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The tips of the daffodils and tulips are finally reaching through the snow, the mud is ankle deep in our dirt driveway, and litter is making a reappearance on the sides of the roads, assuring me that spring has, in fact, finally arrived.
Sap still drips down the sides of our old maple trees. We didn’t tap any this year, but my brother did on the lot adjacent to our land, and commercial growers are saying that despite this seemingly never-ending winter, it’s a good year for making maple syrup.
Anyone who is fortunate enough to have some of this fresh, sweet syrup knows just how wonderful this nectar of the gods really is.
Although Vermont is perhaps better known for its maple syrup production, Maine farmers actually produce more. Much of it, though, is not marketed as Maine maple syrup, but instead gets labels from other food processing companies.
Anyway it comes is truly a gift.
When I was growing up, my dad used to tap all the old maples, then boil down the slightly sweet sap over a makeshift concrete fireplace on the edge of the lawn.
We children could stay up all night with him, “helping” to skim off the foam, and eventually bringing it into the old country kitchen where my mother would finish it off on top of the stove. She then canned it in bail-type jars, and it was stored in the dirt cellar to enjoy for the next year.
If the snow outside was still white, we’d often enjoy our first taste of the season’s syrup poured over a bit of it.
My favorite way to enjoy this most wonderful of sweets is poured over vanilla ice cream. Dunking fresh hot biscuits into warmed syrup is also delicious, and nearly everyone has enjoyed syrup poured over pancakes.
Baked beans get a slightly different flavor when a bit of maple syrup is used rather than brown sugar.
This wonderful northern sweet can also be used as part of many recipes, as well.
Here are two of my favorites.
The natural sweetness of bright orange carrots gets a distinctively different taste when maple syrup is part of the cooking.
Maple Carrots (3 or 4 servings)
1 tablespoon butter or butter substitute
one-quarter cup maple syrup
one-half teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Peel and slice carrots into “coins.”
Place butter in a pot. Add carrots, syrup, salt and pepper.
Cover tightly and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, or until carrots are soft . Stir occasionally. Serve immediately.
Quick breads are made from a huge variety of ingredients. This one features maple syrup and walnuts.
Maple Nut Quick Bread (1 9x5-inch loaf)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup maple syrup
1 well-beaten egg
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 and one-half cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
one-half teaspoon baking soda
one-quarter teaspoon salt
three-quarters cup chopped walnuts
three-quarters cup orange juice
additional syrup when serving
several walnut halves for garnish
In a bowl, combine the butter, syrup, egg and lemon rind. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
Sprinkle in the nuts. Combine the wet and dry ingredients alternately with the orange juice. Stir with a wooden spoon. Spoon into a lightly greased and floured loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly on a wire rack. Glaze with a little more syrup. Top with walnut halves. Slice and serve. This scrumptious bread, which is more like a cake, is best when served warm. It’s still delicious after it cools, too.
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