I moved here from New York in the 1990’s, and I noticed two things: The people on this side of the lake were almost suspiciously friendly, and they were all nutso for maple.
Maple? Really? I mean I know Vermont produces more than 50% of the country’s maple syrup supply, but how much pancakery can you really eat? It’s just for pancakes, right?
I was slow to assimilate. too much New Yorker in me, I thought of Vermonters’ love affair with maple to be “cute” (in that condescending form of the the word “cute”) but after many years I drank the maple Kool-Aid, and I confess, I too am now a maple freak.
Here’s how it works, you drill some holes into a sugar maple tree and then put a tap into those holes. When the nights are freezing and the days sunny and warmer. Usually between February and March. the sap will flow. You can either collect that sap in a bucket, or if you have a whole lot of trees you can run clear pvc tap lines from tree to tree and the sap will flow to some centralized collectors. There are many forests here positively filled with sugar maples, you can drive down the highway and see mile after mile of trees strung with tap lines winding through these forests. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, once the sap is collected it is boiled until all the liquid boils off and you are left with a thick syrup.
That’s it. There is nothing else in there. Just boiled sap, and you have the finished product. Sells for about 50-60 bucks a gallon. My preferred seller is Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, and a gallon jug of the Grade A Very Dark sells for 70 bucks (the darker stuff is more mapley so it costs more than the lighter stuff). Then it’s a matter of figuring out what to DO with it all! Just pancakes, right.
Prepare to be happy, ’cause there are a whole lot more things you can do with it. Sure, there’s pancakes, but my favorite uses are as a sweetener for oatmeal, a glaze for salmon, a base for BBQ sauce, or put a little into a glass of Bourbon and you’ll never drink whiskey without it again.
There’s also maple fudge, maple cookies (ever had the maple cookies at Trader Joe? Amazing), put it on popcorn, drizzle over vegetables, dip some cheddar into it, spread it on a peanut butter sandwich, put it into salad dressing, put it on ice cream, add to mashed potatoes, use as a glaze for pork or fish or chicken, add it to mustard, bake it into cinnamon rolls, bake it into beans, there are so many ways to eat this stuff and around here it will end up in a zillion different products on shelves. I just bought a maple sugar and Chipotle spice blend the other day, no idea what I’ll do with it, I just know I wanted it.
So I guess these Vermonters had something to teach this “flatlander” after all. That’s the term they apply to anyone whose family hasn’t lived here for 200 years or something like that… and that is just cute. I mean that as the condescending variety of “cute” of course. One thing that Vermont natives and flatlanders can agree on, however, is that fake maple is bullshit!