Friday, 21 April 2017

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Coating roasted sweet potato "fries" in starch will make them a little crisper than they might otherwise be (that is, not very) and also help stick the seasonings to them. Delicious! Easy! Speedy! Well apart from the cooking time.

Our sweet potatoes are holding up very well. If properly cured, they will do better for keeping into the spring than regular potatoes. You will probably have to find them at a farmers market though, as most groceries only carry American ones.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Crispy Spicy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika
     smoked, if liked
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup corn starch or potato starch
3 large (600 grams; 20 ounces) sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grind the cumin and coriander seeds. Mix them with the salt, paprika, Cayenne, and starch.

Wash and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into long thin strips or wedges. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sweet potato slices over it. Toss them with the oil. Sprinkle half the seasoning mixture over them, toss again, then sprinkle with the remaining seasoning mix. Once final mix then roast for about 1 hour. Turn them at the half hour mark.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Cocoa Crepes

Wow! So easy; so good!

For some reason I got a bee in my bonnet about making crepes with cocoa powder, and I thought that in that case they wouldn't need much flour. Maybe I could keep them gluten-free? Potato starch occurred to me as a possibility, and a little research showed that crepes made with potato starch are very common as a dish for passover, although I didn't see any made with cocoa powder.

Well, these were the easiest crepes to lift and flip that I have ever made! Even the first crepe came out perfect, and usually the first crepe is the chef's lumpy, broken sample.

I didn't add any sugar; I figured sweetness can come from the filling. I suspect you could get away with adding a few tablespoons of sugar if you really want to though.

In spite of the fact that there are 3 crepes on the plates in the photo, in most cases 1 or 2 will make a more than sufficient serving - maybe if you are having them for breakfast 3 is not ridiculous. It also depends how much filling you put in them, and what it is. I can think of all kinds of ways to serve these. I think in strawberry season I will just fill them with berries and pass the butter and maple syrup.

6 to 8 crepes (4 to 6 servings)
30 minutes prep time

Gluten Free Chocolate Crepes

1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups 1% or 2% milk
4 large eggs
approximately 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Sift the potato starch, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk in the milk, half at a time. Whisk in the eggs very thoroughly, one at a time.

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Use paper towel to brush a thin layer of oil all over it. When the pan is hot, ladle in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the batter (depending on the size of your pan). Quickly tilt the pan to cover the bottom completely with the batter. Cook until the top of the crepe is dry, then carefully lift it and flip it; cook the other side for just a minute or so. Remove the finished crepe to a plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter until all the crepes are cooked.

Serve warm or at room temperature; crepes can be filled, rolled or folded, and reheated in a lightly oiled skillet. Or not. Fill with ice cream, custard, fruit salad, etc; or serve with maple syrup, honey, fruit, or whatever seems good to you. I mixed 1 cup (250 ml) cream cheese thinned with a couple tablespoons of milk, with 1 cup (250 ml) cherry jam which did the trick nicely.

Last year at this time I made Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Aloo Mattar Chowder

Soup season isn't over yet! Even though it is warming up and greening up rapidly out there.

Our potatoes are sprouting like crazy, and we've eaten most of our peas so I won't be able to make this again for a while... too bad, it was delicious. I was actually pretty impressed with how my makeshift Madras curry powder worked out in this. We threw a couple of hard-boiled eggs into the leftovers and that went down very well too.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cook the Potatoes:
750 grams (1 1/2 pounds) potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried tomato bits

Wash and trim (or peel) the potatoes and cut them into dice. Put them in a pot with water to cover, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until tender. Two or three minutes before they are done, add the dried tomato bits.

Drain off all but approximately 1 cup of the water (don't sweat the exact amount; it's soup).

Mix the Seasonings:
2 to 3 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper

Mix the seasonings in a small bowl and set aside for the moment. If you are not sure of the strength of your curry powder, or how strong you want it; use 2 teaspoons. You can add a little more to the soup later if you think it needs it. I started with 2 teaspoons and did think a third was required.

Sauté the Onions & Finish the Soup:
2 medium onions
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1" x 1" x 2" piece of fresh ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 cups milk
2 cup thawed frozen peas

Peel and chop the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger (or grate it, if you can't mince it very finely).

Heat the butter in a mid-sized skillet and cook the onions gently for about 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and reduced in volume; don't let them brown if you can help it. Add the garlic and ginger for the last few minutes of cooking, then mix in the seasoning mixture and cook until well distributed and absorbed.

