March 22, 2010 by
There are few things I get as excited about as maple syrup. In my books it is pure liquid gold. Its luminescent amber hues, intoxicating aroma and exquisite earthy flavour evoke so many memories. Maple syrup season is a sure sign of spring and a reminder that Mother Earth bestows upon us the sweetest delights.
My own personal passion for maple syrup is fuelled by a number of factors. Having a birthday in mid March and two children with early spring birthdays means that family celebrations have always been tied in with maple syrup season. In the early years birthdays were feted with trips to the sugar bush and maple treats. For several years when the kids were young we even tapped our own backyard trees and boiled the sap for hours on end in our kitchen. Despite the humidity issues and all of the toiling, it was true magic when the precious golden syrup was finally ready.
For the past few years my husband and a friend have produced maple syrup on a nearby farm in Wellington County. They tap a modest 60-70 trees and boil the sap in a very primitive evaporator, sleeping out in a tent during “the boil”. Despite being a couple of high tech guys, it is indeed a low tech operation. So obviously they are in it for the experience. It is an opportunity for the urbanite to step out of their ordinary life and slow down while enjoying the beauty of nature. “Kind of like a camping trip” is how my husband describes it. The bonus of course is having a year’s supply of delicious maple syrup. On a good year it even covers off gifts for our extended family and friends. And nothing seems to make people happier than this labour-intensive locally produced treat.
Here in Waterloo Region there is a plethora of maple syrup producers. Ivan Brubacher and family have been in the maple syrup businesses for 40 years, tapping some 1,000 trees on their farm conveniently located just a stone throw away from the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. Last year they produced a record 495 gallons of maple syrup, 200 above their average yield. Despite being traditional Old Order Mennonites they combine elements of both old and new. They use a team of Belgian horses to haul much of the sap but also have about 3 kilometres of plastic pipeline connected to collection tanks, and a very efficient evaporator.
This year I came across a great recipe for ‘Maple Syrup Cake’ calling for ¾ cup maple syrup in the cake and a whole 2 cups of the liquid gold in the fat-free meringue icing. It made for a perfect dessert to celebrate our family birthdays. Check it out on the recipes section of our foodlink.ca website. And while you’re at it you might want to visit Foodlink’s interactive map to find some maple syrup closest to where you live.