Syrup season ended early for us due to contractors on the property and outside commitments. As a result, we pulled out taps early and missed half of the season and half of the maple syrup we could have harvested. We usually think of harvest as a late summer and fall activity, but it’s late winter and early spring for maple syrup. For me, it’s the essential turn of the calendar that marks the end of the barely tolerable and the beginning of my favorite time of year; spring. Despite filling the jars with the ambrosial sweet stuff in March or April, it doesn’t get sampled until later in the spring or summer.
Last Friday, I made steak tips, salad, and sweet potatoes for the family. On top of the sweet potatoes, I drizzled on a coating of our maple syrup. Tasting the results of the endeavor is doubly precious. The syrup is sweet on its own, but it’s a doubly sweet reward for all the work that went into producing it.
The first European settlers learned from the indigenous First Nations how to make this fantastic product, and I silently thank them with every pour over pancakes or french toast.
Here’s a dark family secret. When the late-night talk gets intense and our attention diverts from the bubbling pot, we hear the hiss that tells us that a burn is about to start. We rush to the stove, pull the pot off in the nick of time, and have something special. It’s a rich, dark, dark caramel-colored syrup. It’s been to the very edge of burning and snatched back. Throw it away? You have to be kidding. So instead, we decant it into its own jars, add about half more of the regular syrup and compound the best maple caramel ice cream topping in the world. Poured on top of vanilla ice cream, it makes for a special treat. So the syrup moves from near disaster to glorious joy.
This is the start of our second maple syrup season—the easy one. Just open the jar and pour.