M is for Maple Syrup!
It is “Sugar Season” in Eastern Canada, and the Northeastern United States. And oh, does that make me home-lonely! Of course, tapping maple trees this way (this picture was taken by my Grandfather, in the late 1950’s) only happens in very small Sugar bushes. Big operations use miles (or kilometres) of plastic tubing running from the trees to the cabin.
Okay, well it was Sugar season when I started writing this post! The season is now just coming to an end, which of course, means that folks all over Quebec and Ontario and Vermont and New York and New Hampshire (and probably parts of Maine and New Brunswick ) are heading to the Sugar Shacks or Cabane a Sucre for a delicious Maple Meal. The kind where everything on the long table is cooked in maple syrup, eggs, ham, sausages, dumplings. And then there are pancakes and french toast all dripping in the sweet stuff! I am feeling homesick just thinking about it! When I was in elementary school (dear old Julius Richardson School…it’s closed now) it seemed that every year we got to go on a field trip to the Cabane a sucre. And do you know what my most vivid memory is about those field trips? The grass snakes. Those dear little garter snakes. They couldn’t hurt you unless they REALLY tried. However it seems to me that some of the boys took to throwing the poor little things, at the girls!
I think that was about the time when I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to be afraid of those little creatures. (I learned as a teenager that my father REALLY didn’t like snakes when we had a cat who used to bring them home on a regular basis). It paid off too, later on. One summer when I was head sailing instructor at a yacht club, I had a group of 10 and 11 year old boys who were full of…let’s call it “life”! And one day, during lunch break, I watched four of them head off down the whart towards the motor boat we used during sailing lessons. There was much secrecy and glancing over the shoulder and then giggling. I knew something was up, but didn’t let on. After lunch, as we regrouped for lessons to begin again and the young sailors moved towards their boats, one of the four peered into the motor boat and said, “What’s that?!” with fake alarm. I had already quietly spied the little creature curled up in a sunny spot near the gas tank, so without looking, I answered, “where?” “In your boat!” he shrieked. I stepped casually into the motor boat and picked up the poor snake who seemed to have just gotten comfortable, I held it right under the shrieker’s chin and said, “You mean this??” Poor shrieker, stumbled backwards and fell into the lake. Everyone giggled and then I handed it to one of the other four, who was standing nearby with big eyes, “Maybe you could find him a warm spot on shore before you head back on the water, Hmm?”
And for some reason, the behaviour of the four improved immensely from that day forward…
And I have a Maple Syrup recipe for you as well, with no garter snakes, I promise.
Ouefs dans le sirop d’érable (Eggs in Maple Syrup)
This recipe is from the cookbook A Taste of Quebec, by Julian Armstrong. It is a great favourite of ours during sugar season.
2 cups of Maple syrup
one third cup milk
Pinch of salt
Bring syrup to a boil in heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat just until syrup thickens. Meanwhile beat eggs lightly with milk and salt.
When syrup has thickened, reduce heat to low. Using a wooden spoon, drop spoonfuls of the egg mixture into hot syrup. Cook for 2-3 minutes intil eggs are set. Immediately remove saucepan from heat and place it in larger pan of cold water to cool slightly. Spoon eggs into serving bowls and drizzle with syrup.
These go great along side pancakes and your choice of breakfast meat (sausage, or bacon or ham). Yum! but I confess that I have never tried to pack them in anyones lunch!