March! In like a lion…….
As the eighteenth century saying goes, “March, in like a lion, out like a lamb.” Most believe the saying refers to weather which is still quite wintry in the beginning, and possibly more mild by the end of March. This March has proved no different in terms of weather , but also in terms of the confluence of multiple serious illnesses and injuries in our family and the arrival of the coronavirus in Vermont.
As teachers, we are poised for a three week hiatus. Today all Vermont bars and restaurants have closed, of course our indoor tennis courts are off limits and so many more signs of the seriousness of this virus arrive almost hourly. It is so important to acknowledge that we will all be deeply affected and so I feel conflicted in rejoicing in our maple season. However, it is also so important to acknowledge the bright spots in our world right now. Sugaring is a bright spot after our very long winters and we cannot let that joy pass unacknowledged. And of course, this is a maple newsletter, so read on for an update on our season, recipes to try while self isolating and new products from the farm.
After a month of preparation, which includes repairing lines, tapping trees and cleaning the sugarhouse, we began our first boil on March 5. The first boil date is completely variable based on the weather. We need nights below 32 degrees and days above 32 degrees. This temperature fluctuation is what coaxes the sweet maple sap out of the roots, where it has been stored for the winter, and into the rest of the tree.
Maple sap really runs on a sunny bluebird day! When the sap tanks are full, sugarers begin the boil. It’s an arduous process involving hauling firewood, tending the evaporator, pulling off the “sweet,” and overcoming problems that crop up. There is always something like a frozen line, a broken piece of equipment or an unexpected weather change that keeps sugarers on the go through the day and into the night for weeks. The creation of maple syrup is not for the faint of heart. I feel great gratitude to all of Vermont’s sugar makers during the season. They are a hearty crew who simply never give up. Whatever the problem, they will work out a solution and keep on moving!
Part of the fun of sugaring is trying each batch and grading it. Generally syrup is lighter at the beginning of the season and it darkens gradually as the weather becomes consistently warmer. We have lots of beautiful Amber Rich and Dark Robust!
Hopefully our season will continue into April. It’s impossible to know, so we have to make the most of every opportunity to boil, finish and can the syrup. We’re abundantly grateful for the opportunity to sugar on this beautiful hillside in Huntington. Moreover, we’re grateful for our health and the health of our family and friends. I suppose sugaring is a metaphor for the world today: tackle every problem, find a solution no matter what and keep on going!
Happy sugaring 2020!
New Business to Use Couching Lion Sugar!
We are thrilled that my sister, Juniper Richardson, has been creating water boosters with Couching Lion Maple Sugar. In her community in Hawaii, natural botanicals are widely used to increase immunity, stamina, hydration and general well being. This is the Green Lion Tonic Water Boost, a delicious combination of maca, spiralina, lime powder, camu camu and maple sugar, all organic and vegan of course!
Golden Lion Water Booster! Immunity, recovery and detox from a proprietary blend of lime powder, turmeric, cayenne, camu camu and granulate maple sugar. I’ve been drinking this every day for a week and feel great!
Stay tuned as this business moves forward and these special products become available!
Cooking During Some Unexpected Home Time
All this time at home can feel unnerving but there’s nothing we can do about it, but just stay home! I’m taking advantage of some recipes that take several hours to make. We often run out of dinner ideas 3 days into the week, so it’s kind of a treat to have a lot of good food around. How about Maple Chipotle Pork Ribs with Maple Baked Beans?
Maple Chipotle Pork Ribs
Pat dry 3 pounds of pork ribs and then rub with 4 tablespoons Couching Lion Smoked Paprika Maple Spice, 2 teaspoons of salt and a teaspoon of ground pepper. Wrap securely in tinfoil, place on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 4 hours.
Make the Sauce
- One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup granulated maple sugar
- 3 chipotle peppers in adobo (use 2 if your family prefers less spice)
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup apple cider or hard cider
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, blend together the crushed tomatoes, chipotle peppers and 2 tablespoons of adobo sauce. Add this mixture and all other ingredients to a sauce pan. Simmer until the mixture has reduced by one half (about 30-40 minutes).
Baste the Ribs
Place tinfoil on a clean baking sheet. Open up the ribs (be careful, there will be a lot of steam!) and place them meat side down on the fresh foil. Baste the boney sides of the ribs and return to the oven. Raise the oven heat to 350. Cook about 10 minutes (until bubbly) and then flip and baste the meaty side. Cook about 10 minutes more, repeat the basting on both sides. On the final flip, you might choose to broil the ribs for a couple of minutes to get that nice dark glaze. Enjoy!
Maple Baked Beans
These beans take several hours to cook but they are very easy to prepare and can be in the oven with the ribs, if you choose that combination. If you don’t feel like soaking dried beans overnight, do a quick soak by bringing beans and water to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for an hour, then proceed with the recipe.
- 2 cups navy beans
- ½ pound slab bacon, cut into cubes
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Soak beans in a large bowl of water for 6 hours or overnight. Drain beans and put them in a large oven-safe pot with a heavy bottom and a tightfitting lid. Add 1 teaspoon salt and enough cool water to cover 2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are just tender, approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Drain and remove beans.
- Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Bring a kettle full of water to a boil on the stove. Return the heavy-bottomed pot to the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Cook the bacon in the bottom of the pot until it begins to brown, then turn off the heat and add the chopped onion and, on top of it, the beans. Mix together maple syrup, mustard and black pepper, and add the mixture to the pot. Pour in enough boiling water to cover beans, put the lid on and bake, occasionally adding more water to keep beans covered, until they are tender but not falling apart, 4 to 5 hours.
- Remove beans from oven, uncover, stir and season with salt. With the lid off, return pot to oven and let beans finish cooking, uncovered and without additional water, until the sauce has thickened and the top is deeply crusty, about 45 minutes more.
Lastly, if that’s not enough comfort food, click on the picture below to try our
Best wishes to all in your cooking and baking adventures during this tough time. I’m finding a lot of solidarity in cooking right now as I text pictures to friends and happily receive their pictures. Making food is a pretty basic way to connect, to soothe and to to stay busy. Check out our recipes page for more ways to use maple syrup and maple sugar in your cooking and baking.
Lastly, we are really excited about our new schwag! Our local printers, Tuttle Printing made us some great hoodies. We have both pullover and zip up, which will be on the website tomorrow. Pictured below are some of my favorite people representing the Couching Lion during the early phases of the hoodie rollout!
As always, this small business is powered by the colleagues, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, in laws in all ways, and friends. Every time I write this newsletter I reflect on all the ways our community supports us. Wishing you all health and well being in body and mind. Perhaps March will exit as a lamb? It generally does, so I’m optimistic!
XO Chaska and Matt