My Favorite Tree

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Before I talk about the sweet goodness of maple syrup, I have to talk about the tree.  When I have lived in other parts of the country, I would miss the maple trees.  It’s one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest.  Our house has brilliant red sunset maple trees in the front and back.  I love to sit here and write my blogs with the trees just yards away.  I grew up in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, which was aptly named for its abundance of elm trees.  But I still loved the maples better.  I had quite a long walk to Lincoln Elementary School, and loved nothing more than this walk when fall arrived.  When the leaves began to drift off the trees and the wind picked up, I loved dancing around the sidewalk with the leaves.  As the wind blew them, I would jump and skip over them, which means it would take me longer to get home after school.  I remember being late many times, and must have worried my mom, because she would ask me why I was late.  I was just skipping over the leaves, I would tell her, and I think she understood.  Sometimes I would collect the most brilliant-colored ones so I could press them into a book.  To this day, one of my favorite sounds is the dry leaves crackling along the street as the wind gently pushes them.  I leave our window open a crack at night just so I can hear them in the morning. 
Now onto Mother Nature’s maple harvest.  America’s earliest sugar-makers were the Indians who showed their Pilgrim neighbors the methods for tapping and boiling maple sap.  The sugaring process was a difficult one back then, but worth the effort to the families who loved what the Indians called “sweetwater.”  I had no idea what a process it is to produce maple syrup until I read this book.  There are several pages explaining the process.  Now I understand why pure maple syrup is expensive – but worth every drop.  Even a little bit of syrup goes a long way.  My husband loves it drizzled over cornbread. (Okay, he drowns it!)  It’s wonderful on baked apples, baked beans, over  hot cereal, ice cream, stirred into milk, or basted on ham slices.  Syrup stirred into ginger ale is a very old New England treat.  When we were young, my mom always put maple sugar candy pieces in our stockings shaped like Santa Claus.
The cookbook is filled with ideas for using maple syrup, and explains how to make your own maple sugar, which can be hard to find.  There are recipes for every kind of candy, pie, dessert, cake, and bread.  I always give away homemade goodies for Christmas gifts.  There are a couple recipes in here that I am definitely going to make for this year, especially maple brittle, maple pralines, and my favorite, maple fudge.  I love all of these delectable morsels, but nothing can beat the joy of jumping over those leaves.


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