Written By: Brenna Bartley, Education Programs Coordinator, and Alison Forde
We are two weeks into maple season at Mountsberg and Crawford Lake and many visitors are asking about the whereabouts of the sap…we have our buckets at the ready but, aside from a couple of spring-like days, the spiles are dry!
Like all crops, maple sap is produced at the whim of Mother Nature. For the sap to flow, temperatures need to be above zero during the day and below zero during the night. This up and down rhythm of temperatures creates a change in pressure inside the trees that causes the sap to flow. The spile inserted in the bark creates an area of low pressure that the sap is naturally drawn to and flows from.
So where does the syrup in the park stores come from if the sap isn’t flowing? Fortunately, 2013 was a bumper year for maple syrup producers across Ontario and Quebec. Maple syrup will last indefinitely when stored unopened in a freezer. We aren’t in any danger of running out of 2013 supply before the trees start to drip this year and evaporators across the region fire up. So, no need to horde your supply, go ahead and break out the pots and pans and try out these sweet recipes contributed by Mountsberg educator Alison Forde.
Maple Coconut Shortbread Cookies
Makes ~ 3 dozen
These shortbreads deviate from the norm by using coconut butter which adds a lovely light tropical flavour. Also, with careful ingredient selection, these cookies are lactose-free and vegan friendly.
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups cold coconut butter/spread
1/2 tsp pure maple extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp cold water
2 cups icing sugar
Maple syrup (or ~ 2 tbsp + 2 tsp cold milk)
Food colouring (optional)
1. Mix together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add coconut butter cut into small chunks. In a small bowl, mix almond and maple extracts with water. Add into dry ingredients a little bit at a time, until the dough holds together in a ball when you squeeze it (may not require all of extract + water mix). Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 325 F. On a smooth, floured work surface, sprinkle dough with flour and roll out until 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are just slightly browned. Cook on cookie sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to finish cooling. Cool completely before icing.
4. Add maple syrup in small increments to icing sugar and mix until smooth. Add one or two drops of food colouring, if desired, and mix thoroughly.
Maple-Pumpkin-Pecan Spice Muffins
The name might be a mouthful, but you’ll certainly want to get your mouth around these muffins! Eliciting delightful memories of the fall harvest, these muffins make for a tasty breakfast, afternoon snack, or even a sweet treat after dinner (with a little extra syrup on top!). You just might regret sharing these, they disappear fast!
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice or cloves
3/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup melted butter/margarine or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Whisk together dry ingredients (incl. pecans) in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs and milk, then add pumpkin, maple syrup and butter. Stir into the dry mixture until just combined.
2. Grease or line ~20 muffin cups and spoon in batter until each cup is 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and a cake tester inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then remove onto wire cooling rack. Store in a sealed bag or container at room temperature for up to 4 days. May be refrigerated or frozen.