A Trip To The Sugar Shack: A Lesson in Maple Syrup
Here in the Northeast these last weeks before spring can be brutal. There isn’t much to do, we are all feeling a bit of cabin fever, and in the food world everything seems to be floating in a sad bubble of melancholy.
Unless of course you are the proprietor of a sugar shack, then this is your moment to shine! Working long days and nights, standing over a burning hot kiln cooking the maple-y goodness.
So on this spring like weekend , while visiting my family in Pennsylvania, we decided to venture out and take the kiddies (beloved niece and nephew) to visit a local sugar shack on Journeys End Farm in Newfoundland, PA. Because as it turns out Northeastern Pennsylvania is a virtual (and literal) hot-house for maple trees, and maple sugar houses AKA sugar shacks!
Let me just tell you, when I announced to the kiddies that their sugar policing auntie was taking them to a sugar shack they thought for sure this was some cruel joke.
Well a sweetener, yes. Maple Syrup, made from the sap of the mighty sugar maple tree.
Once the weather hits the perfect temperature (above 40 degrees F in the day and below 20 degrees F @ night), the sugar maple tree will begin to release sap. The trees are “tapped”
And the sap begins to flow, but not rapidly. Each tap will yield around 10 gallons of sap per season, which equates to just under 1 quart of maple syrup.
Once the (practically tasteless) sap is collected it is boiled down. Sap is nearly 97% water, when boiled down it produces maple syrup.
We tasted their luscious syrup and of course brought some home.
Unlike white sugar, maple syrup is rich in minerals like manganese (an important mineral for immunity and anti-oxidant activity) and zinc. So although it is still a sweetener and should be treated as such (a-hem moderation) maple syrup is certainly a better option than plain white sugar. I love baking with maple syrup and was inspired to whip up some cookies with my maple loot… recipe coming soon
If you live in an area that produces maple syrup get out there in the next few weeks and support these maple farmers! The amount of work that goes into one little pint of maple syrup is extraordinary. They need to collect 40 buckets of sap to yield ONE bucket of syrup.
And above all else please don’t mistake that Aunt Jemima stuff for maple syrup, it’s not. That is nothing more than a big bottle of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS – a four letter word!) Yes, maple syrup is more expensive. Use it sparingly, but buy the real stuff.
Thank you to the kind folk at Journeys End Farm for their hospitality.
We loved exploring your farm and the kiddies are still talking about their new friends.
Question of the day?
What do you use maple syrup for in your house? Leave a comment below and let me know.