Many people think the first sign of Spring is the Crocus. I personally think it is Maple Syrup. I eagerly anticipate the warm days and cold nights of March as I know it means the sap is beginning to run in the Sugar Maple Trees. It is then that the Maple Sugar Producers are out tapping the trees and collecting the clear sap they will turn into golden syrup. The season is short, a couple of weeks if they are lucky, and that is it for the year. It is an amazing process and something worth seeing.
We usually visit a Sugar Bush each year. These pictures are from the Sandy Flats Sugar Bush in Warkworth Ontario. It is a fun trip for the kids. More importantly, it helps them to understand and connect with the seasonality of their food and the work that must go into getting it to the table. This is an important lesson for anyone and something that I think we are becoming very removed from as a society.
In my post on Buttermilk Pancakes I mentioned Curles which is a family run Sugar Bush that produces some of the best Maple Syrup I have ever had. I always buy the Amber, which comes from the last tap off of the trees for the season. It is dark and intensely flavoured. Many people use it just for baking but for me it is the only choice.
We put it on pancakes and waffles; I would never use anything else. I cook with it. I pour it over warm corn bread. My mother, as a special treat during Easter, would toast and butter Hot Cross Buns and give us a little dish of Maple Syrup to dip them into. It is something her father used to do for her, bringing home fresh Hot Cross Buns from his bakery just for the occasion, and it is a tradition I carry on with my children today. And believe it or not, sometimes at the beginning of the season when I just get my new batch for the year, I pour a little syrup into a glass and drink it straight; it is the best way to truly appreciate the complexity of flavour in Maple Syrup.
Last weekend we had it with Buttermilk Waffles. The recipe is below, but be sure before you make them that you have some Pure Maple Syrup to pour over top!
adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1¾ cups milk
½ cup canola oil
2 egg whites
Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a small bowl, combine egg yolks, milk and oil. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Mixture will be lumpy. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into batter just until incorporated and a few streaks of egg white are still visible.
Pour appropriate amount of batter onto greased and pre-heated griddle and close lid (the amount will depend on the style of waffle maker you have). Do not lift lid during the baking period. Bake according to manufacturer’s directions. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with Maple syrup.