Maple Season

We’re coming to the end of another Maple season in our neck of the woods. It’s such a beautiful site to drive through the countryside and see buckets hanging on maple trees during the tapping process. It means great things are coming: April showers, May flowers. And yes, maple syrup!!

Culinarily speaking, I get excited about a lot of “seasons.” Right now, for example, I’m looking forward to Mushroom and Ramp season in a few weeks, when we’ll head into the woods in search of Morels and wild leeks. A little later, we’ll be harvesting our rhubarb – I call that “Rhubarb Season.” And that’s just the start of a great harvest season that lasts well into the fall.

But these days I’m celebrating Maple Season!

I recently returned from spending some time in the South. On the drive home, I bought several pounds of fresh Georgia pecans. I do this every year so I can divide and freeze the pecans for use throughout the year. When I arrived home a few days ago, a dear friend of mine brought me a jug of fresh, pure maple syrup that he had just produced in his own sugar shack. Fresh Georgia pecans, and fresh maple syrup! Life just doesn’t get much better than that!

I spent the day yesterday creating some maple and pecan masterpieces: I made Maple Pecan Butter, Maple Pecan Scones, and Maple Pecan Cookies. As I’m prone to do, I made way more of each than I could ever hope to use in a few days. So I rolled some of the maple butter into logs, sealed them, and put them in the freezer to use as desired during the next several months. I rolled the cookie dough into 1 ½” balls and froze them; and divided the dough into individual scones that I can pull from the freezer, defrost for a few minutes, and pop into the oven.

But I’m not done yet. Today I’m going to make a Maple Bourbon Sauce to drizzle over pecan-encrusted chicken breasts. And I’ll save a little to serve with some Pumpkin Goat Cheese Turnovers I’ll be making someday soon.

Don’t worry! I did reserve some of the maple syrup to use in the traditional manner today – i.e. as SYRUP! I’m going to drizzle some on top of the multi-grain French toast with fresh strawberries and blueberries I’m making for my family later today. We’re having “breakfast for dinner,” and tonight they’re going to be more than a little excited about the menu. And P.S. - I'll probably serve some Maple Smoked Bacon on the side!

This is what I love most about being a Chef! I love the creative process. Being a chef, whether you’re a Home Chef or a Professional, doesn’t just mean culling through cookbooks and following recipes (although sometimes that’s necessary). It means really looking at the earth’s bounty – looking through it really, until you can see something beautiful on the other side. Something you’ve created yourself; something you simply have to share with your family, friends, and guests.

I spent the day yesterday doing just that. I looked through the jug of fresh, pure maple syrup and created what I saw on the other side. It was a great day, and because my freezer is now stocked with some wonderful maple and pecan creations, the joy of it will last for months.

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