This is the time of year, when in cold climates, sap is collected from red or black maple trees. In New England we have many variety's of maple trees. You have to know which one is a sugaring tree by the shape of the leaf that is produced in the springtime. The sugar producing tree has a leaf that does not v within it's leaf, but clearly has a u shape between points.
Collector's of the sap place a peg into the tree, close to the bottom, which allows the leaking of the sappy substance, a carbohydrate, to fall into a container, which looks like a water droplet dripping from the tap to the container. Once collected, it is boiled down to a syrupy stage, removing the water content. The process I saw was from a huge pot over a wood fire. Taking about 40 gallons to make one gallon of syrup, it is a labor of love. In order to process it into a Crystal-like stage, more cooking down is necessary.
It is placed in a container that looks like a crock pot with a hole at the base, from which came the molasses after separating, naturally. The rest, is hardened to be utilized as sugar. This hardened piece had to be chiseled off, or scraped off with a special kitchen tool, that looked like a grater. Many hands were busy in the kitchen in order to produce the sweet cake for a special desert. Needless to say, it was used sparingly, and appreciatively.
There is nothing to match the taste of maple syrup, even though the Cain process is similar. Sweet cakes has been a tradition here in New England, since the Indians taught us how sweet life can be. They used a different method -- theirs is one of heating up stones.
Visiting places where Maple sugaring is produced, makes a great outing this time of the year. Maybe you remember this song, "Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey." By The Drifters in 1961.
Because...We never get tired of our sugar all year 'round. I like to make sweets for those special people in my life.
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