Sugaring Off and Bacon-Wrapped, Maple-Glazed Roasted Carrots

I grew up as the younger sibling to both a brother and a sister and everything happened to them first: sleepovers, concerts, dating, driving lessons…

It was one of those things I had to make peace with, knowing that eventually I too would be able to wear make-up, get a summer job, or go overnight camping with just friends and no adults.

Watching spring come to our Southern neighbours in a splash of vibrant colour on Instagram while we are still sitting in slushy mud requires a similar resignation. I know it won’t be long before I too am snapping the ends off of bright green asparagus or roasting strawberries for an ice cream sundae, but for now, I have to be patient.

Fortunately, here in Eastern Canada we have a fifth season to tide us over until the blossoms bloom and the bulbs burst – the maple sap run. It’s an utterly magical few weeks when the towering maples, which already give so much in shade, oxygen and sheer beauty, offer up their sweet, sweet sap for the taking.

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A sugaring off season finale

From the window above my desk I can look out past the garden beds and into the forest where a pale green carpet is taking over the brown forest floor.

All over our quarter of an acre urban homestead, signs of spring are revealing themselves. The garlic has emerged from its long winter hibernation and the rhubarb is quickly shooting forth leaves.

Our sugaring off season is over; tomorrow we will be removing our taps and giving the buckets one final wash. It was a short season, but one with many highlights, including one Saturday under blue skies…

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10 things you probably didn’t know about making maple syrup (Recipe: Maple Sausage Patties)

We’ve been waiting for the sap to start running so we can continue to make maple syrup. And waiting. And waiting some more.

The ideal conditions for sap collection is above freezing temperatures during day, and below freezing at night. Unfortunately, it’s been consistently so dang cold that nothing has really happened. Then we had one glorious day with full buckets, and now it has been consistently above freezing – so no more sap.  Sheesh.

Since we can’t elaborate further on our personal progress, I’ll share a few particulars I’ve recently gleaned about making maple syrup and then add in a killer recipe for your Easter brunch to boot. Ready?
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How to know when it is time to tap maple trees

I recently met up with my buddy, Yannick, owner and head maple guy over at Erabliere des Anges, to catch up over coffee and discuss the upcoming sugaring off season.

He’s been running a small, family-based, organic sugarbush a few hours North of here for the past 2 years; we tapped 5 trees last year. This is all-consuming for him at this time of the year; we lose access to our stovetop in the evening for a few weeks. We both have day jobs to pay the bills. He knows much, much more about maple syrup than I ever will.

I mentioned that we think we missed much of the season last year because we tapped our trees too late, and so we began discussing (more like him teaching) about the ideal time to tap, and what to look for. [Read more…]

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.

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