Maple Syrup Madness is going on February 23 – March 9
Monday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Sundays, 1 – 4pm
The sugar moon shone brightly all the way to the forest floor. The previous day’s snow showers had clung to the windward side of the tallest tree trunks. The snow had melted midday but by midnight was refrozen. It glistened as if the forest were celebrating its 100th birthday with cool-lit wooden candles.
Winter had not yet revolved to spring. Already the great horned owls were caring for their young, winging steaming morsels back to the nest in the regular intervals that a newborn requires.
A smaller-than-microscopic sugar molecule rested in a root just a foot or two beneath the forest floor. By this time of year, its subsurface respite was no warmer than the frosty leaf bed at the surface.
Months ago in August, the sugar was produced in a fresh green leaf way up in the canopy of the forest. On that partly sunny day, a stoma pore lay open on the underside of the leaf. Carbon dioxide gas released by a passing car wafted up the pore. As water traveled the up-only xylem tube elevator from the roots, through the trunk, to the leaves, to transpiring in the air, the gas snagged the water. After their chemical dance in the green chlorophyll light, the sugar was created and a puff of oxygen exited through the pore. This sugar maple tree had already produced its helicopter seeds for the season and had already grown a thick ring. The sugar energy was not put to immediate use and remained in the leaf until the cool of autumn tightened the tubes of the treetop. Under the pressure, the sugar sank down through the phloem tubes inside the bark and rested the winter in the root bed.
As dark rolled to light on this wintry day in March, the shadows of the tree trunks remained long. The sun, still low in the sky, shined most constant on the trees’ southern bark. The glaze on the treetops melted to the tune of a drip, drip. With the ice gone, the black-brown of the trunks readily soaked up the warmth of the sunshine. The wood and every tiny space within expanded. The sugar began to rise, drawn back up the straw of phloem tubes.
The buzz of a power drill vibrated the sugar in its watery home. The sugar continued its steady rise up the trunk of the maple tree, just inside the bark layer. It rose about four feet off of the forest floor. Meeting a fork in the road, so to speak, it jutted off to the side toward the light at the end of a spile tunnel. It paused in filtered daylight at the end of a metal platform. Other sugar molecules in this tiny bath backed up behind it. When the crowd became too large, they all dove into the bag of sap below with a plink.
All day the bag expanded as more sugar joined the cold bath. Late afternoon brought the hum of a gasoline motor and the crunch of tires on snow. The bag was lifted off of the spile and dumped into a large barrel, rocked by the running motor beneath. The sugar sloshed back and forth as the vehicle coasted downhill. It paused at the porch of a one-room log cabin. A trail of chimney smoke and a billowing of white steam revealed the cabin’s occupancy.
The sugar kept tumbling as it went from one barrel to another and then to a metal bucket. The sugar joined its neighbors in a waterfall toward a steaming pan. It immediately began to vibrate in the warmth. It glided past other molecules in the hot bath, becoming more and more crowded and less and less colorless as the water bath evaporated as steam. It was released from the commotion through a spout and put into yet another bucket, to be whisked away and processed further.
Later, when its temperature had cooled considerably, the sugar syrup was transferred again from container to container and sent back to the cabin on a Saturday afternoon. It was slurped through parted lips and found itself in a dark tube once again.
by Beth Spieles, Interpretive Educator
Easy cheesecake is rich with the flavor of maple syrup. Since it is the main flavoring ingredient, make an effort to use real maple syrup and not imitation.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
1-1/2 cups graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs
5 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1 egg, beaten
1-1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
To make the crust, combine the graham cracker or vanilla wafer crumbs, sugar and butter. Mix well. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Chill the crust while you make the filling.
To make the filling, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the condensed milk, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Beat well. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Chill for several hours.
To make the topping, bring the 1 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup water to a boil. Mix together the egg and cornstarch. Add a little bit of the boiling syrup to the mixture so the egg does not cook before before incorporating it all together. Stir and cook until the syrup is thickened. Spread over the cream cheese filling.
Garnish with the chopped walnuts. Keep refrigerated until served.
Yield: Serves 8.
Submitted by Jennilyn Haer, Volunteer Coordinator. Recipe from homecooking.about.com.