Once the potatoes are cooked and mostly drained as directed above, mix in the onions, etc. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the peas and mix in. Bring the soup up to steaming hot and let it thicken slightly, but do not let it boil again.

Last year at this time I made Onion Soup with Toasted Barley Flour.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Madras Curry Powder

Has anyone else noticed that you can't get good old fashioned curry powder anymore? Oh, they're still selling stuff labelled "curry powder" but it's completely different and nowhere near as good. It's rough and unbalanced, and lacks the golden colour of yore. Where is the smooth and sprightly curry powder of yesteryear?!

Actually I blame the current fad that has declared turmeric to be a super-food; meaning that now they want you to pay through the nose and take it in capsules, instead of just eating the stuff.

Bah humbug.

Anyway, nothing to do but try making it myself. I don't know if it's the ultimate curry recipe - I can't get the original to compare, after all.  (Mutter, mutter.) My immediate thought is that this is good, but not quite there. Maybe a little more ginger? I have not added any heat at all; I thought I would take a hint from the Jamaicans and add it when making the dish. That way it's very flexible depending on to whom I am serving it. You can, however, add ground Cayenne ad lib.

makes about 1/2 cup
20 minutes prep time

Madras Curry Powder

2 teaspoons green cardamom pods (about 24)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Crush the cardamom pods lightly and remove and discard the green papery husks. Put the cardamom seeds into a spice grinder with the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, fennel and black pepper. Grind until fine.

Let the dust settle and remove the mixture to a small glass jar (250ml; 1 cup). Mix in the remaining spices. Cover tightly and keep in a cool, dark place until wanted.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Tea-Braised Pork

I often think I would like to do more cooking with tea, so when we succumbed to the lure of some very cheap pork roasts at the local grocery store I decide I would try braising some of it in a very smoky black tea. Lapsang Souchong is the most readily available smoky tea, but I used a tea I got at Ten Thousand Villages that was simply described as "Smoked". It was just fine for this purpose.

Given the strong flavours of the ingredients in the marinade, I expected to be able to pick them out easily in the finished dish. To my surprise though, I really couldn't. The meat just tasted intensely, deliciously, porky - I got the occasional zing of ginger, but otherwise it just tasted very rich.

6 to 8 servings
6 to 8 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Tea-Braised Pork

2 to 3 kilo (4 to 6 pound) pork shoulder roast
1 1/2 to 2 cups strongly brewed lapsang souchong
OR other very smoky tea
2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/3 cup sherry or mirin
6 to 8 slices fresh ginger

Trim off and discard much of the skin and fat from the roast, but leave the bone in. Place the pork in a deep roasting dish with a lid; it should be fairly snug but you do need room to get the marinade ingredients in.

Brew the tea. Meanwhile, pour the remaining ingredients over the pork, except the ginger slices which should get tucked under and in around it. Pour in the tea; 2 cups if you can get it in but a bit less is okay. Then add the tea ball or 2 tea bags that you used to brew the tea to the roasting pan and let it stay there right through cooking the roast. Put the cover on the roasting pan.

You can cook the roast right away, or marinate it in the fridge overnight as you prefer. To cook, put it in the oven and bring the heat up to 225°F. Remove the lid about halfway through the process. Cook for approximately 1 hour per pound, but expect that it may take a little longer. The meat should be falling apart when done, and the bone will pull right out. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

I like to cook this in advance; that gives time for it to cool down so I can remove the bone(s) and any remaining fat (and remove and discard the tea and ginger slices). Pull the meat apart (preferred) or slice, and reheat gently in the strained sauce. You can thicken the sauce or not with a little starch; I don't bother but I generally serve the meat with mashed potatoes or rice to soak it up.

Last year at this time I made Swedish Colcannon.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

Here is a simple, ordinary salad made a little subversive by the generous use of garlic and the slightly off-beat addition of dill pickle. Next time I might throw in a spoonful or 2 of the dill pickle brine and make it a little sharper. Or not; it was good the way it was. It will depend on what else is being served, I suppose.

This makes a quick and easy supplement to sandwiches, or plainly cooked meat of any kind. Leftovers will keep, covered, for a day or 2 in the fridge, but the garlic may gather strength as it sits. 

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Garlicky Dill Vegetable Salad

2 cups frozen green beans
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups grated carrots
1 medium dill pickle
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
salt & pepper to taste

Put a pot of water on to boil. Chop the green beans to make them of a size with the peas and the carrots once grated. When it boils add the beans and peas, and cover for 2 minutes (it does not need to return all the way to the boil). Rinse in cold water to stop them cooking any further and drain well.

Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrots. Chop the dill pickle fairly finely. Peel and mince the garlic. Put these all in a mixing bowl with the well-drained beans and peas, the mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well and let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Last year at this time I made Spinach Salad with Mustard Cream Dressing

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Creamy Tomato - Barley Soup

Yet another variation on the ever-popular tomato soup. Barley, celeriac (if you can find it) and onions give it texture, crunch, and substance. Still good with some grilled cheese!  Open faced, maybe, because that barley is filling.

By crushed tomatoes I mean canned tomatoes, chopped up. We whizz our own in the blender and can them, but I have bought crushed tomatoes that were obviously pretty concentrated. If that's what you have, use less and add some water or broth to bring them back to the consistency of actual tomatoes.

4 servings
45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time
not including cooking the barley

Creamy Tomato - Barley Soup

Cook the Barley:
1/4 cup barley
1 cups water
a pinch of salt

Put these in your rice cooker, and cook. Alternatively, cook the barley in a pot - bring it to a boil with the salt then reduce heat to as low as it will go and cook it, covered, until tender; about 45 minutes. This can be done in advance.

It's probably a good idea to cook more barley than this - the rice cooker does not deal well with such small quantities. Leftover cooked barley can be frozen, if you don't have an immediate use for it. You should have about 1 cup of cooked barley for the soup.

Make the Soup:
1 large onion
2 cups peeled dice celeriac
OR 2 stalks of celery
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups crushed (chopped, diced) tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
a little cream, sour cream, or yogurt to finish

Peel and chop the onion. Peel and dice the celeriac, or trim an chop the celery. Heat the butter in the bottom of a large soup pot, and add the onion and celery once it is melted and foaming. Cook slowly for about 5 or 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and translucent. Keep the heat low and don't let it brown. Butter is a little less forgiving than cooking in oil, but it really adds to the flavour of the soup.

Sprinkle the flour, savory, salt, and pepper over the onion and celeriac and mix in well; let cook for another minute or two. Then slowly mix in the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Thin with a little water or stock if the soup is too thick. Season with the Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes.

When you are ready to serve the soup, mix in about 1/4 cup of coffee cream but do not add it if the soup is bubbling and do not let it get hot enough to bubble thereafter. Alternatively, serve it with a dab of sour cream or yogurt to top each bowl of soup.

Last year at this time I made Thuringer Mohnkuchen: German Poppyseed Cake.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Here we are in April and the veggie selection is definitely shrinking. Lots of good old carrots, though. These take a little time to roast but are otherwise very fast and simple. They'd be great with baked chicken, which would cook in a similar amount of time if you are using bone-in pieces. Fish too, but it should just go in to be baked for the last 10 minutes or so.

As ever, the hot pepper should be the type and amount that is right for you. (I used Aleppo, and thought it could have been a bit hotter for me but others may not think so.)

I would also try this paste with squash or sweet potatoes - can't see how it wouldn't be good.

4 servings
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Carrots

Make the Spice Paste:
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon sweet or smoked Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne or Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Grind the coriander and cumin seeds, and put them in a small mixing bowl with the rest of the spices. Mix in the apple butter, oil, and water. 

Prepare the Carrots & Roast Them:
450 grams (1 pound) carrots

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel and trim the carrots, and cut them into quarters lengthwise (or sixths, or eighths, if they are fat) and toss them with the paste. Roast them for 30 to 40 minutes, until done to your liking.

Last year at this time I made Korean Sweet & Salty Potatoes.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Okonomiyaki... Waffles!

This was a bit of an experiment. I was thinking of making an Okonomiyaki - that is to say, a savoury Japanese pancake who's name translates as "grilled as you like it" - when I wondered if I could cook it in my waffle iron. A little searching showed that there are lots of people doing that; and I would think it would cook very nicely on most electric grills. You can always cook it in a skillet instead, but I would allow 20 minutes to cook it, since it will require turning to get both sides done.

This is not the world's most authentic recipe; I put more weight on local ingredients rather than traditional ones. I can't compare it to the real thing, but we enjoyed it very much, and I'll be making it again as long as the cabbage supply holds out.  I didn't put any meat or tofu in mine, I just served a little pan-fried tofu on the side but most recipes call for some to be added. You can switch the vegetables around for other ones too... they call it "as you like it" for a reason.

The actual pancake is fairly plain in flavour; if I was not putting on sauce I would certainly add salt to it. However, the sauce is very salty and it is an integral or at least very traditional part of the dish. You should use it (and the mayonnaise)! I would have served it with pickled ginger, if I could have found any that didn't contain aspartame. Ugh! I guess I need to make it myself. (I've done that before, using the brine recipe and technique for dill pickles.)

