I learned recently that my brothers prefer Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup not only to other brands of imitation maple syrup, but even to authentic maple syrup. I attribute this to a lifetime of Sunday pancakes or French toast, for which the only two toppings available were Mrs. Butterworth’s or powdered sugar. As for me, I always took the powdered sugar, so I never acquired a taste for the former. Later in my life, when I began to view powdered sugar as a mildly childish thing to put on ones breakfast, I moved directly to real maple syrup, and have never been able to go back to Mrs. Butterworth’s. For some reason, it leaves an unpleasant feeling in the back of my throat similar to cough syrup. Also, it is gooier and stickier than what I prefer.
Syrup is a bit of a funny thing, actually. Out East, where they grow sugar maples and where maple syrup is therefore more common, real, honest-to-goodness maple syrup is what you are served in restaurants. This changes the further west you go. By the time you reach the Midwest, maple syrup has been substituted for maple-flavored corn syrup. The trend continues so that once you make it as far as California, they have dropped maple flavoring altogether, and simply serve you corn syrup for your pancakes.
But really, when it comes to sugar maples, and the sweet, sticky, gloriously unique flavor they produce, there is almost nothing I don’t like. My passion extends from maple syrup to maple sugar, maple sugar candy, maple-walnut ice cream, and even maple-flavored meat products, such as sausage or bacon.
On that note, here is an excellent recipe to try sometime. My mom made it up one day when we were somehow left with an acorn squash, and she wasn’t sure what to do with it. She has since adapted the recipe for other forms of squash, but I prefer acorn, as its flavor is milder than butternut, and because the presentation is more appealing:
Cut the acorn squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash on a baking sheet, and bake until soft. Take a package of maple sausage (the bulk variety rather than the links or the preformed patties,) and roll into small sausage balls. Fry in a pan until cooked through. Remove. Peel and slice apples into chunks, and add to sausage pan. Cook the apples until tender. Mix the apples and sausage together, and fill the acorn squash bowls. Serve hot with maple syrup.
I once saw a maple sugaring. It was one of our home school field trips. I remember watching the vats of maple sugar water being boiled down into syrup. It was also the first time I ever had maple sugar candy. Someone in my speech class this summer gave a presentation on maple sugaring. It made me want maple sugar candy, but I couldn’t find any anywhere. Maple sugar candy was one of the items I most hoped to find on my vacation East. I will share the success of this endeavor in the next half of this installment.