Sugaring Time

tlt-maple-syrup-sapWhat comes to your mind when you think of Vermont?

The first thing I think?

Maple syrup.

A sweet scent lingered in the air near the sugar shack when we visited the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier, Vermont. https://www.morsefarm.com

Springtime is Sugaring Season. You still have time to attend one of their Sugar on Snow events offered several times in March. Check their website for upcoming events: https://www.morsefarm.com/events/

Maple Syrup History
When the Morse family arrived in the late 18th Century, the Indians taught them how to make the maple sugar. Native Americans made maple sugar hundreds of years ago through a long process of dropping super-heated rocks into wooden containers of the maple sap. This caused steam to waft away and sweet, natural maple sugar resulted.

Can you imagine how long it would have taken to make sugar that way?tlt-red-maple-leaves

Methods have greatly improved since those days.

No more rocks.

Sap is usually boiled down to syrup instead of sugar. However, the term “sugaring” has never changed. Seven generations of the Morse family have carried on this work.

Maple Syrup Tasting
After viewing a brief film about making maple syrup we were given a sample drizzled on snow. The syrup quickly thickened to maple candy. Yummy!

And sticky! I found it impossible to chew. The candy stuck to my teeth.

Thank goodness they served hot tea and coffee, which helped melt the candy and sweeten our drinks. Dill pickles were also provided to cut the sugary taste. Whew! That sour pickle was a shock to the taste buds.

tlt-maple-syrup-gradesMaple Syrup Gift Shop
We were turned loose in the Morse Farm gift shop after our treat. Along with jugs of maple syrup, various flavors of maple candy and assorted gifts, the shop also offered local produce. I highly recommend the Cortland apples if they are in season when you visit. I also recommend the maple ice cream cones. They were delicious.

Maple Syrup Grades
Jugs of maple syrup (in pts, qts, ½ gal & gallon sizes) were available in 4 different grades:
• Fancy – the lightest in color, has the lightest flavor; made earliest in the season
• Grade A Medium Amber – a little darker with a slightly stronger maple flavor;
made in early/mid-season when cooler temperatures moderate
• Grade A Dark Amber – quite dark with a stronger flavor than Medium Amber;
made in late/mid-season when the weather is warmer
• Grade B – very dark with a strong flavor; made when weather is warm
and trees are ready to bud

All grades of maple syrup have the same sweetness and consistency. They are all boiled the same amount of time. Grades are a function of bacterial growth in the sap. Sugarmakers generally prefer the lighter grades. Others like the darker grades because of the stronger maple flavor.

The Morse farm recommends for cooking use only grade B. Aside from that, you be the judge of the best flavor for you.

tlt-acer-saccharumMaple Facts
Sugar bush or sugar maples (Acer saccharum) are the traditional maple trees tapped because they generally produce more gallons of sap and their sugar content is higher than other maples.

Cold freezing nights and warm days are required for the sap to flow properly from the trees.

Old timers say that the sap runs for every day of January thaw. Vermont has a January thaw most years for one, two, or three days. The sugar season occurs mid March through mid April and always consists of one, two, or three runs. Perhaps the old timers knew what they were talking about.

Maple syrup contains 50 calories per tablespoon while corn syrup contains 60 calories per tablespoon. The maple syrup tastes much better, too. Hmm. Calories? Taste? It’s a win-win.

Vermont usually produces the most maple syrup in the USA, but Canada is the top producer in the world. Actually maple syrup is entirely a North American product.

Maple Syrup Storage
Maple syrup should be stored in a cool place until opened. Once opened it must be refrigerated. For long-term storage, it is recommended you pour it into clean odor-free glass jars (like canning jars) and then put those into the refrigerator or freezer.

Pure maple syrup retains its flavor best when kept in the freezer. It will not freeze solid.

If an opened container of syrup is not refrigerated, mold may develop on the surface. It is not spoiled. Heat the syrup almost to a boil, then skim the mold from the surface or filter it through clean cheesecloth. The syrup is ready to be used or refrigerated for later use.

Caution: Be extremely careful. Boiling syrup will swell very quickly and go over the side of the pan.

Maple Syrup – Personal Preferencestlt-pancake
Before we purchased our syrup from the Morse Farm we had no idea how delicious genuine maple syrup could be. Recently we conducted an unofficial taste test.

Since our jug of Morse Farm Maple Syrup was almost empty I purchased a jug from another source/place (not Vermont). We had both brands on our table. When the Morse Farm syrup ran out we tried the jug from the unnamed location.

Not a good idea.

We decided to wait a few days and try it again. It wasn’t bad when we didn’t have the Morse syrup to compare it to, but still not our preference. No doubt minerals in the soil along with grading differences played a part. However, we hope to buy the next jug through the Morse Farm store.

One thing’s for sure. We won’t buy anything made with corn syrup for our pancakes. Not if we can help it.tlt-maple-grove

What about you?

Tell me your syrup preference in the comments below.

Go to www.vermontmaple.org for recipes that use maple syrup and to find more sugarhouses.

Until next time . . . Travel Light,
SuZan

© 2017 SuZan Klassen


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