My wonderful dad, gone now for almost 17 years, was born and raised in the tiny town of Ipswich, on the beautiful North Shore of Boston. And let me tell you, he loved maple syrup. Growing up, my brothers and I and later the grandchildren were introduced by him to maple syrup on vanilla ice cream and maple syrup on grapefruit (yes!) and to this day, I love it in oatmeal, cookie dough, salad dressings, pancakes and waffles. I even put it in Indian pudding, one of my family's favorite desserts.
In short, maple syrup has always been a great pleasure and for me, part of many happy memories around the dining room table. So how fun was it one snowy morning this week to tag along with some folks at Wyck, the historic house and garden in Germantown, as they tapped two sugar maples in search of sap?
It's maple syrup season in Pennsylvania. The nights are cold, the days are ... supposed to be warm (over 40 degrees) to get the sap flowing but it's been too cold for that. So Elizabeth Belk, Wyck's horticulturist, educator Christina Moresi, and beekeeper/caretaker Jeff Eckel must wait for the weather to settle into the correct rhythm. Once the sap is collected, they will boil it - and boil it and boil it - till the water evaporates and leaves the darker, sugary, syrupy essence that, gallon for gallon, outpaces the price of crude oil. (Makes sense to me!)
After tapping the trees, we returned to Wyck's homey kitchen, where I got to taste Elizabeth's bacon-maple jam on homemade maple cream scones. Impossible to fully describe, but pure, sweet, complex come to mind. And I can assure you, these are two maple treats I never had as a child. Such deprivation.
Here's Jeff, expertly wielding the drill that made the hole for the tap to be hammered into. The sap bucket now hangs on the tap. All it needs is some sap. This may take a while.
Meanwhile, story coming in the Inquirer's Food section on Thursday, Feb. 20.