Imogen’s heavily glittered Christmas decorations still spin and dangle from the curtain rail above me. They catch the sunlight while the birds chirp outside. We understand their chirps mean spring is coming even if it got down to 11 degrees Ferinheight last night. The day promises warm sun and we are in the mist of sugaring season; when the maple trees (which are many here in Maine) are tapped for their sap which is boiled down to maple syrup.
And last Sunday, sunny but bitterly cold with a single digits wind chill, was Maine Maple Sunday. So we drove over to Chase Farm in Wells, bundled up and hurried from the car into their warm farm shop to taste this year’s syrup.
They harvest the sap and then put it into a huge steel machine with a tank on top and a woodburner below. The wood fire heats the sap and clouds of steam billow up the chimney and off the top of the tank. The sap gradually thickens and the sugars in it burn to a caramel color.
Tiny paper cups of warm syrup were then passed around on a tray and we sipped, as if tasting a fine wine. The syrup was nutty, sweet but not tooth achingly so, and much loved by my two kids!
I love the idea of a community ritual to celebrate spring. Long New England winters are beautiful and cozy, but the end of winter is surely a thing to be celebrated. We do eat maple syrup occasionally, but I have found myself eating it less and less because it seems too sweet to be healthy. But, that said, a small sip of warm syrup in the room where it was made surrounded by the trees it came from is well worth doing once a year to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Pie is something that is well worth eating more than once a year. Ever since I found the best and easiest pie crust recipe I have been a big fan of pie. And here in Maine our favorite type is apple and blueberry.
We all adore pie but I don’t make it that often. So we have started a new birthday tradition: instead of cake we have pie. This was my birthday pie at the end of last month.
Apple Blue Berry Pie
For the crust
250g whole wheat pastry flour
225g salted butter (two sticks comes to just under this amount and works fine)
For the filling
4-5 Macintosh apples
1 cup blueberries fresh or frozen
2 Tbs whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp cinnamon
The instructions for the crust are found here. I’ve added more water because the whole wheat flour needs it.
For the filling peal and slice the apples. Put them in a large bowl and add the blueberries. Then add the flour and cinnamon. Stir to coat the fruit. Add the honey and stir to coat. Let this mixture sit while you roll out the crust. Seal the edges, prick the top, and bake at 350F for about an hour. Until the pie bubbles and the apples are soft.