Double M

One of my dearest friends frequently calls me Double M because of my initials.  It’s a great little phrase yet a quick Google search shows that I am not the only Double M around.  Double M Pizza, Double M Gaited Horses, Double M Auto Sales. Food, animals, cars . . so why not have  a Double M day?

Edgar Thomson WorksMy Double M day?  Mills and Maple!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 On Sunday, I drove down to pick up my parents for a day out and about.  I left early to get some treats for them at the newish Five Points Artisan Bakery in Squirrel Hill. Five Points Artisan Everything is so good, but get there early as they frequently sell out early.  Taking the long route to the my folks’ house through Braddock,  Munhall and towards McKeesport, I ended up driving past two of my favorite places.  The first is the Joe Magarac statue across from Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock.  This legend, to me, represents toils, troubles and strength of the Eastern European immigrant population that worked in the mills.  Joe is supposed to protect the mill workers.  Drive on down to Braddock Avenue across from the Edgar Thomson Works to see Joe in person. It is a terrific place to ponder things.  There really is no parking right in front of him, but you can park and sit across the road in the small parking area near the entrance to ET.  According to legend,  Joe  “ate that hot steel like soup and cold steel ingots like meat.”

Joe Magarac

After that, my road trip took me past the Clairton Mill, a steel mill and coke production facility which is one of the world’s largest in the world. It is still working, belching out much cleaner smoke that the 1960s when our sky and water were both yellow from pollution from the mill..  I know it’s odd, but I find comfort in the sulfur smell near the old coke plants.  Smells like home.

Next, I picked the folks up and we ventured to my second M of the day .   … maple. It was open house weekend for a whole pile of sugar camps in Somerset County.  I went to the event last year and it was so great that I had to do it again..  Once you see the effort that goes into producing maple sugar and syrup, there is a real appreciation and value to the cost of true maple products.  We made maple sugar and spotza and sampled maple popcorn, maple cookies, maple syrup topped sundaes and more. Maple Sap Evaporator At the camp, we watched the big, fancy evaporator do its job to morph maple sap into syrup.  The trees can only be tapped until early April, so if you have the chance, go check it out in the next few weeks. If you’ve never been to a real hidden treasure, the Somerset Historical Center, do pay them a visit. It is a wonderful place to learn all of the agricultural history of Somerset County and surrounding areas.

So, the Double M day of mills and maple ended as it began, with a drive down the lonely roads past old mills, with my windows rolled down for a sniff of my childhood.

 


Maple Mania

I’m addicted to maple syrup.  It all began in January when I tasted maple cotton candy at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, continued through February when I visited Jan Dofner at the Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale ( home of the PA Maple Festival), and now the obsession rages on as I experiment daily with new recipes using maple sugar and maple syrup.   In addition to eating maple syrup flavored yogurt, maple granola, maple rolls and maple candy while in Meyersdale, I visited a few maple sugar camps and became intrigued with the whole process.  Making maple syrup and maple sugar, even with today’s methods, is still a labor intense process. It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup!!  And once you’ve tasted the real thing, you’ll never ever go back to maple flavored corn syrups.

The Pennsylvania Maple Festival is March 26, 27, 29 and 30 and April 1-3 in Meyersdale, in southern Somerset County.

If you want to learn more about maple syrup, Dreadnought Wines in the Strip District is offering a class taught by Molly Enos of the Paul Bunyan Maple Sugar Camp in Rockwood. I’ll be there to put my two cents in, too.