I keep a close eye on my pantry inventory these days; sorting root-cellared apples for sauce, peeling and freezing garlic and roasting the butternut squash with soft spots.
The urge for this annual routine of spring sorting and cleaning reminds me of squirrels, checking their food supplies, cleaning out their nest and getting ready for the summer harvest.
This year, I’m feeling very much like a squirrel, as managing my food supplies has become even more critical.
Pouring the last of my blue, 5-gallon jug of Maine maple syrup into quart jars prompted nostalgic memories of Maine Maple Sunday. Our tribe has long left the nest, but for many years, the fourth Sunday in March was a ritual family outing to procure our annual supply of maple syrup.
We’d visit local sugarhouses and sample lots of syrup; some dark and rich, others more pale gold and delicate. Each year, the syrup would have a uniquely delicious taste; some liken it to a fine wine. We’d make our selection, then stock up with plenty of sweet, flavor-brightening syrup for the year, usually around five gallons.
How about your family? How do you use this food produced so close to home?
Before cheaply priced white sugar came to the Americas, maple syrup was the seasoning of choice. For indigenous people, it was a staple food, and used much like salt is today.
Imagine your pantry without a reliable, steady supply of white sugar. What could you use? Maple syrup? Honey?
Tinkering with baking recipes and replacing sugar with maple syrup or honey can be a challenge. There really is no hard and fast rule for substitution. I’ve had many failures!
Which is why the recipe for Maple Pecan Muffins was so appealing. Adapted from “The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book,” this muffin recipe really works. Plus, as long as you have Maine maple syrup, it’s pantry friendly.
Laurel’s recipe calls for white flour; I like the extra fiber boost from whole-wheat pastry. The type of oil, olive, corn, walnut, etc., slightly changes the delicate seasoning. Or, swap out melted butter for the oil. Toast the nuts or seeds for a richer flavor. This recipe uses water; a little cream or milk would work too.
Like my squirrel neighbors, I’m getting ready to store the harvest. Time to make room for my annual supply of Maine maple syrup.