Note: For a complete list or working sugarhouses (and where you can get a great breakfast) click HERE.
One of my fondest memories growing up was the year my Dad decided to make maple syrup. He had identified a dozen or so maple trees on the perimeter of our homestead and set about drilling holes in the trees, then inserted a metal spigot. I trailed along with a wagon full of stainless steel buckets that we hung over each of the spigots.
A day or so later we made the same tour, this time rounding up the half full pails of sap and lugging them down to a clearing in our pasture. We carefully constructed a pile of kindling and hard wood, set it ablaze and hung the large pot over the fire. Then we waited. And waited. What felt like a full day of fire and kettle watching netted us about a quart of deep amber-colored syrup.
It’s been 30+ years since the great maple syrup experiment. And hundreds of pancakes later, I still think maple syrup is the best part. With childhood memories in hand, my wife and I took the girls to Holiday Brook Farm in Dalton so they could get a firsthand look at how it’s done. We got a tour of the sap house and the farm store from Rick Wilbur, who showed off the new evaporator, which takes advantage of reverse-osmosis to remove water from the sap for quick concentration.
The evaporator “has made the process a lot more efficient,” explained Dicken Crane, co-owner of the farm on Holiday Cottage Road.
Tapping season falls between mid-February and mid-March because sap flows better from trees subjected to overnight freezes and warmer days.
“This year has been a shorter season than most,” said Crane, noting that the upcoming weekend would likely be the last of the season.
Crane projects they’ll produce close to 700 gallons of syrup this year, which is about normal, but well short of the 900 gallons produced last year.
All this talk of maple syrup had me thinking about ways to incorporate the sweet stuff in something besides waffles or pancakes. Here are three recipes that are not only easy to make, but the kids can help, too.
For an alternative to popcorn this weekend, try these savory maple snacks.
- 2 cups walnut halves
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat a dry skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, maple syrup and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until syrup is caramelized and nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger, the Food Network.
Chicken is a staple in our home and so, naturally, I’m always looking for a unique way to dress it up. This savory recipe has just the right sweetness and crunch and is sure to be a hit.
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ¼ lb.)
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons mayo
- ½ cup plain panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, spraying with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts between wax paper and gently pound thin with the flat side of a meat mallet. (This is the fun part for kids!). In a shallow dish, mix together maple syrup and mayo (consider adding another tablespoon of mayo and a bit more syrup.) In another shallow dish, mix together panko and pecans. Dip chicken into syrup mixture then panko. Place on baking sheet.
Bake 20 minutes, turning once, until juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut and coating is golden brown. Check temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure 165 degrees. Recipe courtesy Betty Crocker.
Maple-Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved and trimmed
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 slices of bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
- ½ tsp. of salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place Brussels sprouts in a single layer in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup; toss to coat. Sprinkle with bacon; season with salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven until bacon is crispy and Brussels sprouts are caramelized, about 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through. Recipe courtesy All Recipes.