I remember there was a restaurant in Toronto that served nothing but Okonomiyaki back in the days I lived there - a long time ago now. I never went there; it was not within my budgetary constraints. I wonder if it is still there? (Yes! A little searching shows that it is. It seems quite inexpensive now; was it always less expensive than I thought, or have their prices dropped or at least failed to rise? I wonder. But now I will have to try to go on my next trip into the big smoke.)

2 servings - 6 "waffles"
40 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Grilled as you like it... savoury Japanese pancake in the form of waffles

Make the Sauce:
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce OR oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sherry OR mirin

Whisk the above together in a small bowl.

Make the Okonomiyaki Batter:
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 medium carrot
3 green onions OR 1 medium onion
1 cup soft unbleached flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot OR corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Trim and shred the cabbage, then peel and grate the carrot and trim (peel) and chop the onions. Set them aside. Turn the waffle maker on to heat.

Mix the flour, arrowroot or corn starch, and baking powder in a fairly large mixing bowl - it will end up here at some point - then whisk in the eggs and the stock.

Mix in the vegetables and any optional ingredients. Yes, there is a lot of filling in proportion to the batter. That's fine.

Add Optional Ingredients & Finish:
1 sheet toasted nori (optional)
225 grams (1/2 pound finely chopped chicken, tofu, OR white fish
OR 125 grams (1/4 pound) bacon
a little mild vegetable to brush the waffle iron

I just added a sheet of toasted nori, cut with scissors into shreds. You could also put in finely chopped chicken, tofu, or white fish. If you want to use bacon, I would chop it and partially cook it before mixing it in. I've seen it placed in the skillet then the batter poured over it, but we aren't (or at least I didn't) using a skillet here. I would be dubious about that working in a waffle iron.

Brush the heated waffle iron with oil, and spoon in enough batter to fill the waffle iron, once it is evenly spread out. For me, that was about half of it. Close the waffle iron and cook until lightly browned over most of okonomiyaki waffle, and it should feel fairly firm to the touch - about 15 minutes. Keep the okonomiyaki warm in a 200°F oven while you brush the waffle iron with a little oil again and cook the remaining batter.

Drizzle the ononomiyaki waffles with the brown sauce and with mayonnaise to taste before serving.

Last year at this time I made A Basic Korean Style Marinade.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Irish Soda Farls

Here's another thing that was ridiculously simple to do but awfully good. When the (Northern) Irish talk about soda bread this is what they mean, and there are a lot of instructions out there that make it look very complicated. It isn't really though. If you can make biscuits, and you can make pancakes, then you can make these.

Essentially, these are a kind of low-fat biscuit that is baked on a griddle (skillet) rather than in the oven. I say low fat, but the Irish are sure to remedy that on the other end by applying generous quantities of butter. Me too. On the other hand, these are traditionally made with all white flour, which is not my preference. I thought they worked well with half and half. And yes, soft flour is what is needed - you will need to have a very light hand with them if you use all-purpose flour.

Mine got a little dark - they cooked quicker than I expected, and rose really well too - but unless they are actually scorched a little dark just adds to the experience. 

Makes 4 to 8 servings
20 minutes prep time

Irish Soda Farls

1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1 cup soft unbleached flour
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
a little flour to roll out
about 1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil

Mix the flours, salt, and soda in a mixing bowl. Stir in the buttermilk to form a rough dough; when it is mostly together turn it out onto a clean counter, board, or sheet of parchment paper and knead gently to bring it all together - about 20 to 30 seconds or 12 to 20 turns.

As soon as you have a nice smooth dough, pat it out into a circle about 8" or 9" in circumference, and about 1/2" thick or slightly less. You could roll it out with a rolling pin, but it's easy enough to pat out. Sprinkle it with a little flour if it gets sticky, on both sides. Check - turn it once or twice as you pat it out.

Brush a large cast iron skillet with a very thin layer of mild vegetable oil - I dribbled a bit in then wiped it around with a piece of paper towel and discarded the excess, much like when I make crepes. Most recipes don't call for oiling the griddle or skillet, but this kind of griddle baking really sucks the finish off the cast iron and I think this helps to keep that down to a dull roar. They need to not be sitting in any more oil than just a film, though.

