Do you ever look at packaged food and wonder where it came from and what it looked like in its original form? While my step kids were growing up I often wondered whether they knew what wheat or a tomato plant looked like or that potatoes didn’t grow on trees. You would be surprised how far removed we have managed to get from the land and its bounty.
I obviously knew that maple syrup came from the maple tree but I never stopped to ponder how the syrup is harvested from the tree, until a few years ago when a chance trip to Vermont offered the perfect occasion to visit a maple farm. The syrup is essentially the sap of the tree which is stored in the roots over the winter and rises in spring. In its most rudimentary form, spouts are pushed into the bark and branches, all connected with a tubing system that ends up in large buckets where the syrup drops into. The first harvesting yields the so-called Grade A syrup (then further subdivided in 2 more grades), which is a light amber colour and very mild in flavor. The second harvesting gives us Grade B, my favourite, darker, stronger and with a definite personality. It’s the most prized in cooking and I often use it in place of sugar – it’s less refined than sugar and more complex in taste. There is also a grade C that I have never seen for sale and it’s probably used for byproducts.
After years, actually decades, of bowls of cereal for dinner, I graduated to a more refined version of “breakfast at night” – oatmeal with nuts, raisins and maple syrup. None of the instant crap – it takes only 10 minutes to make perfect oatmeal.My preference is for rolled oats rather than steel-cut but I suppose it’s a matter of taste – I find the rolled oats to be more satisfying in their “chewiness”. A touch of yogurt or, better still, kefir will keep your intestinal flora healthy and the maple syrup will make you forget brown sugar ever existed.
3/4 C Rolled Oats
1 1/2 C Water
2 T Raw almonds
1 T Golden raisins
2 T Yogurt or Kefir
1 ts Salt
Maple Syrup to taste
- Bring water to boil in a small pan and add salt. Drop the oats and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until all water has been absorbed, stirring often.
- Pour oatmeal into a bowl and add almonds, raisins, yogurt and mix well.
- Add 2 or 3 T of maple syrup or to taste.
- Plop yourself onto the couch with a cup of tea and a movie for the ultimate comfort experience.