February 22, 2007 at 12:10 pm (Food)
Photo taken in Northern Ontario
Sugar shacks and maple syrup make up some of my fondest childhood memories. Every Easter, my family would make the four-hour drive from Timmins to Astorville, ON (near North Bay) to my grandmother’s farm, where sugar maples had been tapped and sap was being collected for maple syrup. Now, the farm belongs to my uncle, and he and his brothers occasionally get together to make syrup. So on my last visit to my father’s, I wheedled a small container of the stuff out of him. This was a quite a feat as he’s very protective of his syrup and doesn’t easily part with it.
Interestingly, he went into a story about how “good maple syrup” doesn’t harden in the freezer. You can pour it as easily as if it had been sitting on the shelf. My father prides himself in being able to make good maple syrup. The secret, apparently, is boiling it long enough to get rid of all the water contained in the sap. He told me a story about a man who was selling the stuff at a local mall, and he was telling customers that they could store it in the freezer but that the syrup would have to be scooped out like ice cream, unless left to thaw in the refrigerator. Because the man was unconvinced that “good quality” maple syrup won’t harden in the freezer, my father invited him to come to his house so he could prove it. The guy didn’t take him up on the offer.
I personally don’t know all the workings behind making even bad maple syrup, but I thought I’d test out his theory, as I found it hard to believe that maple syrup doesn’t freeze. As soon as I got home, I plunked my new treasure on a freezer shelf and left it there for a few days. The next time I made pancakes, I took it out, and, sure enough, the syrup flowed very easily. You’d never have known that it came from the freezer. Okay, so my dad’s theory was proven.
The problem? Today I used up the last drop of my maple syrup. I always have maple syrup in the house, though I usually buy it at the grocery store. When I brought my dad’s syrup home, I had forgotten how tasty the real home-made stuff is. I don’t know why the store bought stuff tastes different, but it does. Maybe my dad’s syrup really is of better quality than what’s on store shelves, or maybe, just maybe, it’s the nostalgia for the trees on my grandmother’s farm.