Maple sugaring memories

“Suddenly Grandma stopped laughing. She turned and ran as fast as she could into the kitchen. The fiddle had stopped playing. All the women were talking at once and all the men teasing George, but everybody was still for a minute, when Grandma looked like that.

Then she came to the door between the kitchen and the big room, and said:

“The syrup is waxing. Come and help yourselves.”

Then everybody began to talk and laugh again. They all hurried to the kitchen for plates, and outdoors to fill the plates with snow. The Kitchen door was open and the cold air came in.

Outdoors the stars were frosty in the sky and the air nipped Laura’s cheeks and nose. Her breath was like smoke.

She and the other Laura, and all the other children, scooped up clean snow with their plates. Then they went back into the crowded kitchen.

Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with the big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow. It cooled into soft candy, and as fast as it cooled they ate it.

They could eat all they wanted, for maple sugar never hurt anybody. There was plenty of syrup in the kettle, and plenty of snow outdoors. As soon as they ate one plateful, they filled their plates with snow again, and Grandma poured more syrup on it.

When they had eaten the soft maple candy until they could eat no more of it, then they helped themselves from the long table loaded with pumpkin pies and dried berry pies and cookies and cakes. There was salt-rising bread, too, and cold boiled pork, and pickles. Oo, how sour the pickles were!”

This passage from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder has always captured my imagination for its depiction of regional American community and food culture. I’ve wanted to try this maple syrup on fresh snow candy since hearing Little House read to me by an elementary school teacher.

This weekend, I finally had the opportunity to do so when I visited The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, NY where I got to see how maple syrup is made, starting from the tree. I’ll be writing about this unforgettable living history experience over the next few days so be sure to follow if you’re interested in seeing more!

 

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