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When I was young, my parents bought their first home in a quiet, old neighbourhood. For the first time, we had our own yard to play in!
Furthermore, three huge maple trees lined the yard, making it extra special. These trees were over one hundred years old. They were magnificent then...and still are today.
So many memories are linked to those maple trees. During the summer, their leaves protected us from the sun. Often, my friends and I would sit under them and talk for hours. I am sure they would have many secrets to reveal if they could talk! Every autumn, tons of leaves would fall from their branches. It seemed like my father was constantly raking! However, my fondest memory is that my father would tap the sugar maples every spring, collect the maple sap, and make maple syrup.
The process wasn't very complicated. My father would simply drill a hole in each tree using his drill, insert a small tube, and hang a sap bucket. He would collect the sap water and boil it until it became maple syrup. The delicious maple syrup was quite impressive, especially since this was all done in an urban environment.
Today, I have a maple tree in my own backyard, but it is a young tree. It is probably only about 15 years old and is therefore nothing like the trees we had during my childhood. I will have to continue to visit sugar shacks for many years to come with my own children for a taste of maple syrup. With spring just a few weeks away, I encourage you to begin observing maple trees with your group. This simple activity could turn into a project that lasts all year long.
Here are a few suggestions:
Combine maple syrup, flour and salt. Warm milk in a bain marie. Gradually add the first mixture and then the butter. Cook mixture for approximately 5 minutes or until it thickens. Allow maple cream to cool somewhat before spreading a thin layer in the bottom of a 10" x 12" glass dish. Top it with a layer of Graham crackers. Spread a second layer of maple cream on the Graham crackers and, finally, spread whipped cream on top.
Special thanks to Andrée Bégin for this recipe.
Enjoy! Take advantage of this time of the year to visit a real sugar shack with your group!
Claudine RichardEarly Childhood Educator
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