April Food for Thought - The Sap is Still Running
It's time to buy and use our sweet maple syrup from local producers This time of year, I've got maple on my mind. We're looking at warm, sunny days, temperatures above 40 during the day and below freezing at night, perfect for the sap to flow. According to the N.H. Maple Producers Association, the state has more than 600 maple producers who produce about 90,000 gallons of this golden treat. That's more than 3,600,000 gallons of sap. The sap flows depend entirely on the weather and usually run from mid-February to April. I spoke with Conrad Chapple Sr., who has a farm up on Meridian Hill in North Stratford. He doesn't usually start collecting sap until mid-March. Conrad's farm is on a northern slope, which means the sap flows can run as late as May, depending on the weather. N.H. maple producers are eager to share their stories and are quite proud of their 100-percent-natural and organic product, as they should be. When looking for great maple syrup, you don't have to look far. As a baker, buying local is the only way to go. You get to look these farmers straight in the eye and talk business. It doesn't get any better than that. Whether it's maple syrup or artisan cheese, or maybe fresh cream or eggs, apples, potatoes, or fresh corn or blueberries, it's all right here in our back yard, just waiting for the seasons to change. I get excited about working with local farmers and my one message would be: Please buy locally, you can taste the difference. Getting back to maple syrup, this product needs nothing. Brush it on walnut scones just before baking for added flavor. How about maple-poached pineapple or maple pecan pie. Maple syrup is not as sweet as corn syrup and not as many calories, either. Maple syrup makes a great pecan pie without the pie getting sweeter. Warm maple syrup over bread pudding or rice pudding is the best sauce you could add and its only one ingredient. Have you tasted baked apples with maple syrup for breakfast? My favorite is fresh biscuits out of the oven with butter and maple syrup poured all over it. Maple syrup and butter is a perfect fit for sweet potatoes and yams, too. I've included a recipe for maple butter cream, great for cupcakes. *** Maple Buttercream This simple frosting is great on cupcakes or muffins. 1/2 cup unsalted butter (soft) 4 cups powdered sugar (sifted) 1/3 cup maple syrup I prefer grade B maple syrup (dark amber) for baking Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy and add maple syrup last. Sprinkle pecan pieces on top of the cupcakes for added texture or add a few candies for an Easter Sunday brunch treat. *** Visit http://nhmapleproducers.com for a list of sugar houses across the state The Inn-to-Inn Maple Tour is scheduled for the weekend of March 27. Visit www.mtwashingtonvalley.org for more information.