Collecting maple sap the traditional way, in buckets

Sometimes the sweetest things take the most effort to produce, don’t they?

Take, for instance, maple syrup, one of Canada’s iconic products. We often use it atop pancakes or waffles, or in desserts (see below). This delicious liquid starts out as sap collected from sugar maple trees.

Right now it’s maple syrup season in Eastern Canada: as the weather warms, the sap in the trees starts flowing freely. Holes are drilled into the trunks of the maples, and buckets or tubing collects the dripping sap, which is then transported to a central location.

And then it’s ready to be bottled, right? No! Actually, the process has only just begun.

The sap at this stage is only 2% sugar; the rest is water. It must be boiled down dramatically before it becomes syrup. In fact, it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

The sap must be boiled for so many hours that you really can’t do it in your house. It would produce so much steam that it could peel the wallpaper from your kitchen walls! Instead, the sap is boiled down in special huts in the maple forest called “sugar shacks.”

All this might seem like a lot of effort, but it’s worth it. This liquid gold is a highly prized treat: there’s nothing quite like the flavour of pure maple syrup.

I often think that God does the same sort of work in us. He “boils away” what is unnecessary in our lives, leaving only the essential qualities. He wants us to have “Grade A” traits, the ones Jesus demonstrated while here on earth. He doesn’t want them diluted, so to speak.

“For you, God, tested us; you refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10 CSB)

In order for us to become more like Jesus, we have to endure a certain amount of “boiling” or refining. This can be painful for us, but it’s worth it in the end. What’s left in our character after this refining process are the most valuable, Christ-like qualities; the dross has been burned off.

“When He has tried me, I shall come forth as refined gold [pure and luminous].” (Job 23:10b AMPC)

So let’s not be discouraged when we find ourselves in the “sugar shack” of life, undergoing a boiling process. Through these trials God is producing something wonderful in us, as valuable as pure gold or refined silver.

And as sweet as maple syrup!

With all this talk of maple, you knew there had to be a recipe coming, didn’t you? I’m pleased to share one of The Faith Cafe’s favourite maple recipes:

Maple Pecan Pudding

2 cups milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar, as desired
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In the top of a double boiler, combine the milk, cornstarch, salt, brown sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly, and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk and stir. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to boil for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter pieces until completely melted. Whisk in the vanilla and chopped nuts. Let cool slightly, then spoon into parfait glasses and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming.

Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.

© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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