Every April, the residents of St. Albans, in far northern Vermont, gather for a celebration that is repeated throughout the late winter and early spring in towns across northern New England: the annual maple sugar festival. There is much to celebrate. Maple sugar gives a boost to the local economy, a sweetness to breakfast tables throughout the country, and a lift to sagging spirits weary of the log, cold, snowy New England winter. In St. Albans, as elsewhere, local residents gather together to taste maple delicacies, to watch the sticky sap boil down to thick, sweet maple syrup, and to declare their faith that spring will arrive, despite the snow – still often measured in feet – and the bare tree limbs against steel gray skies.
Maple sugar festivals offer the chance to taste and rate the year’s crop, and they remind everyone that maple syrup is about more than pancakes: maple muffins, maple gravy, maple candy, and many more special treats featuring the sweet springtime sap are available at every festival. To byway travelers searching for a taste of northern New England, there is no better place than a small-town maple sugar festival.
LINK: Vermont Maple Festival
Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease 20 muffin cups. Combine 188 g all-purpose flour, 135 g old-fashioned oats, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Set aside. Combine 2 beaten eggs, 240 ml heavy cream, and 240 ml maple syrup. Add dry mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until combined. Add 150 g chopped dates and 150 g walnuts, if desired. Fill muffin cups with batter. Drizzle an additional 80 ml maple syrup over tops. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out dry. Serve warm with butter. Makes 20 muffins.
Maple Cream Candy
Place 475 ml maple syrup into a saucepan and boil over very low heat without stirring until temperature reaches 112°C. Pour into a shallow pan; without stirring, cool to 43°C or until lukewarm. Beat until light in color and creamy in texture. Pour into a greased pan. Let cool; cover tightly to store.
Evening in a Sugar Orchard
by Robert Frost
From where I lingered in a lull in March
Outside a sugarhouse one night for choice,
I called the fireman with a careful voice
And bade him leave the pan and stoke the arch:
“O fireman, give the fire another stoke,
And send more sparks up the chimney with the smoke.”
I thought a few might tangle, as they did,
Among the bare maple boughs, and in the rare
Hill atmosphere not cease to glow,
And so be added to the moon up there.
The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show
On every tree a bucket with a lid,
And on black ground a bear-skin run of snow.
The sparks made no attempt to be the moon.
They were content to figure in the trees
As Leo, Orion, and Pleiades.
And that was what the boughs were full of soon.
For vocabulary exercise, use the dictionary links in the right-hand column to look up the words!