Maple sap tapping: open houses, recipes

bakeryThe quaint notion of sap dripping from tree to bucket is a quickly fading snapshot for some maple syrup producers, and this is the time of year to better understand how the business is thriving and changing at some farms in Wisconsin.

Drewry Farms in Sheboygan County produced about 2,700 gallons of sap from 4,500 trees in 2013, a record for the family’s 120 acres of forest, on a hill near the Onion River.

Sap collection involves miles of pipeline, each gallon of syrup comes from the boiling of about 40 gallons of sap and hundreds of visitors got an education and taste of the business at David and Ellen Drewrys’ annual open house this spring.

The first line of hard-plastic tubing was laid many years ago because of one slope’s steepness. The remaining switch to pipelines happened gradually during the past six years, says daughter Ann Drewry Weeden of the four-generation family farm that was settled in 1847.

The Drewrys’ extensiveness of pipeline and level of production is way above average, says Gretchen Grape, executive director of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association. More typical is a farm’s tapping of 200 to 1,000 maple trees.

“And some members only tap five trees, enough for their own use, or to give away as gifts,” Gretchen explains. She says her association’s 300 members represent less than 10 percent of the state’s maple syrup producers.

Wisconsin produced 8 percent of the nation’s maple syrup in 2013, ranking behind only Vermont, New York and Maine. The average season for tapping sap lasts about one month, but the lack of cool nights reduced the run to a mere 10 days in 2012.

Although sap collection by metal bucket or plastic bag is but a memory for the Drewrys, Gretchen says many others continue this practice in Wisconsin.

Pipeline production, she says, works best for farms tapping many trees or without the help to harvest sap quickly.

“The faster you can get it boiled, the better,” Gretchen says. “Sap is like milk – it spoils over time” if not processed efficiently.

The Drewrys and syrup from their farm star in a three-course, family-style dinner for 40 people that chef Dave Swanson presents at 6 p.m. April 8 at Braise Restaurant, 1101 S. Second St., Milwaukee. Cost is $40, plus gratuity; the reservation also includes an optional tour of Drewry Farms at 11:30 a.m. March 31 (you provide the transportation). braiselocalfood.com, 414-212-8843

The farm’s syrup also is sold online, at Outpost Natural Foods (outpost.coop), seasonal farmers’ markets and other southeast Wisconsin businesses. drewryfarmsmaple.com

Maple syrup festivals happen at these locations in April:

MacKenzie Environmental Education Center, W7303 Hwy. CS, Poynette, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 5, dnr.wi.gov/education/mackenzie, 608-635-8105

Phelps School, 4451 Old School Rd., Phelps, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5, phelpscofc.org, 715-545-3800

Northern Wisconsin Maid Sugarbush, W8052 Maple Ridge Rd., Park Falls, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 12-13, 715-762-4796

Taylor County Fairgrounds, Hwys. 13/64, Medford, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 26, taylorcountylionsmaplefest.org, 715-748-4729

For more about the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association, consult wismaple.org.

The Taylor County Lions Maple Fest, April 26, includes a recipe contest. Winners in 2013 included Jean Flood of Medford, for this sweet snack. Consult taylorcountylionsmaplefest.org to enter this year’s event or order a Maple Fest Cookbook for $10.

JANE’S MAPLE GRANOLA

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
6 cups oatmeal
2 cups walnuts
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix vegetable oil, maple syrup and brown sugar. Microwave 3 minutes, stirring at halfway point.

Mix oatmeal, walnuts, wheat germ and coconut. Pour hot syrup over mixture and stir well. Divide between two jellyroll pans.

Bake 10 minutes; stir and reverse position of pans in the oven. Bake 8-10 more minutes. Cool completely. Add raisins and dried cranberries. Store in airtight container. Serve alone, with milk or with yogurt.

These two recipes come from the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association. The first was a part of the Wisconsin State Fair 150th Year Commemorative Cookbook, published in 2001. The other comes from Gretchen Grape, the association’s executive director, who says the glaze also works well with yams.

Many other recipes that use maple syrup are online at wismaple.org.

MAPLE SYRUP CARAMEL ROLLS

1 1/2 cups maple syrup
2/3 cup butter
1 loaf whole-wheat bread dough, thawed
Melted butter, as needed
Sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Place maple syrup in top of double boiler. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes or jelly stage. Meanwhile, melt 2/3 cup butter, mix with hot syrup and pour into 13×9 baking pan. Let cool.

Divide bread dough in half. On greased counter, roll one part into a rectangle that is 1/4-inch thick. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up tight, beginning with wide side. Cut with a thread (place thread under roll, pull ends to top and cross, slicing the roll) into 1-inch slices. Do the same with the other half of the dough.

Place slices on top of caramel in pan. Let rolls double in size. Bake in 375-degree preheated oven for 25 minutes or until brown. Remove, let stand 1 minute and invert pan onto waxed paper. Cool rolls thoroughly.

MAPLE GLAZED CARROTS

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon orange juice, frozen concentrate
1 pound cooked carrots, drained
Ginger, optional

Mix maple syrup and orange juice in a small mixing bowl. Pour over cooked carrots and simmer 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with ginger, if
desired.