Monday, March 15, 2010

Tap, Tap, Tappin’ on Heaven’s Door

While wandering the New Hampshire countryside recently, I spied with my little eye a few sure signs of Spring. The bright sunshine and unseasonably warm weather brought out the do-it-yourselfers, eager to clean up debris from the recent windstorm while there was no snow on the ground hindering the effort. The edges of the ice on area ponds and lakes started to melt. A few bird songs not heard for months floated in the air. Weathered metal buckets dangled precariously from tree trunks.

If you’re not from New England (or other parts Northern), you might not recognize the significance of that last sign. It’s sugaring time! You see, maple sap runs best when it’s still below 32° degrees Fahrenheit overnight, but daytime temperatures get between 40° and 50° degrees. The combination pushes the sap from the roots up into the trunk and branches where it freezes until the next day when the warmer temperatures get the sap flowing – through a tap and into those buckets.

Once collected, the sap is boiled, skimmed, and strained, and the ambrosia known as maple syrup is born. Did you know that it takes 10 gallons of sap to make one quart of syrup? True! Variations in boiling times produce other delightful textures such as maple sugar, maple butter, and maple cream. Who first thought to do this, I have no idea, but I’m so glad (s)he did! And compared to other popular sweeteners such as agave and high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup is low in fructose while being an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Who knew?

Though Vermont maple syrup is perhaps more famous, Maine maple syrup is equally great. Stonewall Kitchen offers Maine Maple Syrup in the 8.5 oz. glass jug and 16 oz. crock, individual serving size, and even a neat bottle that looks like a barn! Any one of which is perfect for making another New England treat – Sugar on Snow.

We also have a wonderful selection of products that utilize this most wonderful sweetener in nearly every course of your dinner. Start with Maple Mustard Dip on pretzels for an appetizer (though it also makes a delicious sauce for stir-fry). On your salad, drizzle on the savory/sweet combination of our Maple Balsamic Dressing. For the entrée, pulled pork is elevated to a new level when drenched in our best-selling, award-winning Maple Chipotle Grille Sauce. Or spruce up ham or beef with the divine combination of tangy, sparkly, and sweet in our Maine Maple Champagne Mustard. Of course, dessert loves maple, and what better (speaking of New England treats) than our spin on the classic Maine whoopie pie -- made even better when the cream filling is swirled with a dollop of Maple Pumpkin Butter.

I’m getting hungry. And already prepared for a good tooth-brushing when dinner’s done.

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