Thursday, March 22, 2012

Maple Sugaring

My family loves maple syrup. Well, actually, everyone in my family but me loves maple syrup, but I am learning to love it. If I could pick one crazy processed food to still eat guilt-free, it would be Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth. I don't know why but I love that stuff. But, we only use real organic, usually local, maple syrup in this house because it is actually good for you! Of course, it is still a sweetener so it should be used in moderation but it is far healthier than white sugar or other chemical substitutes.

Maple syrup is not only great on pancakes or waffles, but it is a natural sweetener we use in everything from homemade granola, homemade vanilla coffee creamer, or just to sweeten up our homemade yogurt (that's my newest addition to our lsit of things we make homemade!). I love this post from Kitchen Stewardship full of great facts about maple syrup, nutrition information, and recipes! I highly recommend checking it out.

We usually buy our maple syrup by the gallon at a nearby farmer's market. We buy organic, Grade B (darker in color, richer in nutrients, and stronger in flavor so a little goes a long way). It's from a farm a few hours away in New York. But, each year we get to have some very local syrup in the spring and get involved in the making! The Montessori school my children go to have two awesome maple trees appropriately named "Aunt Jemima" and "Mrs. Butterworth" (two of my favorite ladies as I mentioned above).

Each year, the trees are tapped and families all pitch in taking home gallons of sap to boil down into maple syrup. It doesn't make a lot of course because 40 gallons of sap makes only 1 gallon of maple syrup! But there is enough for the families to have a tiny taste when they boil it down, and for the whole school to enjoy a pancake feast.

It was a lot of fun to make the syrup. This was our first time, so it was hard to believe that the gallon of clear liquid would boil down into beautiful, precious, and delicious syrup, but it did!

I love that my kids have such a strong sense of where their food comes from. I love learning new things and creating with them. And I love that they have an educational environment that supports and encourages it!

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