February Soup Night. So, I'm going to be true to my word.
But first, let's talk maple syrup. Are you a fan?
For years, I didn't think much of the amber colored sweetener. Sure, I learned in school that the sugar maple is Wisconsin's state tree, but despite the fact that it's sweet and sugary, I probably wouldn't have named maple syrup among my favorite foods. It was something I ate on my pancakes in the morning, and occasionally drizzled over the top of vanilla ice cream. It wasn't until much later, when I realized that maple syrup is actually a fairly rare commodity in some places, that I really started paying attention.
I'm no expert on maple sugaring. That said, I do know that the weather we've been having lately is actually pretty perfect for tapping maple trees. Maple sap starts running when the weather is above freezing during the day and below freezing at night -- so conditions couldn't be more perfect. Probably why March 15-April 15th has been declared "Maple Syrup Month" in Wisconsin.
A friend of my grandparents tapped maple trees on their property when I was child, so I've seen the process in action. I remember walking through the woods and poking my fingers into the buckets hanging on the trees and tasting the flavor of that pure, clear syrup. And I'll admit that, as an adult, it's occasionally crossed my mind that it might be a fun project to tap a few trees out on my parents' property and see if I could make a little syrup of my own. But, that idea has never really gotten past the contemplation stage.
So, when I saw Nancy Stohs article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week, I paid attention. Apparently, Steven Anderson, a maple sugarer in northern Wisconsin has decided that it's high time someone recognized Wisconsin for its maple syrup production. And he's launched a maple tree adoption program to rally support for his craft.
Adopt A Maple is a year-long opportunity for maple syrup lovers to connect with a real, live Sugar Maple tree in the Northwoods sugarbush of Anderson's Maple Syrup in Cumberland, WI. Adoptees get an official certificate of adoption, and they have year-round visiting rights. In addition, part of their donation goes to support American Forests, a group that helps to plant trees to restore areas damaged by wildfire. Even cooler than that, some 7th and 8th grade science students in Cumberland are plotting out the GPS coordinates and uploading photos of the trees so that people can view their adoptive maples through Google Earth. Pretty fun. If you're curious, check out the details at www.andersonsmaplesyrup.com .
And now, it's time for that soup.
Split Pea Soup with Barley & Chicken Sausage
New England Style Clam Chowder
Maybe now I'll see if I can dig up some favorite recipes using maple syrup...
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