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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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Zogalebi is what the Abenaki call maple syrup. However, most people just call it by it's nickname - DELICIOUS! For centuries, maybe eons, the people of eastern Canada and New England have gathered the sweet sap of certain maple trees and condensed it into maple syrup and maple sugar. Maple sugar is nearly twice as sweet as granulated white sugar.

We have several sugar maples on our property and tapped them one year to make our own maple syrup. We had many gallons and I decided to do it myself on the big old stove I have. Most of the people I talked to and the books I read on the subject talked about a "sugar house." I found out why people cooked down the maple sap on a fire outside the sugar house the hard way.

It was a particularly cold winter so I did it in my kitchen. That was many years ago and to this day I still have some stickiness under the shelf above the stove. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to boil down enough to make about a gallon of actual syrup. This is why you do it outside and this is why it is so expensive today.

Maple flavoring is very special and unique. It's used warm over pancakes and waffles, nice on ice cream, used in puddings and candies as well as in vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots and baked beans. At one time it was plentiful and used as a liquid to boil hams and sausages. It was especially delightful for children in times of old to flavor pure snow with a little maple syrup and mount it on a birchbark cone.

So you see, technically, we invented the ice cream cone as well as the duck decoy, potato chips, lacrosse, etc, etc ...

Maple Drink
3 quarts water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup freshly made tea (ginger is good)
1 pint dark heavy maple syrup

Combine all in a gallon container. Stir to blend ingredients. This drink is good served hot or cold over ice cubes.

Maple Milk Shake
8 ounces of milk
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Put all in a blender and mix on high for about 30 seconds. This recipe is for one serving. Double for more.

Maple-Mustard
Vinaigrette
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
3/8 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon coarse brown mustard
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth and emulsified. Pour into a serving dish or store covered in the fridge for up to five days.

As a kid, real maple syrup was a special gift from friends of my parents who would visit from Vermont. It was not to be wasted. It was rationed out by my mother and grandma until that last drop was devoured. My mother loved syrup so much that she developed this "fake maple syrup" to get us through the drought until the friend's next visit. I think I loved it as much as the "real" thing on pancakes. I liked to let it sit a couple of minutes after cooking to let it thicken on its own.

Fake Maple Syrup
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Few grains salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (or a tad more)

Dissolve sugar in water and salt. Boil one minute, stir and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and stir again. Serve hot or warm.

Notes & Tips

*This is a good hint. When making toast, place the butter or cream cheese next to the toaster. The heat from the toaster will soften them just enough to spread without melting.

*I bought a plastic bottle with a pointy tip like the ones used in beauty shops. I filled it with vegetable oil. Just a squirt is enough for the bottom of a frying pan and I think I'm saving oil.

*If you run out of coffee filters, use an unscented facial tissue.

*Off to work everyday? Put a week's menu on the fridge with a magnet. This will save time in the morning so you can know what to take out of the freezer if you need to defrost something.

*If you are off working all day, don't leave frozen food on the counter to defrost. Put it in a cooler. It will defrost faster than the fridge and not as fast as the counter.

*This is true. It is illegal to hunt camels in Arizona. In the winter, squirrels lose half of their nuts because they forgot where they stored them. And, Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world put together.