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.

Maple Syrup Time!

This past weekend, I drove deep into Somerset County on a quest for maple syrup.Well, really, I was just bored and wanted to get away for a few days and maple syrup was a good excuse.  My first stop was at the Somerset Historical Center, just a short skip off the good ol’ PA Turnpike.  Since the outdoor areas are closed until spring, I walked through the indoor exhibits of  PA history, old farm equipment and maple sugaring accessories. I really liked this place.  Of course, shopping is always in order, so the gift shop beckoned.  I fell in love with an adorable house shaped maple sugar mold, and was excited when Mark Ware   showed me a sample of how the maple sugar house looked when unmolded.  I wish they sold those at the gift shop!

A picture filled tretise on maple sugaring and a little package of goose beans ( the beans are a story in themselves, for another time) in hand and I was on my way. Next stop? Meyersdale, home of the upcoming PA Maple Festival. The Levi Deal Mansion was my headquarters. . .. beautiful B&B, lovelier than lovely hosts, and perfect food.

"Somerset" style chicken soup - yummmmm

With suggestions from Jan and Michael at Levi Deal, I visited the Milroy Farms  Sugar Camp for syrup and sugar, the Springs Store for donuts, Landis Bakery for gobs and more.  Yes, it was a festival of carbs.

Milroy Sugar Camp in Salisbury, PA

In my conversations with locals, I learned a lot about sugaring and maple syrup, and about living in southern Somerset County.  Even without autumn leaves or budding trees, this area still charms.  It’s only about 1 1/2 hours from Pittsburgh, so it works for a day trip, but it’s so peaceful there, with so many culinary treasures, staying overnight is a must.

Acorn Squash Results

Thanks to Emily from The Culinary Couple and to my friends Marylinda and Ellen for their suggestions on good ways to cook acorn squash.  Emily suggested roasting it, mashing and mixing with a little butter, cinnamon and brown sugar.  I used maple sugar instead of the brown sugar because I am addicted to the products from Paul Bunyan Maple Sugar Camp. The result was a creamy, homey, sweet bowl of wonderful. The photo shows how much I liked it . . there’s not much left . . . and I am saving the remainder for breakfast tomorrow. I’m not a bagel or toast girl and I think this is the perfect way for me to start November. Thanks, Emily!

Since I had multiple acorn squash on my counter, I also made the other  recipe, too.  But because I wanted to stay home all day ( I try to do that a few days a week to make up for excessive driving on other days) I substituted some ingredients. For the  chickpeas, I used white Indian dal from my favorite store for unusual ingredients, Kalustyan’s.

For raisins, I used dried currants, and for the couscous, I substituted whole wheat orzo.  I would think other grains such as quinoa or kamut could be substituted, too. The filling was so aromatic that I began eating it before I even stuffed it into the squash. I noticed that my filling looked runnier and not as chunky as the photo attached to the original recipe, but it was still so good. Beautiful and healthful. . and perfect for a fall evening.  Thanks again to my friends for getting me to actually eat the acorn squash instead of just using it as part of an autumn centerpiece and then tossing it outside for the animals in backyard to eat.

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash

Here’s the original recipe:

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 car rot, chopped
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup raisins
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pep per
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry couscous
4 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. butter
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Arrange squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30–35 minutes, or until tender.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, onion, and car rots, and cook 5 minutes.
Mix in the garbanzo beans, apple and raisins. Add cumin, curry powder, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
Add the broth and stir in the couscous. Cover skillet and turn off heat, allowing couscous to absorb liquid for 5 minutes. By this time the squash should be done cooking. Add brown sugar to butter and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Brush squash with the butter mixture immediately. Stuff squash halves with the skillet mixture.

Ligonier Country Market

I bounced out of bed this morning, knowing that I was about to explore a new outdoor bazaar, the Ligonier Country Market, held on the grounds of the Loyalhanna Watershed Farm in, you guessed it, Ligonier, PA.  I went mainly to look for a nice cookie baker by the name of  Dorothy Madore, who I met a few weeks ago at the Rivers of Steel tour. As I wound my way around the booths to find Dorothy,  I came across lots of  pleasant surprises – from toasty mohair shawls (it was about 55 degrees outside,) to yummy raw milk cheese  and unique rustic flower arrangements. I wanted to buy everything in sight, but was limited by the lack of funds in my wallet.

Maple Syrups from Paul Bunyan's Sugar Camp

I met recent college grad Molly Enos, who was manning the booth for  her family’s maple syrup business, Paul Bunyan’s Sugar Camp. Their Maple Cream is smooth and sweet and is heaven on muffins, pancakes, even crackers.  It’s good just eaten right off the spoon, too. For a  late summer treat, mix a few shakes of their maple sugar in a skillet with some fresh sliced peaches and a bit of butter. Heat until the maple sugar and the butters melts and the peaches are slightly tender . Oh . . . . my . . . goodness.

The Salsa Sisters' products

Next stop, The Salsa Sisters (724.538.7212) for some of their zippy One Peach of a Salsa.    Then, it was across the grassy “aisle” to Nicole Nickischer’s stand, where she sells her Serendipity Dip Mixes.

Nicole and mom from Serendipity Dip Mixes

I like her Tuscan bread dip mix but wanted to try a few others.  This mom of five (yes, five) suggested I try the spicy flavors like Habanero and Cayenne Jalapeno. I’m mixing them up tomorrow when my folks come over for dinner.  Finally, I made my way to Dorothy Madore’s One Tuff Cookie.  I”ve seen photos of her cookies, but never met one in person until today.

One Tuff Cookie's many cookie choices

Sometimes purchased cookies look good, but the taste is only so-so.   The Apricot Snowcap, the Dreamsicle and (yes, I ate three) the Chocolate Cherry Shortbread not only looked like they just finished a “Martha” photo shoot, but they tasted great, too.   Before I knew it, the clock struck noon and the market was ending. So many treats, so little time.