Sap flow was heavy this weekend in Vermont. We’re entering that muddy and delicious season where driving down most rutted back roads is rewarded by the smell of sweet steam flowing out of a sugar shack.
We put in a few taps this year, but we don’t have an evaporator. Home-made versions generally rely of a lot of wood or a lot of propane, and the cheapest commercial evaporators are all over $1000. Why not just cook with sap?
We’ve had great luck each time we sneak sap into a recipe to add sweetness. We’ve focused on foods that use water like tea, oatmeal, beer, and baked beans rather than cakes and cookies.
Oatmeal: I boiled my oats in sap instead of water. Topping it with sweet blueberries and sour raspberries and sprinkling walnuts on top made a delectable breakfast. The oatmeal was mildly sweet. If you’re used to unsweetened oatmeal, you’ll consider this a treat. Compared to the flavored instant packets, however, the sap sweetness is much more subtle.
Beer: We’ve been wanting to make more beer, so we’re starting out with a few kits. We divided the ingredients for a Pale Ale batch in half. For one half, we followed the instructions. For the other, we used sap instead of water. We can’t wait for the fermentation to finish so we can do a taste test!
Tea and Coffee: Tea and coffee are the simplest ways to enjoy sap. Adding a teaspoon of maple syrup to a cup of water, after all, reverses all that evaporation work. For tea, all you need to do is seep your tea bag in boiled sap. For coffee, use a french press so that you can substitute sap for water without making the internal parts of your coffee machine sticky.
Poached Sweet Potatoes: Our left over baked sweet potatoes needed to get sparked up. I started by bringing 4 cups of sap to a boil in a frying pan. The large surface area allows for quick evaporation. I added rosemary, Bell’s seasoning, and garlic powder to the “broth.” I was surprised by how quickly the water evaporated! When the liquid was only about a centimeter deep, I mixed in a tablespoon of cranberry sauce and added my wedged sweet potatoes. After a few minutes with periodic stirring, the chemistry of the broth changed and it became browner and sticky. Deliciously beyond poached. Voila: sap-glazed sweet potatoes!
Next up? Making Sap Soda by carbonating sap and different herbal sap teas in a Soda Stream machine. Baked Beans by boiling dried pinto beans in an uncovered pot of sap rather than water. I imagine that the hour+ of boiling required to soften the beans will allow quite a bit of water to evaporate. And Poached Salmon in sap with ginger and soy sauce. Comment below if you have other ideas I should try!!