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Gourmandiary, March 2005
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Sugar Shacks

facilitating these classes.  Together we spent many hours looking at the industrial
facilitating these classes.  Together we spent many hours looking at the industrial
adversely impacts our economy and the environment, and how the food itself may
obesity, and diabetes are such important and vital issues to understand, yet
American food delivery system that we have created in the last thirty years.  As a
teacher, it was great to see the many 'ah-ha' moments that occurred during my
classes as people began to understand that it is our food delivery system that is
making us sick, not just one company or one product.  It was also a great
pleasure to see people enthusiastically respond to the few humble suggestions I
make for eating outside this system.
make for eating outside this system.


Especially well received was my explanation of how 'Community Supported
Agriculture' allows a person to eat outside the industrial food pipeline.  (See my
June 2004 Gourmandiary for more info on CSA's)   People didn't even know this
sort of thing existed!  I think a lot of people will sign up for a share in a farm this
spring.

I was so impressed by the reaction of the students that I called the Patriot
Ledger Newspaper here in Quincy and sold them a story on CSA's on the South
Shore.  If my students were so impressed, I thought I ought to try and share
what I know with a larger audience.  The article will be published in either the
3/16 or 3/23 Wednesday 'Food Section'.  Many thanks to Frank Albani, Jr, CSA
Farmer and President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the
Northeast Organic
Farmer's Association for agreeing to be interviewed for the piece.

Frank has invited me to speak at a free forum on "Organic Food and Land Care"
being offerend at the Plymouth Public Library, 7pm - 8:30, Monday May 9th, 2005.
 My topic will be 'Eating outside the Industrial Food Pipeline".  Hope to see you
there!

February and March in Massachusetts mean one thing...the sap is running!  That
means it's time for me to run to the sugar shack and grab a gallon of nature's
own candy.  We took the gastromobile and trucked out to I-495 to see what we
could find.

Massachusetts is lucky in that we warm up a bit earlier than other parts of the
country so our sap starts running early.  People in Vermont are just starting to
tap their trees now, and the folks in Canada, they're still dreaming of
temperatures above 20 degrees let alone tapping trees.
Berlin Orchards

shack steaming away when
shack steaming away when
we pulled up.


We had a chance to chat
with the fellow stoking the
fire.  He told us it takes
about 40 gallons of sap to
make 1 gallon of syrup.
tree?  Contrary to what you
tree?  Contrary to what you
in the spring.  The sugary
might think, sap flows down
liquid has spent the winter
in the branches of the tree
keeping the tree's cells from
being damaged by the cold.  
As temperatures warm in
the spring the sap returns to
a warm spring day, a tap
catches the sap on the way
down.
cross the freezing point.  Daytime
temps in the 40's followed by
nighttime temps in the 20's are
ideal.  Sap flows down during the
day, then back up at night.  Once  
temperatures average above
freezing the sap stays down in the
roots until next fall.

flow can vary!  The tap that I'm
grabbing a taste from on the left
was the only one working on the
tree I checked out.  It was the only
bucket on the sunny side of the
tree.  The warmth of the sun
caused that tap to flow where the
taps on the shady side did not.  
March goes with lions and
for just any ol' pancake,
pancakes...

Grandpa Jack's Pancakes

Dry Ingredients...

-1 Cup Plain Oatmeal
-3/4 Cup Flour
-1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
-1 Tbsp Baking Powder
-Dash of Salt

Wet Ingredients...

-1/4 Stick of Butter (melted)
-2 Eggs Beaten
-1/2 Can of Plain Seltzer

Directions...

Make this batter the night
before you intend to use it
so that the oatmeal has a
chance to soften.

Combine all ingredients
and add as much seltzer
as is required to make the
batter very loose, like cake
batter.  Usually 1/2 a can,
but sometimes as much as
3/4 of a can of seltzer.

The batter will be thick the
next morning, and the
pancake when cooked on
a hot greased griddle will
be far more hearty than
your usual breakfast fare.

Thick sliced bacon is de
rigueur with this breakfast
and as I learned this
month so to is Grade B
syrup!

Enjoy!

Our next stop was in  Lunenberg which is about 15 miles down Route 2a off
of I-495.  We had to coax Ewen out of his house to chat with us.  His trees
had not thrown enough sap to fire up the boiler the day we visited, so he
was relaxing inside, but the on-on-one opportunity to chat was great!
for decades.  The cross
section of a tree right
Ewen has been sugaring
next to him in the photo
shows where the tree
had been tapped
throughout its life.  
Ewan explained that
once the temperatures  
stay above freezing  the
tree heals itself and the
tap closes up.  There
were at least a dozen
healed tap holes in the
wood there...
fact that it wasn't running meant I could really poke and prod it.  He walked
the roof before being gravity-fed into the evaporator.  Ewen has a
hydrometer just like the one I use when I make beer, so he showed me how
they use it to determine when the syrup was the correct density to bottle.  
Ewan explained that he was one of the first sugar shacks in Massachusetts
to use 'reverse osmosis' equipment in his sugaring operation.  This is a
hydrometer just like the one I use when I make beer, so he showed me how
separate the clean and dirty water so the clean water can be used to wash
they use it to determine when the syrup was the correct density to bottle.  
more cars.  Ewan uses it in exactly the opposite manner.  He separates
Ewan explained that he was one of the first sugar shacks in Massachusetts
Ewan explained that he was one of the first sugar shacks in Massachusetts
to use 'reverse osmosis' equipment in his sugaring operation.  This is a to
use 'reverse osmosis' equipment in his sugaring operation.  This is a water
purification technology that is typically used in California car washes to
separate the clean and dirty water so the clean water can be used to wash
more cars.  Ewan uses it in exactly the opposite manner.  He separates
clean water from sap then throws out the clean water and boils what's left.  
Ewen gets about 20% of the water out of his sap this way so instead of
burning 40 cords of wood in his evaporator, his syrup can be made in half
the time and he only burns through 3 cords of wood each season.  
Enough talking about
syrup...let's chug some!

doesn't check out my
website.

As the season goes on the
syrup gets darker and
stronger of flavor.  My
molasses and intense of
flavor.  You won't find it in
the market either!  This is
the stuff that the sugarers
keep for themselves!




Want more info?  The website of the Massachusetts Maple Producers
Association has tons of information on sugaring in Massachusetts.  Check out
the list of sugar shacks to see if there is one near you.  The glossary is pretty
good too!