Valley Bounty/Meet the Farmers: Sweet and versatile maple syrup

  • The beginning of the sugaring season is a stressful time for JP, shown tapping a tree, below. “It’s nerve-wracking because all your equipment has to work, and you haven’t used it in 10 months,” he said. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • Ginger Evening Sipper, a bourbon cocktail made with maple syrup, lime juice and ginger beer. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • Marian Welch’s Carrot and Radish Salad

  • Marian’s sweet and salty Pistachio Coconut Chocolate Bark Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • Marian Welch — shown here with JP — photographed all the food in her cookbook, “Taste the Love of Maple.” Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • Maple sap runs exclusively during the golden early-spring window when the days are warm but the nights still dip below freezing.

  • Marian adds logs to the farm’s wood-fired evaporator. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • The couple boils thousands of gallons of sap into maple syrup once sugaring season hits. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • The couple boils thousands of gallons of sap into maple syrup once sugaring season hits. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • JP calls maple syrup “the healthiest sweetener in the world.” Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

  • The couple boils thousands of gallons of sap into maple syrup when sugaring season hits. Submitted Photo/Justamere Tree Farm

For the Gazette
Published: 3/22/2019 3:26:24 PM

During the deep days of winter, JP Welch trudged through snow drifts, chainsaw in hand, felling beech and hemlock trees. JP produces maple syrup on Justamere Tree Farm in Worthington, which he owns with his partner, Marian. As he explained, clearing out old, rotting trees is essential to creating space for maple saplings in the forest’s understory to thrive in future years. JP and the team hauled the logs back to the sugarhouse for splitting and stacking in preparation for the long-burning fire that would boil thousands of gallons of sap into maple syrup once sugaring season hits.

The beginning of the sugaring season is a stressful time for JP. “It’s nerve-wracking because all your equipment has to work, and you haven’t used it in 10 months,” JP said. Maple sap runs exclusively during the golden early-spring window when the days are warm but the nights still dip below freezing. With a season that is typically measured in weeks, not months, the stakes are high to gather as much sap as possible before the trees begin to bud. One evening in the height of a previous season, JP’s reverse osmosis machine, a high-pressured filter that concentrates the sap before it’s ready to boil, broke down. “I had to leave in the middle of the night to drive up to Northern Vermont to the place that had the part. I was there when they opened their doors in the morning.” JP high-tailed it back south, put the machine back together, and was “back in business that night.”

With the mild days and cool nights we’ve seen over the last few weeks, the sap is running strong for JP and farmers across western Massachusetts. Before we know it, spring will be here and JP and Marian will trade the rush of the boil for the more relaxed job of whipping up maple cream and candies in their maple kitchen. Of course, JP enjoys the quintessential syrup on pancakes breakfast, but he also loves to see the many creative ways that people use maple products year-round. He calls maple syrup “the healthiest sweetener in the world” and suggests trying it in your next coffee, latte, or mixed in with your hot cocoa.

Noah Baustin is the communications coordinator of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)

Here, Marian shares a few recipes from her new cookbook, “Taste the Love of Maple.”

Carrot and Radish Salad

Serves 4

Preparation time: 20 minutes

½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Justamere Tree Farm maple syrup

2 cloves chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chives and/or parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black

pepper, to taste

2-3 cups carrots, julienned

1 cup radishes, julienned

1. Whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar and maple syrup in a large bowl. Stir in the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss until everything is well coated.

Ginger Evening Sipper

Pairing bourbon with sweet maple syrup, spicy ginger beer, and a splash of tart lime makes for a sensational evening cocktail. It will warm you from the inside out.

Serves 2

Preparation time: 5 minutes

½ cup (4 ounces) bourbon

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons Justamere Tree Farm maple syrup

Ice

One 12-ounce bottle of ginger beer

1. Combine the bourbon, lime juice and maple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into two rocks glasses or tumblers with ice. Top with ginger beer.

Pistachio Coconut Chocolate Bark

Makes one 8x8-inch pan of bark

Preparation time: 15 minutes

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

4 ounces raw cacao butter

¼ to ½ cup Justamere Tree Farm maple syrup (depending on your sweet tooth)

¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

¼ cup shelled pistachios

2 tablespoons cacao nibs

Pinch of sea salt

1. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and cacao butter in the top of a double boiler and cool to room temperature. Then stir in the maple syrup, adjusting the sweetness to your taste. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the prepared pan.

2. Scatter the toasted coconut, pistachios, and cacao nibs evenly over chocolate. Sprinkle the surface of the chocolate with sea salt. Let the bark cool completely in the refrigerator before indulging. Keep bark in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.




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