gallons of maple sap yields 1 gallon of maple syrup, the illusion of easy, tasty syrup evaporates like so much H2O boiling off the sap. Don't be discouraged, if you're a Noreasterner yourself, and have access to sugar maples, this might be a really fun winter project for you. You can find more information here:
We found that with the trees we have on our property, along with the ones the neighbors donated to the cause, we produce enough maple syrup for a family of 7 for most of the year, along with the half pints we give to the neighbor-tree owners, and our close family. There never could be a surplus.. could there?

Why tap a maple tree? There are several historic reasons according to a state of Vermont historical site. Maple sugar became the colonists own sweetener ending their dependence on foreign sugar. They boiled the sap from their own trees into syrup, then further reduced it to sugar crystals, often stored in a lump. It kept all year without spoiling. Also, it was never tinctured with the sweat of the southern slave as was cane sugar before the civil war. And if that's not enough motivation - how about pure maple syrup was seen on sale at Wegman's market for $22.69 a quart last week?

There is a lesson there of self-sufficiency from our colonial ancestors. How could we extrapolate this to reducing our independence on foreign oil of a petroleum variety? Polly put the kettle on - we'll all have tea, and ponder this one.

I digress. Besides, I feel a kindred spirit with colonial and pioneering American women as I tie on my bright yellow print apron with ample pockets. I come from solid, plump, British stock, and I imagine my ancestors each had the same sweet tooth I enjoy. Just a little tangible touchstone with my ancestors, boiling down the maple sap from trees planted in front of my 1840s Greek Revival home. They would have stored lumps of maple sugar, carefully meted out for special occasions or to sweeten their winter food. I'm putting up pints of maple syrup, hygienically canned in mason jars for us to miserly drizzle over pancakes, waffles, and french toast. And every so often I make a special treat where maple syrup is a guest star.

What blogpost about maple syrup would be complete without a little recipe?

An ordinary baked good takes on new levels of deliciousness with Maple Icing made from *our very own trees*. If you purchase maple syrup, my recommendation is buying the Grade B darker maple syrup for baking and such, because the flavor has more depth. You won't fail if your store sells only the Grade A, you'll just not have quite the richer slightly smokey maple flavor of a darker syrup.

This frosting has a pure and simple flavor blend of real butter and subtle maple syrup. The nuts are optional - and I usually skip them unless our English walnut trees had a bumper crop.

Maple Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter
3 cups confectioners sugar
4-6 T. pure maple syrup
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Thoroughly cream butter and sugar, adding maple syrup until light and spreadable, a smidgen more if you're pouring as a glaze. Add nuts if you like and frost. This frosting tastes so good you'll start dreaming up places to use it. May I recommend glazing an English scone?

Proper English Scones - yields about 18

2 cups sifted all purpose flour (256gm)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup margarine or butter (I use 4 tbsp on an American butter stick)
1 cup milk (If you don't have your own goat herd, cow or soy milk will do)
Optional: 3/4 cup raisins or sultanas (miniature raisins)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F or 220°C. Grease a cookie sheet or baking pan.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.

3. Cut in the margarine or butter till mixture resembles cornmeal, then stir in the raisins.

4. Add the milk and mix to make a smooth dough. (Add a little more milk if necessary. The dough should not be too dry - very much like an American biscuit dough).

5. Knead very lightly for ten seconds on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat to about 3/4" thick (2 cm) and cut into individual scones. I prefer triangles. My mother insists they're to be in circles, cut with a biscuit cutter. May be that's why triangles feel so right.

6. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, at which point they will be lightly golden brown.

They can be served with clotted cream and loads of strawberry jam, for a proper English tea snack, but in our American household, it's usually sliced, given a schmear of butter (we are New Yorkers now, after all), and a big dollop of whatever jam jar we've retrieved from our summer berry picking stash. For your purposes today, let the scone cool, and then frost the top with maple frosting. It's deliciousness will amaze you. Brilliant served with Red Zinger herbal tea, I might add.

Nibble on one whilst you ponder how to reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum, will you?


Melzie said...

My gram , and I love to visit during maple time!!! I also love it when she sends me the "real stuff" which is anything she makes. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it is so cool that you make your own maple syrup!

MizzMoneypenny2u said...

One of the girls I work with was just looking for something to take to an international food fest for girls scouts. She wanted something to represent Canada, and we talked about maple stuff. I'm sending her your frosting recipe. Maybe she can put it on cut out cookies in the shape of maple leaves... Thanks!


KelliSue Kolz said...

Tana, that's a very creative use of maple products! The frosting uses just enough maple syrup for good flavor and not enough to break the bank at retail prices. :>)