Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day!

Happy May Day everyone!

This is always one of my favorite days because it usually means the wild flowers are blooming and beautiful, but not so much this year. Last year I had already gone out and taken some pictures of the local flowers and the tulips were in full bloom in my yard. This year the tulip greens are up and I am just starting to see the fist buds coming up out of the ground.

Still, they will be here soon, so even though 30's and 40's are on tap for this weekend, Spring is here and it is time to be out and enjoying the weather (possibilities of snow and all). Since I don't have any pretty spring flowers to show the pictures you are seeing are of the maple sugar I made last weekend from my last batch of maple syrup.

You make maple sugar by getting maple syrup up to 240 degrees and then you whisk it until it starts to cool a bit and you can kind of see that there are granules forming. (it should still be liquid-ish and not too stiff) Then you pour it into forms and after it all cools down you pop it out of the forms. It took me a bit to figure what way to get the sugar out of the forms. I used some old cast iron heart forms and even though they were well seasoned the first sugar I made didn't want to come out of those pans. I ended up heating up the pans in the oven to soften the sugar so I could redo the whole process and sprayed Pam into each of the little forms. It still took a fair amount of cajoling to get them out, so I think I will get a whole bunch of little cookie cutters of the same shape and use them next year. (if you want to make candy or stuff like that you should really think of getting a candy thermometer--although, because I am a lazy person I ran into my parents' apartment and took their thermometer from the kitchen drawer--their apartment is right next to the gallery and it is soooo much closer than the grocery store (a block away)). ****Make sure to keep a steady eye on the syrup and that you put it into a pan that looks like it is too big for the amount of syrup you are putting in there because the syrup can boil up and over the sides pretty quick even if you do keep a good eye on it.****

Maple sugar is kind of a hard packed sugar sort of like brown sugar. To granulate it you could take a piece of the packed sugar and break it up. It is kind of hard to explain exactly what it is like if you have never seen anything like it before. I would suggest reading about sugaring and stuff like that in Little House is the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and you might understand the whole process a little better. It seems whenever I think back on how to make old fashioned things, I think of what Laura Ingalls did as a little girl and it all makes sense to me.

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