No, this photo was NOT taken in December, or January, or even February, it was taken on Saturday on our way to Sugar Moon Farm near Earlstown, Nova Scotia for the first of this year's maple syrup run. Finally!
The people seeing me take this shot couldn't resist telling me that they had quite enough of winter. Frankly, I couldn't agree more except....
...when it's time to make maple taffy on fresh snow. Perhaps it's my Quebec roots, born and raised in the maple syrup producing capital of the world (apparently 75% of the world's supply comes from there), but there is nothing that compares to the flavor as a natural sweetener and nothing that is a real harbinger of Spring than the making of it.
I'll be sharing more of my visit to Sugar Moon Farm, a self-sustaining sugar maple farm on Foodtv's Food for Thought and I'll let you know when to check it out. But for now a flashback and some recipes....
The guided talk at Sugar Moon about how sap is collected and turned into liquid amber (in my opinion, even better than gold) reminded me of the first time I took my daughters to a friend's father's farm where there were maple trees and these friends decided to make their own syrup. By the way...they only did it once! But back to the story.
Their boys were two and four, just like my girls. And we thought it would be a great outing for all of us...as soon as the sap started to run, that is. The kids were so excited, and I admit it...so was I. Every day...same question..."can we go make maple syrup today?" Many phone calls back and forth waiting for the weather to be our friends and hover around zero. That's when the sap runs. Finally, the big day arrived. We bundled up and arrived at the farm. Squealing, gleeful children running ahead, looking for the trees with buckets. Finding them, they'd shout to us "here, here, hurry" and we'd head over, only to find a slow drip.........drip.......drip of sap (I was going to say running, but...more like slow dribbling) into the bucket. At that point, only a very thin layer of sap covered the bottom of some of the pails.
So we made snow angels and built snowmen and the kids kept running back to the trees to see if the buckets were overflowing (ah for the optimism of children) and by 4PM we decided to call it a day and return the next for "real" maple syrup making.
Return we did, the pails still not more than half full, but we heated up the vat my friend's father always used to boil down the sap and turn it into my personal favorite natural sweetener - maple syrup. The biggest challenge for the grownups was keeping little ones from getting too close to the vat. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we had a small batch of thin maple syrup and the ability to pour some on the snow for instant (HAH! I use the term loosely) gratification.
It really is quite a different operation at Sugar Moon Farm these days, as you can see.
As for dessert....a little drizzle of syrup over your favorite ice cream or crepe or fruit salad...pure heaven.
By the way... I bought a cookbook at Sugar Moon Farm - Maple Syrup Cookbook- no surprise there. Stay tuned for some delicious dishes made with my own jug of this year's maple syrup.