New England maple syrup is a sweet natural treat. Maple sap is 97% water and it takes a long time to evaporate all that moisture away to thicken the 3% sugary content.
I hold childhood memories of watching my uncle boil gallons of sap in a wide metal pan braced atop a stone wall for hours. He stoked the fire underneath with birch, apple, and oak to keep the pan at a rolling boil to speed the process. As a young boy, I didn’t understand what he was doing. All I saw was a clear boiling liquid with a lot of steam rising out of it. It seemed to have no purpose.
Hours passed and finally the liquid thickened and began to change color. My uncle tilted the pan and drained the hot, sticky, sweet fluid into an open cooking pot. He took that to the kitchen stove and continued boiling it down until it reached the desired color. By now, the sweet aroma filled the kitchen and made my mouth water in anticipation.
Mom had a plate stacked high with pancakes just waiting for the fresh syrup. I took two, put a dollop of homemade farm butter on them and held my plate to my uncle for him to drizzle on the syrup. It was the best of times.
Tell us about a sensation — a taste, a smell, a piece of music — that transports you back to childhood.