How To Make Maple Syrup

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.

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Stay With the Tried and True

My Mom’s and Dad’s 1915 Five Roses Cookbooks:
They each brought a copy into their marriage.

Do you have a collection of old family recipes or cookbooks? Many of us are fortunate enough to have such treasures, lovingly passed down to us. They’re worth hanging on to.

The recipes might be contained in a cookbook, or written down on index cards and filed in a plastic or wooden box. They may be handwritten and neatly organized in a binder, or simply clipped from the newspaper and stuffed haphazardly into the pages of an old cookbook.

But no matter how the recipes are filed, there’s an easy way to tell which ones are the best:

The pages they’re on are a bit of a mess.

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Get Ready for God to Act

Pouring cupcake batter into prepared muffin tins.
Photo by Gina Dittmer.

When you read a cake or muffin recipe, it will usually instruct you to preheat your oven and get your baking pans prepared before describing how to make the dessert itself.

But why do it in this order? Why not make the batter first, and let it sit there in the bowl while you leisurely grease or line the baking pans and let the oven slowly heat up?

There’s a very good reason to have everything prepared before you start the actual baking, and it has to do with how leaveners behave.

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Short But Sweet

Scottish Terriers: short but sweet!
Photo by Trisha Shears on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-2.0

Last week, the Scots celebrated “Hogmanay,” or New Year’s Eve. A particularly delicious treat often consumed there on this holiday is shortbread, which is a Scottish invention. It’s not really a bread, but rather a buttery, rich, crumbly type of cookie (recipe below).

But why is it called “short” bread? Is it vertically challenged? Well, yes, it’s quite a flat cookie, but in this case the word “short” means something different.

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Christmas Fruitcake Solution

Do you like Christmas fruitcake? Or do you just pretend to? Some people look forward to making or receiving fruitcakes at this time of year. Other people dread the prospect of eating fruitcake yet again.

If you’ve been faking enjoyment of Christmas fruitcake all these years and would really rather not eat any more of it, I think I have a solution for you:

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Turkey Hotline

Impending disaster! Photo by Matt Shalvatis on Flickr
CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For over 30 years now, the Butterball company has hosted a hotline for those encountering problems or questions when cooking their Thanksgiving or Christmas turkeys.

The experts at their turkey talk-line answer calls from over 100,000 people per year, desperate cooks mystified by the process of roasting a turkey and needing advice. Usually, the caller is unsure how to thaw the turkey, or how to calculate the cooking time.

Sometimes, however, the problems are a bit more complicated…not to mention hilarious.

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The Banana Paradox

Who doesn’t like banana cake? Even people who won’t eat bananas seem to like banana cake. It seems to be one of those desserts that is universally liked.

And what kind of bananas do you use to make a banana cake? Only the most uniformly yellow, firm, spot-free, perfect ones, right?

Wrong.

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Feeding The Squirrels

I read a delightful fact about Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Apparently, he keeps nuts in his pockets to feed the red squirrels that live on his Balmoral estate. He so loves these little rodents that he even lets them into his house!

Prince Charles writes about the squirrels in the November 14, 2018 edition of “Country Life” magazine, which he guest-edited:

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Old Wooden Spoons

My old wooden spoon, with its newer, unused cousin

Do you have a favourite cooking utensil? One you keep returning to even though you may have a newer, better replacement for it?

I do. It’s an old wooden spoon that’s been used by my family for decades. In fact, it’s probably older than I am (I won’t tell you my exact age, but let’s just say that I remember Watergate. Enough said).

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