We’ve had a couple of days of unseasonably warm weather which is both wonderful and a terrible tease. We actually opened windows yesterday but tomorrow the high is only supposed to be 40. Sigh. False spring!
Even so, there are signs of warmer days including crocuses, green shoots of daffodils, and even a few swelling buds on trees. Which means the sap is rising! And that includes the sugar maples.
Vermont gets most of the maple syrup press, but Appalachia produces it’s fair share of the sticky, sweet stuff. West Virginia has 75 or so farms producing more than 2,500 gallons of syrup in a given year. And February into March is harvest season.
The trick is to tap maple trees when the days are getting warmer and the nights are still cold. This makes the sap rise and you can literally drill a hole in the tree, stick in a spout (spile), and let the sugar water intended to feed the tree run out into a bucket. Then the water is reduced into a syrup (or even further into maple sugar).
Of course, if you’re thinking about drilling a hole in the maple tree in your backyard you should know that it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sugar water to make one gallon of syrup.
Our family farm is far enough north that folks in the area make syrup and celebrate at the Maple Syrup Festival in nearby Pickens, WV. The event has been happening for decades although it–like so many events–has been canceled this year. The festival typically includes crafters, music, a quilt show, wood chopping, ax throwing, and–of course–pancakes! Here’s hoping it’s back in March 2022!
There are pancake “feeds” at various locations throughout the event. Of course, there’s also a bean supper (it IS West Virginia) on Saturday evening. And you can buy West Virginia hot dogs all the time. Even for breakfast if you get tired of pancakes with maple syrup.
This year, since there’s no use going to Pickens in March for your WV maple syrup fix, here are a few links along with my favorite pancake recipe.
- Daniels Pure Maple Syrup
- Cool Hollow Maple Farm
- Richter’s Maple House
- WV Maple Syrup Producers Association
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 4 T butter, melted
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs until well combined and add to the dry ingredients, stirring just until mixed. Add the melted butter and combine everything. It’s fine if your batter is a little lumpy. Let it sit for a few minutes so the baking powder can do it’s thing. Pour about 1/2 cup batter in a hot skillet and flip the pancake once bubbles start to form (you can lift an edge to make sure it’s golden brown!). Flip and cook another couple of minutes until done through. Serve with plenty of butter and real maple syrup!