I am constantly amazed what my liberal arts education (and lots of it) never taught me. Case in point: maple syrup. Growing up in a large family of five children, maple syrup came to us in a large glass container with the words Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima emblazoned across the top – it was dark, thick and sweet and tasted great on Bisquick pancakes. To be honest, I continued this tradition with my own children. Well, I have since learned that this goop was not maple syrup.
Maple syrup comes from maple trees, surprise, surprise, with the best variety being the sugar maple. You bore a hole into the bark, and attach a tube into which flows the sap — this procedure is called tapping into the tree. The speed of sap flow depends on the weather; if it’s too cold, nothing will flow. Recently, in late February, a friend living in Searsport (the next town north of Belfast), tapped his sugar maples and the sap flowed – a good sign that spring is just about here. Once you collect 40 gallons, you slow boil the sap until it reduces to one gallon (this is not a typo) and that is your maple syrup. The first tappings of the season result in a light amber colored syrup; the later the tapping, the darker the finished product. BTW, this ratio is why real maple syrup is relatively expensive: it takes a lot of sap to make a small amount. BTW2, real maple is loaded with zinc and manganese, two critical elements for your immune system.
If you stay with us here in Belfast, be certain you will be served real maple syrup with breakfast. Alas, my sons are still demanding Aunt Jemima – I failed as a mother.