Come spring, snow leaves and maple syrup arrives


March 25, 2014 4:32PM

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It may seem curious to feature maple syrup in a spring column instead of fall when the trees show off their artistic colors and maple flavors pair so well with autumn’s bounty. But maple’s culinary worth rises early in the spring. That’s when the sap is drawn off to make the syrup we value so highly at breakfast and in desserts.

And while you may associate maple harvest with New England, there is a local source that I recommend you search out.

I spoke with Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, whose 700 maple trees in Southern Indiana, near Bloomington, produce syrup prized by chefs around the country.

Once the sap is boiled down, it takes 40 gallons of sap to yield one gallon of maple syrup. “The rule of thumb is that one tap will yield approximately 10 gallons of sap per season. We’ll do about 3000 gallons of syrup this year,” he told me.

The unusually cold winter delayed the process a couple of weeks, but that painstaking work is taking place right now. Once the trees bud, the flavor and quality of the sap changes and the season ends.

Recently Burton has been experimenting by aging the syrup in barrels formerly used for rum, bourbon or applejack, resulting in really special syrups to be used by restaurant chefs and home cooks alike. “Approximately 10 to 20 percent of this year’s harvest will go into rum, bourbon, brandy or whiskey barrels” he says.

To try these Barrel Aged syrups, visit Little Goat’s retail outlet (820 W. Randolph), PQM ( Publican Quality Meats) on Fulton, or the website

Any good quality, pure maple syrup will work for these dessert puddings, but I used Burton’s bourbon flavor here and found it especially delicious used this way.

Local Attractions uses the best of regional produce and products and hopes you will do the same.

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago

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