Spring harvest: what we’re making with our maple syrup

Maple taffy on the snow on simplebites.net

On the edge of our lawn, beyond the garden, and before the forest, tower two immense maple trees. They frame the yard and boldly announce the changing of each season by the coming and going of their lush plumage.

These maples shade us on sweltering July afternoons and have always been my favorite view, admired from the back patio with a coffee in hand. All summer long the boys swing from a tire swing I hung for them ages ago way up in the branches, and the two trees provide resilient anchors for Danny’s slack line.

This week, those maples became infinitely more valuable to our property when, for the first time ever, we tapped into their veins of sweet sap.

The whole experience has been an exhilarating one for me. I guess I didn’t expect our first attempt to be a success. Honestly, urban homesteading has a huge learning curve to it, and we have the gardening disasters and midnight chicken horror stories to prove it.

So, doubtful, I hammered in the first tap, and then the cool sap sprayed my face, tasting sweet on my lips. My stomach flip-flopped in anticipation. Noah hung a bucket under the tap, and the lyrical drip-drip of the sap dancing on the bottom of the bucket began.

“Listen, mom.” he said, “It’s like the forest is making music.”

This. This was spring harvest; one more ingredient we were sourcing from our backyard. I don’t know why I had let my reservations get the better of me.

Homemade maple syrup on simplebites.net

I haven’t been able to contain my excitement since then. My texting history with Danny for the week is mostly all-caps and exclamation points, as I kept him regularly updated with sap hauls, syrup quality and recipe development through the days.

I’m sure my friends, Twitter and Instagram followers are sick of my maple-centric prattling, but I’m fiercely proud of what we’ve accomplished, regardless of how miniscule our operation is.

It didn’t cost us a single penny and we’ve reaped two quarts of pure organic maple syrup, not to mention learned so much along the way. Our children were involved with the process from beginning to end, and we can chalk the sugaring off experience as one more way we are building our healthy family food culture.

Spring harvest: what we’re making with our maple syrup

Danny’s already covered what we’ve learned about making maple syrup, but I’ll divulge a few of the goodies that I’ve been inspired to make and bake as a result of our surprise harvest.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Maple Whipped Cream

buckwheat pancakes on simplebites.new

You know the first batch went to top pancakes. I had this homemade buckwheat pancake mix in the freezer, so all I had to do was whip a little cream by hand, drizzle in some maple syrup to sweeten it, and we had the perfect breakfast to showcase our homemade syrup. Waffles are up next.

Maple Taffy on the snow

Maple taffy on the snow on simplebites.net

At the age of three, my boys developed an affection for maple taffy on the snow, or as it is called here in Quebec, tire d’érable. The process is simple: boil maple syrup until it reaches the soft ball stage (115 °C /238 °F). Pour in onto packed snow. Roll it up with a stick. Enjoy. And how!

Thick-Cut Maple Gazed Bacon

maple glazed bacon on simplebites.net

Maple + bacon is a combination well worth exploring. In this simplest form, the syrup caramelizes in the oven and gives the bacon a sweet and sticky coating that is second to none. I bake my bacon on foil or parchment for easy clean up, and brush on the maple syrup in the last 5 minutes of baking. Any longer in the oven and you risk burning the bacon.

Double Maple Marshmallows

maple marshmallows on simplebites.net

What do you get when you take a basic recipe for marshmallows, replace the water in the ingredient list with fresh maple sap, and substitute pure maple syrup instead of corn syrup? The softest pillows of double maple marshmallow puffs, with plenty of all natural maple flavor.

Just heavenly. We’re going to be toasting these goodies over a bonfire this weekend.

Maple Baked Beans with Double Smoked Bacon

maple baked beans on simplebites.net

White navy beans, half an onion, a rasher of bacon, and a drizzle of maple syrup was all the effort that went into this bean pot. What really made them outstanding, however, was that I replaced the cooking water with freshly harvested maple sap. It’s slightly sweet, and of course, as it reduces in the bean pot, it sweetens the dish in the most natural of ways.

I only wish you could smell how this little pot perfumed my home all afternoon long.

Looking ahead….

The goodness does not stop here! In fact we’re heading into a long weekend, and I have more maple cooking and baking in the plans. I want to spoon fresh ricotta onto baguette slices and drizzle them with syrup. I’d like to test out a strawberry lemonade made with sap. And wouldn’t a maple glaze be perfect on Hot Cross Buns for Easter morning?

