Maple-sugaring season has arrived here in New England. In Vermont, where I live, the sap is running, and steam is rising again from sugar-shacks. It’s a short season requiring warm—but not too warm—days and cold nights.
And it’s so much fun.
The longer days, the snow-covered hillside strung with sap tubes – the mud and epic potholes – are welcome signs of spring. This year, perhaps more than ever, I can’t wait for my first batch of pancakes dotted with wild-blueberries and drizzled with warm, first-run syrup. I watch my carbs but I don’t plan on resisting.
Growing up in rural western Massachusetts, my six siblings and I helped make our own maple syrup. Our dad, a Dutchman and former merchant marine, loved getting out in the woods. We used buckets and milk bottles to collect the sap. Tubing is popular now for the professionals and small DIY operations.
We’d burn off the sap in a tub on an open fire in the backyard and then finish boiling it down inside on the woodstove. Move inside too soon and it’s a good way to peel wallpaper. Not, ahem, that I speak from experience.
Getting a couple of Mason jars of syrup was a treat we’d savor throughout the year. I’ve learned about syrup grades since then, and other uses for maple syrup besides pancakes.
Here’s a recipe for one of my favorites, maple buttercream frosting. I love it on apple-spice cake.
MAPLE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
¼ cup butter (preferably unsalted)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (whatever grade suits you!)
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
Blend together butter and syrup with one-third confectioner’s sugar. Continue blending alternative milk and the rest of the sugar (use as much milk as needed for consistency). Add vanilla.
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What gets you thinking about “spring”? Are you especially ready this year? Let us know!