When my husband drilled his first a hole in the bark of a maple outside my kitchen window, I thought he was kinda crazy. Surely, I figured, there wouldn’t be too much value in collecting tree sap, drop by drop, and making a little syrup. And, honestly, I didn’t think he’d be very successful, but I just watched him do his thing and figured if nothing else it’d be a learning experience.
While I was very wrong, I guess I was sorta right too. I learned way more than I bargained for. So much that I couldn’t stop writing about this miracle of a tap, a bucket, a fire, and a filter that winds up creating maple syrup, and wound up writing a book—Sweet Maple, Backyard Sugarmaking, from Tap to Table (available this fall).
So when Glenda asked me last week if I’d share my thoughts on backyard sugarmaking with y’all before the sap starts flowing here on our New Hampshire homestead, well, the words flowed quite easily.
Sugarmaking Makes Memories
My favorite lesson that I’ve learned after walking the woods, gathering sap buckets, and
hovering around an amazing smelling, ceaselessly steaming pan of boiling sap? All of these are fantastic places to make memories with my teens. Surely they would be great places to spend time with a child of any age, but for me right now, I’m surrounded by teens. . . teens who are growing up in a world of social media, screen time, and very little down time. . . teens who want an excuse for quiet and exercise and hard work, even if they don’t know it. . . teens who I long to spend a few more valuable, memorable days with before they’re off into that real world. Once they’re steeped in that world—away from home—they will need to be skilled at making their own down time, turning off social media, and leaving their phone behind when there’s a few sweet moments to focus on ahead.
Sugarmaking has taught my teens that it is possible to carve out quality time that is productive, rewarding, and yet relaxing. And it’s given us sweet family moments that we never would have known if it wasn’t for that first tap, bucket, and filter.
Sugarmaking Makes Baking Better
Baking with my daughters when they were young was always a messy, complicated, not-even-always-very-tasty endeavor. It was worthwhile, of course, for the quality time spent around step stools, aprons, and wholesome ingredients, not for the final, often lopsided or burnt, outcome.
Back then, the best part of family time in the kitchen was the messy, squishy dough and twirls in bare feet and aprons to Nat King Cole while the oven churned out what often was not “unforgettable” cookies or cakes. But today, in our little farmhouse kitchen, my teens and I still love baking together. They choose the music these days, the results are much less lopsided, and we’ve replaced the refined sugar in many of our favorite recipes with all-natural maple syrup.
It’s pretty simple to start using maple syrup in your baking. For every 1 cup of refined sugar, substitute 3/4 cup of maple syrup. Find a few tablespoons of a liquid that you can omit from the recipe, and turn down your oven temperature by about 25°F. That’s it. It’s that simple to start baking with all-natural, so-delicious maple syrup.
Author of Sweet Maple (available Fall 2019) and Simple DIY Kombucha, and the owner of SoulyRested.com,Michelle homesteads in New Hampshire’s lake district with her husband, daughters, labradoodle, chicken, ducks, cows, rabbits, bees, barn cats, and a whole lot of maple trees.