Can you tell I’m inspired? Or perhaps just buzzed on maple syrup. I’m not telling.

What is your favorite way to cook with maple syrup?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. How fabulous!

  2. I am so jealous of all those yummy looking foods and the jars you have are so neat!

  3. Yum! Love the marshmallow idea and grew up onSaturday night baked beans. The first time we tapped some old maples at our old Maine farmhouse, we got so much sap, we made beer with it. Seems like the first tapping of older established trees really gives loads of sap, as if the tree has been waiting all these years. Hard to say what is my one favorite recipe, I have so many, on oats, with slow braised pork and apples, on snow, it is becoming popular on lattes here in Vermont.Happy tapping and sugar sapping!

  4. Aimee,
    All this week the temps have been above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, and now that I know what that means, I’m eyeing all the maples in the neighborhood in a new way.
    I think your maple sap and maple syrup ideas are truly inspired, and I’d love to have some of those beans . . . yum!

  5. Those are some nice ways to enjoy that maple syrup, especially the bacon and the bacon beans! 🙂

  6. Are you saving the sap in some way other than making it into syrup? Things like the beans look amazing, but would be nice to have other than just in the spring.

  7. I’m so excited for you – what an amazing resource to have right in your own backyard!

  8. wow, I’m absolutely stunned by all the ideas you could use maple syrup in. Well, not stunned, just really thrilled with all these new ideas. I have never heard of maple taffy but that is one the coolest things i’ve seen!! maple bacon is SO good!! you’re making me jealous that you have so much maple syrup around you! 🙂 ship me a bottle? hehe

  9. The pancakes are calling my name:)

  10. I’m honestly jealous of the maple taffy! So cool!!

  11. Oh WOW!! I want all of these maple recipes. Especially that bacon!

  12. I’m not tired of your maple centric prattling, but I think I might die of jealousy soon. Seriously. They make Maple Taffy in the snow in Little House on the Prairie!!!! I’ve been nurturing that little fantasy since I was ten. You all are killing me with your magical maple days.

  13. *sigh* It all just looks so awesome. Wish we had sugar maple capability here.

  14. Oh Aimee! I’ll take all of the above. Wonderful!

  15. All of your maple creations recently are so inspiring! I don’t cook with it nearly enough so my April resolution is to get it into my kitchen more often!!

  16. Love maple syrup! It is simply the best. Homemade marshmallows are one of my favorites too, so I will for sure try making them with maple syrup.

  17. This is too cool!! Love it!!

  18. Everything looks SO good and I can just imagine the aromas in your kitchen!! I appreciated how you shared your reservations and then the success. What a fantastic experience for your boys ( and all of you!).
    I need to find a farm to visit here in Nova Scotia, I love maple taffy. =)

  19. Oh my goodness, everything looks delicious especially the baked beans! Yum! I grew up tapping trees and recently I brought my two young sons to a farm to introduce them to it. Amazing really. Have you read “Sugaring” by Jessie Haas? Lovely children’s book that really captures the process and the experience. Thanks for the inspiration! Warmly, Marnie

  20. Valerie Harrison says

    When we moved to British Columbia I planted one lonely sugar maple in the front yard. It is too warm here but we enjoyed its gorgeous colour.

  21. Woah, where is that marshmallow recipe? We have a gallon of leftover sap in the fridge and it’s not enough to boil so I’ve been wondering how to use it!!

  22. I’m a little jealous about your urban homesteading. This looks like a fun experience!! I’d just take being your neighbor, at least 🙂

  23. Love all of these outdoors maple syrup photos Aimee!

  24. I love, love, love this post. Seriously Aimee. If I ever have the privilege of having a maple tree in my back yard you can bet we’ll be tapping into it. Love all your urban homestead inspiration!

  25. Oh yum! These are some awesome dishes 🙂 I’m so jealous that you have your own maple tree, what an awesome resource to have!

  26. The Healthy Apple says

    OMG Love the Marshmallow idea. So fun! What a great idea. Loved seeing your pics of this on maple syrup excitement on social media, too. Have a great Easter!

  27. OH my goodness, how exciting! I’m inspired just reading your post and seeing the mouth-watering photos!!

  28. I’ve always been interested in every single one of your sugaring posts, ever since UtHC! I love maple glazed salmon. Yum Yum

  29. SO fantastic – all of it! I’m so envious of your syrup haul.

  30. No cost? No explanation on reducing the sap? I wished I lived in a fantasy world.

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