Heat the skillet on the stove, over medium heat. Specifically, turn it to the temperature at which you would cook pancakes or eggs, then lower it just a tad, because these are thicker and will need a little longer. Let the skillet pre-heat for a minute or two while you cut the dough into quarters. A pizza cutter is ideal for this. Gently place the farls into the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Lift them gently after a few minutes to make sure they are not browning too fast - lower the heat if they are. Turn them once they are lightly browned and risen, and cook on the other side.

Serve warm, split and buttered. If there are leftovers, they can be split and toasted.

Last year at this time I made Dutch Beef & Onion Hachée.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

I have to admit this looks simple, even plain, but we both thought it was really tasty. Butter-sautéd mushrooms and herbs do great things for good ol' rutabaga. It's simple and plain where it counts - it goes together very quickly. It's also good eaten right away or will keep for a day or two in the fridge for re-heating.

It will serve 2 with some bread and butter or small sandwich for a meal, or make 4 starter portions for a multi-course dinner.

I would have liked to have some green oniony stuff to toss into this, but the weather is not yet co-operating. Soon, I hope!

2 to 4 servings
1 hour - 45 minutes prep time

Rutabaga & Mushroom Soup

Cook the Rutabaga:
4 cups peeled, diced rutabaga
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel and dice the rutabaga, and put it in a small soup pot (2 quarts or litres) with the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender.

Mix the Spices:
1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour

Grind the rosemary and thyme leaves together, and mix them in a small bowl with the salt and flour.

Finish the Soup:
1 large onion
300 grams (10 ounces) white button mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock

Peel and chop the onion. Clean, trim, and cut the mushrooms in thickish slices each way, creating little mushroom sticks.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a minute or two until softened. Add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and browned in spots.

Add the spice and flour mixture (from above), and mix it in well. Let it all cook for another several minutes, stirring regularly, then gradually add the chicken or other stock, stirring constantly. Let simmer a few minutes to thicken.

While it does that, and when the rutabaga is tender, mash the rutabaga well in the pot without draining it. Stir in the contents of the skillet, and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Let simmer over medium-low heat for another 5 or 10 minutes. Stir regularly.

Last year at this time I made the fabulous Red Cabbage & Parsley Slaw... somehow forgot to mention it's also full of parsnip.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

A Visit to Rolling Ridge Maple Products

Wow, has it ever been a long time since I've paid a visit to anyone, but when we were coming home from Windsor last weekend we drove past Rolling Ridge Maple Products, remembered we were out of maple syrup, and paid a flying visit.

Rolling Ridge is located at 22681 Vanneck Road, just west of Ilderton, Ontario. (Ilderton is about 20 kilometres north-west of London.)

This is a very nice little set-up. In addition to the combined boiler room (refinery? evaporator? sugar shack?) and store, you can walk through the bush from which the sap is collected, reading notes on the production of maple syrup as you go. Although I admit my eyebrows went up at the description of the method of collecting sap as being "invented by the early pioneers". Um, really?

There's the old sugar shack, as well as the original cast iron kettle.

They have a couple of the old collection buckets on display, but as with every modern maple producer, the sap is now directed straight to the boiler via blue plastic tubing.

You can just about spot the tubing in the background behind the old sugar shack.

Inside, our purchase is rung up by Jamie Robson, a member of the family behind Rolling Ridge. There's maple syrup, maple syrup, and more maple syrup - oh, and little maple sugar patties in the form of maple leaves, maple "butter", and if you are there at the right time apparently maple cotton candy, which sounds to me like genius or at least about the only thing that would induce me to eat cotton candy. They opened up in late February and will go until some time in April at this location, although their products are available all year in other places.

Barrels of maple syrup sit in the boiler room. This years season has been early, long, and odd; with temperatures all over the map, making the process somewhat trying. However, spring approaches and the sap rises and the outcome is maple syrup. 

As the syrup is decanted from the boiler, it passes through a serious series of filters. Jay Robson, Jamie's brother, oversees the process.

Maple syrup grading names are in a period of change. From my point of view this will have advantages and disadvantages. What is now being called Very Dark is my favourite, and it used to be somewhat hard to get but often cheaper when I could find it - not always! I think I am not alone in preferring it now (it used to be that the lightest in colour and flavour was at least officially the most highly regarded) so I will find it easier to get but no less expensive than any other kind. Of course, the exact proportions of each kind produced will continue to depend more on weather conditions than on the demand for them.

Our gallon of syrup came in a big plastic jug. Since it takes us quite a while to go through that much, we will re-can it into smaller glass canning jars. It will keep up to 3 years in our cold cellar that way, although I doubt it will take us that long to use it.