Grim's Grub: Sugarbush is calling maple syrup lovers
The ice is starting to melt and I am starting to look at maple sap collecting equipment yet again.
Last year I had seven taps out on March 15, according to my personal Facebook page, with three more on March. 18. Then I was predicting an end to tapping on March 28.
I never thought I would be able to use Facebook to find a record of my past harvest experiences. I have intended to keep a journal or personal almanac type record the last few years to help predict harvests, but I haven't kept much of a journal since college. So it is nice that Facebook is still good for something positive.
Maple sap was once such a huge part of life in this region. Maple sugar was a vital part of one's supplies necessary for baking, possibly brewing and anything we use sugar for today, so the season was very important for local families. I suspect it was a product that brought a great deal of joy to most households.
Imagine, if you will, a winter of dried and salted meats. Increasingly dark, bitter, dry breads and watery soups. Spring starts to round the corner and suddenly there is sugar and syrup in the house again. Perhaps a parent helps you make maple candy or a frosting for cakes, or simply a syrup to top your morning porridge. Either way, the sugar would have marked the end of increasingly repetitive and bland meals as well as winter. This was a comfort food if ever there was one. Predicting a sap run, I have found, is a huge part of the effort a working person must put into harvest. Those who keep records of temperatures leading up to and during the run, along with yields, tend to have the best idea of what to expect.
I am jealous of those with such dedication and organization.
Maple Spiced Candied Nuts
Courtesy of kitchensimplicity.com/maple-spiced-candied-nuts
- 8 cups (2 pounds) mixed raw nuts (go very wild if you have hazelnuts)
- ¾ cup real maple syrup
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Stir nuts together in a large bowl then set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in another container. Pour mixture over nuts and stir to coat evenly. Divide the nut mixture between two parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir and bake 10 more minutes or until nuts are toasted and coating is tacky. Allow to cool 5 minutes or until the coating has hardened and is dry to the touch.
Maple Baked Beans
- 2 cups dried navy beans
- 6 strips bacon
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 pork hock, fresh or smoked
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Simmer navy beans in water about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve liquid. Line bean pot with strips of bacon. In a large bowl, toss together onion and beans. In another bowl, combine 2 cups bean cooking liquid, mustard, salt and maple syrup.
Place half the bean mixture on bacon strips in a pot. Place pork hock over beans and top with the remaining bean mixture, then pour over reserved cooking liquid and syrup mixture. Cover and bake 3 hours or until the pork hock is fully cooked and pulling away from the bone. If beans begin to look dry, add more cooking liquid.
Once pork hock is cooked, remove beans from oven and remove lid. Mash together butter and brown sugar into a paste, scatter over top of beans and place back in the oven, uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.