March is Maple Sugaring Month! It’s not an official, national observance; however, making maple sugar and syrup is a big event that Michiganders enjoy, along with other mid-west and eastern states. Unfortunately, the proverbial sugaring window is only open for a short period of time (4-6 weeks).
Sugaring is a process of collecting maple sap and boiling it down into a sugar and/or syrup form. [NOTE: This is NOT the hair-removal process by the same name!] As the official start of spring gets closer, the nights are staying at or below the “freezing point”, while the days are warming-up to about 40°F or so. [That’s warm to Michiganders in March!] These are the ideal conditions required for the maple sap to flow well.
Once the trees start to bud, the sap is no-longer good for sugaring and the season is done. A few years ago, on my local morning news show, there was a great segment by Jill Washburn [aka: “Jill Of All Trades” (March 26, 2019)] about collecting maple tree sap; plus, a simple way to cook down a small batch (2 gallons) for a day or so in a slow cooker, until it renders a thick syrup. I highly recommend watching it!
Two gallons of sap only yields about a half cup of syrup, when all’s done, but there’s such a great feeling of accomplishment in being able to say, “I made it, myself!” Jill Washburn used to do a lot of these wonderful “how to” segments on my local news show. I miss them – she has a great way of making everything seem so easy and simple.
There’s also a terrific article about the longer, traditional method of sugaring that I recommend reading, at the Michigan State University’s Extension’s website, called March Is Maple Syrup Season In Michigan.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979, p. 1)
MANY PEOPLE FEEL THAT life is uphill all the way. They fail to look at the things that are good, enjoyable, and worthwhile. They are conscience only of the climb. No road is ever uphill forever! We should soon learn the importance of being able to also come downhill without fear and be able to notice the scenery along the road, too.
Going through life without noticing the scenery and trying to see some of the beauty that is there – waiting to be recognized – reminds me of running helter-skelter up and down the supermarket aisles without seeing the ABUNDANCE that is there.
Just take a moment to look at the heart-breaking plight of starving people in many parts of the world and, then, take a good look at the aisles and aisles of food available in this country! We have so much available to us here…many people fill their backyards each spring with flowers and shrubs, when they could easily plant food-seeds instead, thus cutting something off that weekly grocery bill!
Mom wrote, illustrated and self-published about 40 books (+/-) and penned hundreds of her own newsletter issues. Equally as well, she also wrote and syndicated thousands of columns across the country and for local newspapers during her long writing career.
However, Mom is best known for pioneering the copycat recipes movement back in the early 1970s! When times were tough and we were on the edge of another recession, Mom created the concept of “eating out at home”! It was not only for her own struggling family, but also, for all the others for whom she knew were struggling and looking for answers too!
One of my own personal favorites is called The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979). This book is no longer in print, but I’ve seen used copies on eBay and Amazon. This book taught me how to make some grocery products at home, and how to stretch/extend other products, saving me quite a bit of money on my monthly groceries expense!
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
The Secrets of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979, p. 4)
THE GOOD OLD DAYS’ GROCERIES
SUPERMARKETS AND GROCERIES have come a long way in 80 years – but, perhaps, it hasn’t all been that wonderful, considering that food continues to increase in cost and quality is being sacrificed for production, promotion, and distribution overhead [costs]. We are not only paying more for the packaging but also for the advertising of a product – more than we are for the item, itself…
BASIC PANTRY FOODS
We can begin making homemade groceries by taking a personal inventory of what our particular preference is when [we] shop for groceries. If you buy quite a few boxed mixes, your food bill is probably 40% higher than it would be if you made your own.
Most of the popular food mixes on the modern-day market are kissing cousins of the same family, beginning with powders that can withstand a short shelf-life or be refrigerated for a longer period and frozen up to a year.
A freezer will be like a family bank vault, in keeping homemade groceries at a savings; and it should be used just as a bank account would be used, making regular deposits toward a future time when the withdrawal is appreciated and needed.
There are so many groceries that you can make at home – especially if you plant the seeds and grow it, yourself! In the past few years, homesteading has found a new revival movement, as health and wellness are coming back to the top of the fundamental “priorities list”.
More and more people are regaining interest in making their own food and OTC health and beauty products. Many even starting new online businesses to sell their homemade products to those who don’t have the time or talents for it, themselves. Of course, nowadays, with the internet, we can order just about anything we want, from just about anywhere, and have it all delivered to our doorsteps! But, sometimes, homemade is just better.
Additionally, there’s also a renewed movement to make a lot of things at home because stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked, due to supply chain problems. Another major reason for making your own mixes and such is that you can control the ingredients and save money, too – that is, as long as you don’t add the value of your time into the equation!
That is, basically, what first inspired Mom to create her copycat concept. Like I mentioned the other week, it was my Grandma Pitzer who first taught Mom about going back to the homemade ingredients concept, in order to save money in the household food budget.
Since it’s also National Flour Month, here’s a re-share of Mom’s imitations for homemade griddlecakes AND syrup (without sugaring) like she once had at a Pancake House.
In honor of March, being National Sauce Month, here is Mom’s secret recipe for Rum Sauce; as seen in her self-published cookbook, Secret Knock-Off Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; June 1997, p. 19).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
Additionally, National Procrastination Week is the first two weeks in March, which is either the 1st-14th OR the 6th-19th (if it’s the first two FULL weeks)! Basically, you can put this observance off until whenever it’s convenient for you! Other week-long observances, for this 2nd full week in March, include National Girl Scout Week, National Words Matter Week, International Women’s Week, and National Read an E-Book Week! Speaking of which…
Wednesday, March 9th is… National Barbie Day, National Crabmeat Day, National Get Over it Day, and National Meatball Day! In honor of the latter, here’s a re-share of Mom’s imitation for Wind Shooter’s Meatballs!
[NOTE: Mar. 12, 1991 – is also the anniversary of a story in Woman’s World, by Una McManus, about Mom, being the Recipe DetectiveTM.]
…10 down and 42 to go!