The sap is flowing...
2010 is going to be a bumper crop year for maple syrup!
The early, spring-like conditions and the continued night-time chills are the makings for abundant sap collection. Add to that the unusually warm El Niño winter we've had in the North East, and it spells the perfect recipe for delectable breakfasts! Indeed, most maple growers in Quebec are confirming that this year's sap is the tastiest it's been in decades. Apparently, the difference is astounding. Maple syrup in Ontario and New England are likely to taste markedly different too.
Don't go rushing to the supermarket for maple syrup just yet though. Whatever you will find on the shelves are remnants from previous years. The only way you can get you're hands on the 2010 harvest is to buy directly from maple growers (online or at a farmers' market), but do check that you are getting this year's crop before buying.
The price of maple syrup, however, is not expected to go down just yet. Even though 2009 was an abundant year, the reserves stocked by the Quebec Maple Growers Federation are not as high as they should be. With a little luck, maple syrup will be a little cheaper next year. Obviously, the price of maple syrup in Quebec probably has little or no influence on the price of your local sap.
My favourite way to consume this ambrosia is au naturel on crêpes, pancakes or French toast. Although the idea of sugar pie is always tempting, I must admit that anything more than a forkful is rather sickening. So today, I offer you a bit of childhood nostalgia: maple taffy (tire).
For those of you unfamiliar with the rituals of the sugar shack, maple taffy is a devil of a treat that only the very young (at heart) or the very brave dare to conquer. It is made from maple syrup boiled down until doubly concentrated and poured on a bed of pristine snow. The congealed mass is then picked up with a wooden stick and eaten as best one can manage. No matter how hard one tries to eat taffy in a civilized manner, one will end up sticky from head to toe! It is a yearly treat I like to indulge in, even though I always seem to get some in my hair.
I recently learned that you needn't trek out to a sugar shack (or a farmers' market in Quebec) to enjoy the travails of taffy: all you need is some maple syrup, a microwave oven and some snow (or crushed/ shaved ice). I do not have a microwave oven, so I haven't tested this 'recipe', though it was obtained from a reliable source: boil 1 cup (250 ml) of maple syrup on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds -make sure you use a 2cup measure, and do not cover with cling film. Pour onto snow or shaved ice, pick up with popsicle sticks, chopsticks or whatever. Oh, and if you have long hair, remember to tie it back before attempting to eat taffy.