Pancake lovers rejoice.
Maple syrup season is just about upon us.
Volunteers at the Martha Wagbo Farm and Education Center in East Jordan have been busy tapping the maples on their 25-acre sugar bush in anticipation of this month’s sap run.
“We have the capacity for about 1,500 taps, but on any given year we’ve been doing between 500 and 700,” said Wagbo director Jen Lewis.
Gov. Rick Snyder has deemed March “Michigan Maple Syrup Month.” The state ranks seventh nationally in the production of maple syrup, with an average yearly production of about 100,000 gallons, according to the Michigan Maple Syrup Association.
The maple season starts in February in the southern counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and runs into April in the U.P.
Lewis said it’s too early in the season to predict how the sap will run. They’re keeping fingers crossed for daytime temperatures to shoot well above freezing and nights to drop below. Such temperature fluctuations make for optimal flow of the sticky stuff.
Wagbo has been making syrup for 10 years. Last year brought one of the lowest yields because of warm temperatures, but the year before was one of the best, said Lewis.
It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of finished product. Wagbo can produce between 100 to more than 200 gallons of finished syrup in a good year.
They use the proceeds from half of their syrup sales to cover the cost of operations. The other half is given to volunteers in exchange for their work, which can range from working in the sugar bush to getting ready for their annual open house.
At Wagbo, the sap travels from the trees along hundreds of feet of tubing, using gravity and vacuum, to a 1,000-gallon collection tank. From there, it goes to a 3,000-gallon holding tank next to the wood-fired evaporator where the sap is heat processed into pure maple syrup.
One tablespoon of maple syrup is about 50 calories. Unlike its corn syrup-laden counterpart, pure maple syrup has many minerals per tablespoon including calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium iron, sodium and potassium. It also contains trace amounts of amino acids and vitamins.
Wagbo Farm has planned several events to celebrate maple syrup season.
On Saturdays and Sundays during sap flow from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors can eat at The Maple Table, a “pop-up” pancake restaurant with a maple theme.
The “Community Potluck and Program Series: Sugaring Demo Day with the Friends of the Wagbo Sugar Bush,” is scheduled for this Saturday, March 9.
The day kicks off with a potluck at noon followed by a 1 p.m. program where participants can learn more about the process through hands-on participation in the all-volunteer run operation known as the Friends of the Wagbo Sugar Bush. Specific duties are weather dependent, but you should dress for outdoor work and a possible hike to the 25-acre sugar bush.
On Sunday, March 17, at 1 p.m. the Jordan Valley Outdoor Youth Programs presents a “Pancake Party.” In addition to a meal of fresh pancakes and Wagbo’s syrup, there will be tours of the sugar shack to learn how they make syrup and how you can do it at home.
On March 30, the Education Center is hosting its 10th Annual Maple Syrup Open House from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The event includes syrup tastings, maple treats, sugar shack tours, a petting zoo, kids’ activities, nature hikes to the sugar bush, music and more.
Lewis said they always welcome new volunteers and no experience is necessary.
For more information on events or volunteering, visit www.wagbo.org or call 536-0333.
1 13-1/2 oz. can pineapple chunks in syrup
2 8-oz. packages brown & serve sausage links
4 T. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. vinegar
1 med. green pepper, cut in 3/4-inch squares
1/2 c. drained maraschino cherries
Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 c. liquid. Cut sausages in thirds crosswise; brown in skillet. At serving time, blend cornstarch, salt, reserved liquid, maple syrup, water and vinegar in blazer pan or chafing dish. Heat to boiling, over direct heat, stirring constantly; cook and stir a few minutes more.
Add drained pineapple, sausage, green pepper chunks and cherries; heat through. Keep warm over hot water. Spear with cocktail picks. Makes about 150 appetizers.
Maple Nut Bread
1/4 c. oleo
3/4 c. milk
1 c. raisins
2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 egg, well beaten
1c. chopped nuts
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda, dissolved in 1 t. hot water
Combine all ingredients in order given. Pour into greased loaf pan and allow to sit 20 minutes. Bake 375° for 60 minutes.
Oatmeal Maple Pancakes
1/4 c. maple syrup
3/4 c. milk
1 c. pancake mix
1/2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
2 T. melted shortening
Combine syrup, milk and egg. Add pancake mix, oats and shortening. Beat lightly until blended. Bake on hot griddle, greased. Makes about 1 dozen, 4-inch pancakes.
Maple Whipped Butter
1 c. butter
11/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 t. plain gelatin
1 t. cold water
Whip butter in mixer until fluffy. Slowly drizzle maple syrup on butter. Soak gelatin in cold water. Then dissolve over hot water. Cool slightly and slowly add to butter. Mix well. Makes about 2 cups.
Maple Barbecued Pork Ribs
WATCH These ribs like a hawk: they burn easily. The recipe comes from restaurateur Jim Dodge. To reduce cooking time on the grill and thus the risk of burning, first parboil the ribs in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then marinate the cooked ribs for at least eight hours or overnight and grill them for only about 10 minutes per side.
1 rack spareribs (about 4 lbs.)
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. maple syrup
2 T. rice-wine vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
Rub ribs with pepper and salt. Place in a shallow non-aluminum pan. In a small bowl, mix together maple syrup, vinegar and soy sauce. Pour over ribs, cover and chill overnight, turning occasionally.
Remove ribs from pan and grill over moderately hot coals, turning and basting ribs so they cook evenly on both sides, about 20 minutes per side, or until done. Do not let them burn. Serves 4.
Maple Corn Muffins
11/3 c. flour
2/3 c. cornmeal
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2/3 c. milk
1/3 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. melted shortening
Sift dry ingredients together. Beat eggs in bowl; add milk, maple syrup and shortening. Blend dry ingredients in quickly to just moisten flour. Pour into 12 muffin tins and bake 425° for about 20 minutes.
— Recipes from Wagbo Farm and Education Center