Thursday, March 24, 2011

tapped out

The warmer weather has brought an end to the sugaring around here. The sap has stopped flowing and the buds have begun to open, blurring the branches in the early spring sky.

All of this a welcome sight, for sure, as our thoughts turn to the work of the
season ahead. And as a reminder of the season just past, we have this:

Our final count comes to just over 5 quarts of finished syrup, much of it already given out to neighbors, friends and family. As I look over the numbers, it surprises me that we were only collecting sap for a few weeks... It became such a pleasant part of our daily routine to check the buckets, gather the sap, prepare for the boiling down. This process is sure to become a sign of the season, as much as setting out seeds in early spring or picking fresh tomatoes in the summer. It is work that comes with its own sights and smells that will always link it to this time of year, the tipping point where winter gives way to spring.

I feel we've learned a bit of the personalities of our trees, the three we chose to tap this year (oh yes, there will be more next year). We knew to keep a close eye on the maple that holds the children's swing; it had a habit of overflowing the bucket. The tree out front was finicky, running strong one day, yielding a few drops the next.

We boiled down the sap three separate times, and each finished product bore its own unique properties. The first, smoky from the wood fire. The second, light in color and flavor. The third, possibly the finest as we figured out the best methods for cooking (just keep adding more sap!) and filtering (natural cotton batting worked better than cheesecloth).

from left to right, batch one, two and three

This time of year, I am itching to put plants in the ground, an urge to be satisfied in a few short weeks. Not long after, I'll be craving those fresh-from-the-garden delights, just before they're ready to be picked. It seems I'm always a few weeks ahead, anticipating what comes next. And so I imagine that come next January, I'll be ready with the taps and the buckets just a few weeks ahead of time. But for now, we're content to be all tapped out, enjoying the sweet rewards of this season's work.

And with all that syrup on hand, we're playing around with different ways to use it (though we are pretty partial to its most common role at breakfast). Today we bring you:

Maple Apple Crisp

3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. maple syrup

Combine above ingredients and place in a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until apples are tender.

Remove and top with:

3/4 c. oats
1/4 c. whole wheat pastry (or gluten free) flour
1/4 c. sliced almonds
1 T. liquid coconut oil (the warm oven works well to melt it)
2 T. maple syrup
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Bake 20 minutes more, until top is crisp. Drizzle with more syrup and serve.

And once your dish is empty...

take your sister's!

This post is part of today's Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet.


PinkCat said...

I continue to be amazed by the sugaring process. It really is an art form. x

gfe--gluten free easily said...

Your own maple syrup--very cool! Love this recipe, too. :-)

We have our own honeybees, but sadly live in the south and in the woods with no maple trees. I love reading about folks like you who do though. Many folks spend so much time getting out of work and taking the easy route, but there's something very comforting and needed about committing to a process like that of maple syrup or "taking" and spinning honey.