Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sugar days

by June
Can you tell we've been a little frozen up?

It's been a winter of hugging the woodstove (and one another) as the wind howled, the furnace rumbled, and the snow mounted. I know that somewhere it is already spring. The calendar says so. But here we are still swinging between frigid nights and days that are often bright but bracing. Fortunately, that's perfect weather for gathering maple sap to boil down into syrup.

We have a wedding tree on our place. It was an old New England tradition to plant a sugar maple in the front yard—to celebrate a wedding. Our tree has four trunks—a sugar clump, we call it. It is always gloriously ablaze for our October wedding anniversary, and then in spring it graces us with more sweetness...a bountiful run of sap that pitter pats into the buckets. If we're diligent about keeping the fire going, that clump can give us syrup for a year's worth of pancakes and popovers and lemonade.

When we are at the sugar clump, we notice that even though the taps are often iced up, some signs of spring are here. The light is crisp and warm. Robins hop about on the patches of grass where the snow has retreated. The mourning doves coo to one another in the firs. Daffodil spears are slicing up through the soil and lilac buds are swelling. Spring will come. Summer too. And when it does, some hot afternoon, we'll have a glass of maple lemonade and think of these cold days of almost-spring.

We hope this favorite lemonade recipe of ours will be enough for you to forgive us our long absence here. It's such an easy drink to make, yet it is the most refreshing treat on earth. Squeeze six lemons into a glass pitcher, then add about a half-cup of maple syrup (more or less to taste). You can add a little sugar if you want to boost the sweetness but preserve the precious syrup. Grate a little lemon zest into the pitcher. Add ice and water until it tastes right to you. (We've learned that this recipe is flexible and personal. Each one of us angles it a slightly different way.)

If this tardy missive of ours reaches you (and if you haven't given up on us), please send word back. We've missed our friends, each of you. Is it spring where you are? We welcome reports of buds and blossoms and nesting birds.