One thing that allows me to get through that last push of winter is the anticipation for maple syrup. Ah, the sugar shacks with the pancakes and the maple bacon, the maple glazed root vegetables, maple candies and more!
Making maple syrup is somewhat of a science and one of the most important factors for getting sap for maple syrup is temperature. Tapping trees for maple syrup usually begins in the middle of February until April when the first buds of leaves begin and when temperatures are in the 30s to 40s and when the night air still dips below freezing. They then boil down the sap to a certain consistency or down to candy over a period of time. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup!
There are differing grades for maple syrup and this is dependent on the timing of when the tree is tapped. The grading system has been updated since 2015 to better match the Canadian system where now there is no Grade B. Grade A – golden delicate taste maple syrup is light with a delicate flavor and is usually made from tappings earlier in the season when the sugar content is highest and the cooler air keeps the sap cool. The others are Grade A – rich amber taste, Grade A – dark robust taste, and Grade A – very dark strong taste. The darker it is the later and the season the sap and the more rich and nutty the flavor which is better for cooking.
Check out these farm stands at the next farmers market for your maple syrup fix or check out your local sugar shack!
Try this recipe or other in season produce with maple syrup!
Maple Roasted Parsnips
2 pounds parsnips
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 2 tsp thyme, drizzle of bacon fat
Preheat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop parsnips in boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Arrange parsnips on baking sheet and drizzle with oil and maple syrup. Roast parsnips until tender, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired and serve immediately.