Best Cook: Maple Syrup Recipes
Maple means many things to Marcia Maynard. Maple means the tall trees that surround her house high on a hill above Cabot, Vermont–a house that she and her husband, Ken Denton, bought some time ago as a hunting camp, the house they gradually renovated into a permanent home. Maple means the time of year when the sap is running down through the tubing that stretches from their woods into their sugarhouse. Maple means staying up till 1:00 in the morning boiling sap, then going to work bleary-eyed just a few hours later. Maple means sweetness–all the wonderful concoctions Marcia has learned to make from the deep-amber syrup.
Marcia and Ken met after college, when they were both working for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. They married and settled first in Enosburg Falls and then in Danville, where Ken was assigned as local game warden. Weekends while their three daughters were growing up, they went to their camp, which was surrounded by about 100 acres of sugar maples and another 100 acres of fields and softwood forest. They built a handsome sugarhouse below the camp, and Marcia, always a great cook, started using maple syrup and maple sugar in her cooking. Now for sweetening she rarely uses anything but. Prominent among their family holidays is their annual “sugar-on-snow party.”
“Sugaring time–the girls come home, bring their friends, and we do sugar on snow, stay up late to boil, and then, in the morning, I make my ricotta pancakes,” Marcia says. “It’s something we love.” Years back, at camp, Marcia got used to cooking with gas by the light of gaslamps. She prepared their food by hand, no appliances, using eggbeaters and whisks to do the work of the Cuisinart. Now that she and Ken have been living there full-time since 2004, they have all the conveniences. But “I got used to cooking by hand,” Marcia says. “I like it better.”
Just as the hunting camp started out as a retreat and turned into a permanent home, the sugaring started out as a hobby and turned into a full-time job. Ken retired in 2010 after 30 years of service; they call their operation Cabot Hills Maple and sell their certified organic syrup at their Web site (cabothillsmaple.com). They make about 2,200 gallons a year–not only enough for all of Marcia’s recipes but enough to help support their simple life year-round. That’s what maple means now.